Wednesday, May 11, 2016

A Delicate Situation

The recent events involving the musical legend Prince have affected me in ways I did not expect. Prince's music was a huge part of my childhood, and I always get huge flashbacks to my college days whenever I listen to his early stuff. When Prince passed away, it felt like a part of my past passed away as well. Yeah, I know it is silly to associate part of my life with someone I have never met, but it was his music more than him that got to me.

The media continues to pick at Prince's carcass for headlines, and now some very nasty things are starting to come out. I try to ignore these stories, but they are all over my Facebook wall. The latest one that I had read was that the pain killers found on Prince's body were not prescribed to him. In a country where getting pain killers is relatively easy (especially for a celebrity), I find it impossible to believe that Prince had to get his medication on the black market. But the media loves a good story (true or false), so they ran with it.

When Dr. Gosy was busted by the authorities, the anti-opiate voices shouted to the heavens. When it was revealed that Prince had been on pain medication for years to avoid having the hip surgery he badly needed, the anti-opiate voices once again shouted to the heavens. I feel like, as a person who needs pain medication and uses it responsibly, that an opposing voice should be heard as well.

I hope that everyone who generalizes pain medication patients as pill poppers and addicts never needs the help of pain medication just to get out of bed in the morning. I have two severely herniated discs in my lower back. They are so bad that I had a specialist ask me how I am still walking. The answer is pain medication. My doctor and I spent two years trying to find a solution that did not involve long-term pain medication use. The first step was to get me back on my feet after my back blew out, then I needed to control the pain. In the end, pain medication is the only thing that truly works.

I have read the stories about people who get addicted to pain medication and their unfortunate ends. No, I do not think those people "got what they deserved" for abusing drugs. Many of those cases start out as innocent people in tremendous pain simply trying to get on with their lives. Yes, opiates can be extremely addicting and I can see where taking them for a long period of time could cause issues. I am also aware that there are irresponsible doctors who prescribe pain medication without a thought of the consequences. But all of those situations are only a part of the whole story. If you are not going to listen to the whole story, then you should not be involved in the conversation.

Every person who jumps on the "everyone who takes pain meds is an addict" train is a naive fool. Every single one of you. My case is more typical than the addiction situations. There are millions of people on pain meds, and a very large percentage of us need them and use them responsibly. Most of the people on pain meds have a responsible doctor like mine who tries everything to avoid pain meds, but uses the medication as a last resort. I am addicted to not being in pain. I am not addicted to opiates.

This delicate situation is made worse when the anti-opiate crowd seizes on every single opportunity to try and shout above the din to be heard. It irritates me that the first thing naive people do is blame the opiates for an addiction situation. These are the same people who say that blaming guns for gun deaths is the wrong answer. So if the guns are innocent, then why aren't the pills?

The problem stems from lazy doctors that prescribe opiates without doing their jobs. After two years of intense pain and attempting to control it, my doctor and I finally had to give in and go with pain meds. The problem comes when a doctor's first inclination in a pain management situation is to prescribe pain killers. Once that happens, there are no other options. The patient is stuck.

When you are in intense pain and you are prescribed pain killers, you understand and appreciate what they can do. In my opinion, pain killers should only be prescribed in chronic cases. There are other ways for handling pain in short-term situations that do not involve opiates. When I had my kidney removed, the pain killer on my incision was non-opiate and all natural. It worked great. Those solutions should be used more often.

If you are not in pain, good for you. Congrats. Hopefully you will never know what those of us who are in chronic and severe pain go through every single day. Without the help we get from the responsible use of pain meds, many of us would not be able to function at all. Like Paul Stanley said when Gene Simmons made his irresponsible comment about Prince's death being the result of stupidity; until you know the facts, it is best to keep your mouth shut.

George N Root III is a Lockport resident who hates being in pain. Follow him on Twitter @georgenroot3 or send him a message at
"Never judge a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes."