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Chronic pain sufferers call themselves "collateral damage" in the opioid crisis

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Posted at 6:37 PM, Nov 11, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-13 16:52:08-05

TULSA — Chronic pain sufferers call themselves "collateral damage" in the opioid crisis, Lori Bonebrake of Bartlesville successfully used high doses of opiates to treat pain for years. She is one of a growing number of chronic pain sufferers who had successfully used opioids to treat their conditions.

"It took like 10 years to find the right combination of medications that worked well," Bonebrake said. Chronic pain sufferers now say some physician's misunderstanding of opioid prescribing guidelines makes them feel like "collateral damage" in the opioid crisis. Dr. Kevin Taubman is the past President of the Oklahoma State Medical Association.

"I think the term "collateral damage" is a little more of an overstatement." He said, "I think the fact is all these individuals are various degrees have justifiable conditions that need pain therapy of different types, which can include opioids."
Bonebrake told 2 Works for You she suffers multiple sclerosis and fibromyalgia. She said she and many other chronic pain sufferers now have trouble getting the opiate pain control medications they need.

They blame confusion over state and federal prescribing guidelines for many primary care doctors no-longer writing prescriptions for opiates to treat chronic pain. They also claim some doctors are reducing the dosage of opiates they will prescribe for pain. Patients call that practice "forced tapering" "I was forced down from 420 morphine equivalents down to 90 in less than a month," Bonebrake said. "The first three weeks, I was in horrible withdrawals. Worst pain I've ever felt in my life."

Centers for Disease Control opiate prescribing guidelines do indicate opiates should not be first-line therapy for chronic pain and should be considered only "if expected benefits for both pain and function are anticipated to outweigh the risks to the patient." Dr. Taubman said, "Those are guidelines, they're not absolute."

Dr. William Yarborough specializes in pain management and addiction. He said when primary care doctors don't understand guidelines, they sometimes simply stop prescribing opiates altogether.
He said, "It's too risky for them in their minds." State and CDC guidelines do allow opioids for chronic pain patients who don't show signs of addiction.

The guidelines also allow for prescribing higher doses with careful monitoring to prevent addiction.

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