Letter to Surgeon General 9/2/16 by Denise Serpenta

Dear Surgeon General-

People living with chronic pain are in fact, the Complete OPPOSITE of an addict or abuser. The definition of Drug addiction is: “An abnormal, compulsive use, use for non-medical purposes of a substance despite physical, psychological, occupational or interpersonal difficulties resulting from such use, and continued use despite harm or risk of harm.” Chronic pain patients do not live their lives constantly thinking about their medications,

surgeon general

nor do we live on the edge of excess. We are very responsible, adhering to the MOST stringent rules ever surrounding opioid use! We see our physicians every 30 days, we sign & adhere to a pain contact, we regularly submit to drug testing as well as, pill counts & now, almost every State has the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program to more easily identify multi Doctor or pharmacy visits. Together, all of these requirements should be MORE THAN ENOUGH to prove compliance! We do not have compulsive behavior issues with these medications, but we DO HAVE a LIFE with a much higher level of normalcy BECAUSE OF these medications & the RELIEF they provide! For most patients, the use of opioid medications is a LAST RESORT option. Pressuring physicans (DEA strong-arming) to adhere to the new CDC’s very restrictive guidelines, especially, for MME (Morphine Milligram Equivalents-for daily use) to restrict dosages to under 90 mgs. (total per day) is LITERALLY going to take millions of lives away! Instead of allowing people who are already dealing with disabling pain & incredible challenges to remain on their stable doses & continue caring for themselves, their family, participating in the community & in many cases, allowing patients to remain in the workforce, the Government has chosen to make it almost IMPOSSIBLE for millions to continue use of their opioid medications that have proven effective, been used successfully for thousands of years (to treat various types of pain) & is available & regulated for safety!!?? The Government is leaving millions of patients with chronic pain (many, who are otherwise healthy) with ZERO options for pain relief.
BELIEVE me, before I was diagnosed with several chronic invisible illnesses, I myself, had a very naive viewpoint regarding living with chronic pain & certain medications. Now, I only have a life BECAUSE OF these medicines! Without them, I am unable to even care for myself, let alone, be able to attend additional weekly appointments for my alternative pain treatments, it just wouldn’t be possible for me. Chiropractic, yoga, acupuncture etc DO have a place in pain management, but for many, without the help of opioid pain relief in conjunction with these other therapies, it does NOT provide significant pain relief. Chronic pain patients have SO MANY additional challenges just dealing with everyday day life & the many additional stressors that go with it. These excessive restrictions need to be adjusted-reasonable! Not only to provide a more common sense, balanced approach, but to once again enable Physicians to do the jobs they were trained for & actually treat their patients effectively !
Speaking about a balanced and common sense approach; you CANNOT fix a multi-pronged problem by addressing ONLY ONE ASPECT OF IT! ! We have 1). The “War on Drugs.” 2). Legal prescription opioid use, and 3). The issue of drug abuse and addiction. These are ALL aspects of the SAME ISSUE! This point is an incredibly IMPORTANT one that needs DESPERATE CLARIFICATION: Chronic pain patients vs those individuals who suffer with abuse &/or addiction issues ARE in FACT, TWO COMPLETELY SEPERATE GROUPS OF VERY DIFFERENT PEOPLE, WITH VERY, VERY DIFFERENT MEDICAL NEEDS! Throughout this entire process of your “War on Drugs” specifically opioids, this CRITICAL factor has been CONTINUOUSLY IGNORED by both, the Government & the media despite pleas from Pain Advocacy Groups & pain communities. WHY IS IT THE GOVERNMENT IS addressing the “War on Drugs” & IS addressing addiction and abuse BUT the Government IS REFUSING TO ADDRESS & INCLUDE THE NEEDS OF THE 100 MILLION CHRONIC PAIN PATIENTS THROUGHOUT THE COUNTRY….Like we Don’t Exist?? WE are NO less important, we DESERVE the SAME RIGHTS to medical CARE, treatment OPTIONS & pain CONTROL as those needing treatment for addiction & abuse issues or ANY other form of chronic illness for that matter!! I do have news though. Our DISEASES & Debilitating PAIN ISN’T Going AWAY…. WE, are NOT GOING AWAY & this PROBLEM IS NOT GOING AWAY until, pain patients are RECOGNIZED and INCLUDED in reasonable, common sense solutions. I can tell you one thing, if we continue to be ignored as if we simply don’t exist, you just MAY Be CREATING your Biggest “epidemic” ever with pain patients totaling over 100+ million. Sadly, the Government already has the “blood of many” on your hands & has created an insurmountable amount of NEEDLESS Suffering with chronic pain patients resorting to taking their own lives because they simply are overcome by pain & can no longer find ANY Physicians to treat them because of these new “Guidelines”.
I just have one final comment regarding living with chronic pain every day: It’s extremely exhausting & taxing on a person in every way; everything takes twice the effort and when pain is not ADEQUATELY controlled it IS impossible to function. When uncontrolled pain becomes so intense, it can be absolutely maddening, breaking even the strongest of individuals.
PLEASE think about how you are DIRECTLY EFFECTING the lives of MILLIONS of PEOPLE with chronic pain who will have “life, as they know it” just stripped away, and left with only the INCREDIBLE amount of suffering that accompanies it!
Thank-you for your time and this opportunity.

Denise Serpenta

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