The state of Oregon is trying to reduce the amount of opioids doctors prescribe to help cut down on the state's high rate of addiction and overdose. But some chronic pain patients say they're having trouble getting the medication they need just to get on with daily life.
"Chuck," whose real name OPB is withholding at his request, told Think Out Loud that he's jumped through hoops and has tried many alternatives to opioids. He says he's afraid that if he uses his real name, his business will suffer and it will make dealing with the medical system even more difficult.
In the 15 years since his chronic neck and back pain began, Chuck has tried everything from stretching, exercise, acupuncture and massage to extreme treatments like nerve burning. He said he'd go off the meds immediately if he could do without them.
Chuck said he needs the medication, but he's not an addict:
"I like to think of it more like a dependence, like someone on a heart medicine and they have to have it everyday, a certain amount, in order to have a livable, decent life. And that's the way I see myself."
He said doctors' skepticism and the obstacles they present makes managing his condition even harder — and he's still in constant pain.
"I understand the caution, because so many people are abusing, but there are those of us — there's gotta be thousands like myself — that need to exist and need to carry on (our) regular lives."
His wife, Michelle, said that there is a big difference between the way an addict uses narcotics and the way her husband, Chuck, uses them.
"An addict takes their drugs to get away from life, and a chronic pain patient takes drugs to try to get their life back."
Michelle said both she and Chuck fully support all the alternative therapies for pain, like meditation and massage. He's tried them. But, she said, she's very concerned about what might happen if he can't get the amount of medicine he needs simply to get through the day.
"The biggest danger for people in chronic pain is not addiction. It's suicide, and that's my biggest fear. That his pain will go untreated, and it'll get really bad, and I'll lose him. That's my biggest fear."