By Maia Szalavitz: For More Info, Go Here…
In an effort to reduce opioid addiction, doctors are cutting back on pain medication — and sometimes leaving patients to suffer.
Katie Tulley suffers from an incurable bladder disorder so painful that it feels “like tearing skin off your arm and pouring acid on it, 24/7,” she said. On scans, the organ looks like an open sore.
Ms. Tulley, a 37-year-old Louisianan who used to work with autistic children, manages her pain with a fentanyl patch. The opioid gives her a few precious hours out of bed to help her parents, do online volunteer work and occasionally leave home for something other than a medical visit. “I don’t get a euphoric feeling,” she said, noting that she has lowered her dose to avoid feeling woozy and impaired.
Now, because of legal concerns about overdose risk, her doctors have considered stopping her medication, even though she has never misused it. And so, when she recently discovered a suspicious lump in her belly, she found herself hoping it was cancer. “I shouldn’t ‘want’ cancer,” she said. “But at this point it’s the only way to be treated” for her pain.
As many as 18 million patients rely on opioids to treat long-term pain that is intractable but not necessarily associated with terminal illness. In 2016, seeking to curb opioid misuse, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention introduced guidelines outlining a maximum safe dosage and strongly urging doctors to avoid prescribing for chronic pain unless death is imminent. The guidelines were supposed to be voluntary and apply only to chronic pain patients seeing general practitioners. Instead, they have been widely seen by doctors as mandatory.