Pain patients are not drug abusers

April 10, 2011

I read with trepidation Meredith Cohn's article "Maryland seeks to tackle prescription drug problem: Legislation would create monitoring system" (April 2).

As someone who has lived with chronic, intractable pain for more than 30 years, this is a topic that directly affects me and thousands of other Marylanders who count on prescription medicines as a part of a comprehensive pain management program.

I am all for reasonable measures to curb drug abuse that do not trample the rights of people with pain. However, when laws, rules and agreements become burdensome, costly and unfair, I have a problem. Overly restrictive rules will make people whose lives are already seriously diminished by pain even worse.

I applaud the legislature for trying to curb prescription drug abuse -- as long as it's done with a fair hand, and with the input of the pain community. The public needs to keep in mind, however, that many of us who fight the stigma of living with chronic pain are hurt by headlines linking pain care to abuse. Abuse by legitimate pain patients is extremely rare, and addiction is even rarer.

There is a big difference between the body's tolerance of a drug and the physiological condition of addiction. Like most pain patients, I have never felt a sense of euphoria from my medication. It simply lessens the pain.

I would not be able to do even the limited amount of volunteer work with cancer patients and patient advocacy that I now do without the relief provided by my pain medications and other therapies.

Yes, close down the pill mills. Stop diversion and Internet shops. Encourage public education to properly store and dispose of controlled substances that can be easily stolen. But don't add to the burden of patients or encourage scare tactics against pain physicians who are already bombarded with negative messages as they try to compassionately treat people whose lives are made more bearable by these medicines.

Allow us to be productive citizens by controlling our pain and rejoining the workplace, remaining active and contributing to society instead of hiding in our houses.

Andrea Cooper, Phoenix

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