Posted by: silverstar98121 | May 8, 2009

Pain, Pain, Go Away

We suck at dealing with chronic pain in this country. Acute pain? We’re there for you. Terminal pain? We’ll keep you comfy. Chronic pain? Suck it up, bitch. I know this because I have chronic pain.

Most of this is due to the war on drugs. Doctors are afraid of prescribing adequate amounts of pain medication for fear of being raided by the feds and prosecuted. Which is why I’m stuck with thirty Vicodin a month, when if I was to be as active as they want me to be I would need sixty. Or Percocet. It’s stupid.

So I manage my pain by way of avoidance. You go to the doctor and say “Doc, it hurts when I do this.” Doc says, “Don’t do that.” So I don’t. This is why I need a wheelchair. Not because I can’t walk, but because I can’t walk more than two or three blocks without going home to two Vicodin and ice packs on my knees.

Psychological pain is as real as physical pain. Anybody ever wonder why there is more addiction  among the homeless and in low-income communities? I’m here to tell you that it is from the psychological pain of living in those situations. When I was homeless, even though I had a soft landing into a transitional housing program, there were days I would have loved to get stoned and just let the world pass me by. If I wasn’t in a program that demanded we  be clean and sober at all times. If I had any freaking idea how to go about obtaining drugs.

During the Vietnam war, a lot of our troops used drugs. They used them because of the stress they were under, especially not knowing who the enemy was. When they got home, most of them just quit the drug use because they weren’t under that stress anymore.

I think part of the problem is making addiction a moral issue. IMHO, addiction is an issue of physical or psychological dependence, not moral turpitude. Some addicts can function just fine on pain meds. Anyone here doubt that House is brilliant on enough Vicodin to kill a horse? Most of the problems with addiction in society is that because we have made it a moral issue, we have forced drugs into the underground, where their prices are exploitative. This leads to much crime such as burglary and robbery, and also murder among the gangs controlling the drugs.

I have adopted my brother and brother-in-law’s libertarian views on drugs. It would be a lot cheaper to house people in their own apartments, and give them all the drugs they want than to conduct the drug war.  Some of them would die of the drugs, but they are dying of the drugs now. Probably less of them would die from things like impurities in the drugs, HIV from sharing needles, and being shot by drug dealers. We could standardize the dosages, and have less inadvertent overdoses, too.

Moralism seems to be the reason that President Obama’s budget released yesterday, continues the ban on funding needle exchange we’ve suffered for years now. In fact, it’s apparently been going on since the late 80’s.

The argument seems to be that needle exchange encourages injection drug use, and won’t help people get off drugs. To my mind, the only thing forcing drug users to use dirty needles does is get them off drugs by killing them.

So, I have some propositions.

a) I have the right to be as pain-free as possible. If that involves a wheelchair rather than walking, and/or physical/psychological dependence on drugs, then so be it.

b) People who are addicted have the right to be addicted as safely as possible. This means needle exchange, housing programs that don’t require they be clean and sober, and other programs to keep addicts alive long enough that many of them kick the habit.

c) That those convicted of drug crimes be offered treatment instead of incarceration.


  1. very thoughtful and insightful piece, silverstar… will have to chew on this one awhile. your 3 propositions follow the Dutch model of handling drugs, which has worked…just okay. not nearly the dramatic cost savings you suggest, but a lot less drug related crimes and violence. would that trade off be worth it here? that’s the reason i have to chew on this… again, though, good thought piece.

  2. the violent crime surrounding drugs seems to be driven by the financial aspects… certainly marijuana doesn’t lead to violence. unless you hide the brownies…

    i’m a fan of decriminalization of weed, but don’t know enough about the costs/medical impact of other drugs to think through the big-picture costs…

    regarding pain management? we SUCK at it as a nation. suck, suck, suck…

  3. We have a needle exchange program in the same area of Sydney where the Gimcrack is. It was a hard won battle but the legislation finally went through. Needle exchange programs SAVE LIVES.

    They also have the added benefit of lessening the chance of needle stick injuries for people like my co-workers. Before the program was in place one of our maintenance officers was pricked by a blood filled syringe abandoned in the Gimcrack’s garden. He used to pick up half a dozen every week (wearing thick gloves) but now with an exchange program there’s only a couple a month.

  4. People want to pretend away the idea that something could hurt bad enough that a person might really, truly need a good drug to get through the day.

    Pain hurts, and steals a person’s attention from everything else worth experiencing. But there is always some Calvinist around ready to tell you that suffering is good for the soul.

    I do massage, meaning that I try to find ways to remove pain that don’t involve drugs, but I am always the first to tell people to use one if they need it to function, which surprises a lot of them. Back before drug use turned into a big fucking moral and legal crusade, there were a lot of harmless junkies around. Now we have twelve step preachycritters, so help me, ready to tell a sixtysomething triathlete with rheumatoid arthritis that “Advil is ADDICTIVE! Don’t take it!” I’m not making that up.

    • Oh.gees. Advil? Give me a break. I don’t care if they need Dilaudid to get
      through the day.

      If my Medicare would pay for massage and acupuncture, I’d be on the table
      every week.

      • “If my Medicare would pay for massage and acupuncture, I’d be on the table every week.”

        Me too!

      • Is there a massage school anywhere near you? Practicum students sometimes do damn good work for say $15 a pop just to get the experience. In this line of work, if you have the hands, the rest is kind of grooming, so you can get lucky. It’s worth looking into.

        And I agree, whatever it takes, Dilaudid, Preparation H (for all the inflamed assholes out there), anything makes more sense than the sin-and-redemption attitude that prevails about drugs and drink and addiction, including “addictions” that really only amount to liking the way something makes you feel sufficiently to do it a second time. It makes me pull my hair, I can tell you.

  5. Oh God, I hadn’t heard about the needle exchange program. Now I’m depressed!

  6. Very thought-provoking piece, and well-written, too.

    Many of our clients tell us that their pets get better health care than they do….

  7. Hey! Stop reading my mind! I have been saying this for a number of years.

  8. I completely agree with you about drugs not being a criminal or moral issue. It is a health issue.

    There are chronic pain clinics and they do give out tons of drugs.
    I had two brothers die of prescription overdoses over the last two and a half years from pain management clinics. When my older brother died I found a bag of empty pill bottles that showed just how much of that stuff he was getting. I couldn’t believe it.
    Here’s a photo:

    • I’m so sorry, Kitty. Those weren’t pain management clinics, those were pill mills. Around here they try everything before more pills. Massage, acupuncture, yoga, meditation all come first. And those kind of pill mills are why I can’t get an automatic refill on my pain meds. It has to be a new prescription every time.

      There are always two sides to every story. Thank you for telling yours.

  9. Around here too, same thing, they try everything before any pills at all.
    The only time I’ve ever been able to get a pain med prescription out of any doctor is after having a surgery.

  10. Very thoughtful piece…It made me think back to when my friend was dying of cancer in the 80’s and he was in terrible pain, but the doc didn’t want to prescribe enough meds because he might become addicted…he was dying. He got into hospice and they finally made him comfortable…

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