Opioid crisis making it harder for chronic pain sufferers to get medications they need

Opioid crisis making it harder for chronic pain sufferers to get medications they need

HUNTERSVILLE, NC (WBTV) - There are two types of days for Kerry - those she can function and those she can't. The Huntersville wife and mother suffers from the chronic pain that comes along with her Lupus diagnosis. She's asked us not to use her last name.

"It is this constant companion that bullies me every morning when I wake up and every night when I try to go to sleep," she said.

Life before Lupus was much different for Kerry. She spent two decades as a college professor, but her diagnosis forced her to give up her career and stay home.

Kerry's days center around a pill bottle. She takes two pain relieving narcotics twice a day, if not more. But she says the pain is never far away.

"I have to miss appointments at my kid's school, I miss doctor's appointments frequently. I don't have much of a social life, constantly canceling on friends and friends stop calling after that," Kerry said.

James is Kerry's husband of nearly 20 years.

"It's been hard on the kids to watch because they never know what next week is going to bring. 'Is mom gonna be OK? Is mom going to be sleeping or is mom going to be at the hospital?' It varies," he said.

This week, Kerry's pill bottles are empty. James recently started a new job and is working through new insurance paperwork. As he does, withdrawals start to set in for his wife.

"I can handle the sweats and the somewhat nausea. What will increase is the pain level," she said.

But the thing that keeps Kerry moving is also the thing that is leading to countless overdose deaths across the country. The CDC blames 91 overdose deaths a day on opioids. Other statistics boost that number to more than 150 deaths per day.

Since "opioid" has become a buzz word, Kerry has found it harder to get the medication she needs. She says her prescriptions were cut following new CDC guidelines.

Dr. Omar Manejwala is a leading expert on addiction and the opioid epidemic.

"When we tried to address this, we had a stampede of people trying to restrict opioids - and when you have a stampede, people are going to get trampled," he said.

Manejwala says while prescribing rates have decreased, overdose deaths have not, which is proof to him that a solution will only come when the underlying issues of addiction are addressed.

"There are some people who really need these medicines and no matter what we do, we can't afford to help people with addiction and at the same time harm people with chronic pain. We don't have to, but that's what's happening," Manejwala said.

Kerry says she's constantly taking precautions to prevent someone else from abusing her medication.

"You have to be very careful with your medication. You walk out of the pharmacy and you hope that nobody has looked over your shoulder to see what script you have. I have to be careful with how I throw my medications away so that no one is going through the garbage. I am very careful when my children have friends over," she said.

She knows opioid abuse is a problem that shouldn't be ignored. She just asks to be looked at as a patient and not someone looking for their next high.

"It's not just taking care of this epidemic of opioids that is out there," she said, "but they're actually affecting people that have pain."

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