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Dr. Chelsie

I Was Treated Like An Addict…

If you take prescription pain meds, you probably already had a few times where you were treated like an addict. Everything from having to sign a multi-page contract on when, where, and how you take your pain meds, receive them, and even carry them around to peeing in a cup, having family and friends not trust you, having to tell people at work, and the list goes on. I am going to confront some of those issues and how you can respond better and keep your dignity.

The Contract, Pee-Cup, and Assessing for Med Changes (increases)

CYA – Every pain management office has the multi-page contract stating you have to ONLY get meds from them, ONLY use 1 pharmacy, and ONLY take as directed, and ALWAYS carry your meds on you to allow them to count them as needed. Please understand that this is a Covering Your (their) Asses against looking like they are insurance paid drug dealers. Many of the doctors in pain management are caring and try to see each individual as a person who needs help, not an addict seeking a high and trying to take advantage of them and the system. Sometimes, these doctors feel hurt by being mislead or tricked and thus are cautious and try to avoid the possibility of it happening again and ending tragically. It is not just that someone dying on their watch is bad – doctors want to help not hurt – they too are effected when a client overdoses and the strain of working with such a high-risk population is a lot to take on.

A great way to address this is to treat the doctors with understanding that they need to CYA and then add in that you make a connection as a person. Talk to them about how the pain affects you and YOUR LIFE! Talk to them about the particulars that make you and your pain unique to just you. Humanizing and sharing can lead to trust and to better outcomes. A doctor may not know that what you experience is happening, and you may assume you are “normal” for that type of pain you have, but only communication can bridge that gap. A close relationship with your pain doctor can lead t better treatment and a better feeling of trust and respect on both sides of the white coat.

The Pharmacy

Many of my clients feel or overtly receive disrespect at pharmacies. The new legislation via insurance companies or even state laws can make this even worse. Personally, I was just given 14 out of 60 pills from my pharmacist without explanation or warning and sent on my way. When I went inside to ask about the issue, I was treated with full respect and fast service. I also was hit by a knee-jerk feeling of shame and self-doubt because here I was going into a pharmacy asking “where are my pills?” and feeling like I was acing like an addict as well as afraid of being treated like and addict on top of fearing going without medication that I need to function. It was a flurry of emotions and I had to use my counselor skills to keep calm, nice, and open to a positive resolution.

First, remember that the pharmacist is on your side to help and that they cannot make decisions about distribution. They seem to have the power, they have the meds, but they are only allowed to carry out the prescription according to script, laws, and payment. It is ok to feel overwhelmed, scared, and nervous about your medications not being distributed how you expected, it is also ok to seek help from your doctor, insurance, or even family to navigate the new issues. Personally, I paid cash for my script (it saved my $1 versus paying for another co-pay to see my MD and then also pay for 3 other script co-pays). This was just a creative solution to a temporary issue for this one happening. I then plan on discussing options with my prescriber including having 4 scripts written stating when they can be filled, to get me through a month without weekly visits. I already utilize a variety of alternative treatments and am always on the lookout for more options aside from narcotics.

The big picture is to be patient, open, and to not be rash with your actions while at the pharmacy. A big explosion of emotion can make it a bad and worse day for you and the pharmacist. Talk about options, give yourself a moment to calm down, rest and think through the issue. Solutions abound, but NOBODY wants to work with an angry yelling person in their store.

Family and Work Trust

Has your family decided not to let you drive with them in the car? Asked how you take your pills when taking car eof kids or working? Have they asked “when was your last dose?” as you swallow your pills? Has your boss or co-workers started to avoid asking you for your help or giving you more important tasks? The lack of trust associated with pain medication can be subtle and covert. The impact can be very overt and damaging to the relationship.

Keep it on the table – AT HOME. Be open to talking about your pain levels, treatments, and how the meds make you feel. Discuss and explain your pain and choices with family to help them understand. You are NOT defending yourself because you do not need them to give you permission – instead you are giving information so that they can understand a new concept.

Keep it on a need-to-know-basis at work. You may have trusted friends at work to chat with, but unless you have the time and openness at work to FULLY explain and help educate your co-workers on your pain, then less is more. A small amount of information can be a dangerous thing in the wrong hands. Know that it is not their right to know your situation and that you may address job-duty changes with Human Resources and let them notify your boss. There IS PREJUDICE about pain and the use of pain meds. It is your choice if you open-up about this at work and thus “let the cat out of the bag” and need to wrangle that cat later. In general, less is more. Get your love and support from those that have the time and heart to listen and understand you.

Overall, pain is not well understood by many and there are many stories out there about those who abuse meds, are addicted, those who cause accidents, and even are causing death by suicide or accidents. The press on being in pain is bad, though what is assumed by others as a prejudice (pre-judging) does not have to be for you and those who know you. You can win over those in your life to help them understand you and your situation and hopefully help stop the prejudice for others.

Take care,

Dr. Chelsie

PS: If you are ready for the NEXT LEVEL  in Pain Management go here: