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.