When you’re in pain, you have to choose between taking the medication and being more comfortable, or not taking the medication and being in even more pain because you need to be able to do something. Even though the pain clouds your mind too, and even though you know numerous studies have documented that chronic untreated pain can actually cause serious medical complications.
As patients debate over whether to take their meds, they’re also caught in the trap of ugly narratives about addiction. Many chronic pain patients consistently undermedicate and do not control their pain well because they’re afraid of becoming pillheads, and they’re constantly second-guessing their doses and how they respond to them. If you’re having a good day, does that mean you’re high? If you feel poorly, does that mean you’re addicted and you’re getting withdrawals? Is it okay to take one vicodin a day, but not two? Where do you draw the line?…
What’s obvious here is that we need more effective drugs for pain management. For one thing, patients need drugs that reduce pain even more effectively, that are less likely to create a tolerance (which forces patients to take higher doses, which can become a health risk—narcotics cause nervous system depression and the more you take, the more complications they cause), that allow patients to function while on medication, and that are less likely to be habit-forming, ideally. People shouldn’t have to choose between ‘burning agony’ and ‘not being able to read.’ Yet, right now, these are the options for people with chronic pain conditions, medical conditions like cancer, or impairments associated with chronic pain.”