Fibromyalgia Awareness Day May 12; and #PrescriptionAddiction

Today, May 12th,  is Fibromyalgia Awareness Day.  Fibromyalgia is a disorder of unknown origins that produces chronic, widespread pain throughout the body, as well as crushing fatigue, lack of energy and stamina that produces severe impairment of normal, everyday activities, disordered sleep, insomnia, IBS, cognitive impairment, migraine, and many other symptoms too extensive to list here.

You can find out more in the pages of this website; or by using a search engine.

People who have fibromyalgia are often treated dismissively by doctors, but this problem is getting better, especially in the past two years or so.  I, for example, went undiagnosed for many years, then was diagnosed, then was de-diagnosed!  Then, I was diagnosed again.  In my personal opinion, I know more about fibromyalgia than most of the physicians I have encountered over the years.  One guy told me I was "too happy to have fibromyalgia" a couple of months after my life partner died.  I mean, really?  I was at the most unhappy point in my entire life, but this guy said I was "too happy" to have fibromyalgia!?  I'm not the kind of person who walks around mopey.  My mother always admonished me to "wear a smile" and that's exactly what I do.  But, that apparently gave the impression that I wasn't unhappy enough, in his opinion, to fit the profile of a fibro patient.  You'd have to walk a mile in my shoes in order to understand just how much this disorder impacts my life on a daily basis.

Last night, I watched a CNN Special called Prescription Addiction.  It was a town-hall-type discussion with several experts and patients about addiction to prescription painkillers and the huge, huge epidemic in the United States.  78 people die every DAY from abuse of prescription drugs.

I was on Twitter last night following the hashtag #PrescriptionAddiction while the show was on.  Tweeting is hard, because you can only write 140 words, and I was trying to make a point to some of the other Tweeters and viewers who said they lived with chronic pain and took opioid medication for their pain.  They felt (which is also a problem that needs to be discussed on a place like CNN) that they were often treated like criminals and turned away at the doctor and pharmacy because they were looked upon as "drug seekers", when, in reality, they need this medication.  Importantly, these are people who do NOT abuse the medication.  They are using it as instructed, and that's a good thing.  I was trying to reply to some of them and say that the show on CNN last night was about people who ABUSE and MIS-USE the drugs, and become addicted.  Yes, the other issue (people with chronic pain who need the drugs and do NOT abuse them) needs to be discussed, too, but last night's show wasn't about that.  I'm not sure if I made my point successfully, so I'm writing it here.  Of course, I'll probably get a backlash of people saying I'm being preachy or something.  Whatever.

Personally, I cannot take opioid medication for two reasons:  1) I am a recovering alcohol and street-drug abuser (28 years clean & sober!).  It would be dangerous for me to take opiates because I WOULD become addicted, because I have a propensity for addiction.  Addiction is a brain problem, as Dr. Sanjay Gupta explained on the show last night.  2) Since having fibro and being in recovery and not abusing substances anymore, I have become extremely drug-sensitive.  If I so much as take one Vicodin, I am falling asleep and vomiting!!  So, thankfully, the universe has seen fit to protect me from becoming addicted to these things.  Over-the-counter medicine works for me, and I am very grateful that it helps me get through a day.

But others with chronic pain must take opiates, and do not have a propensity to become addicted.  They take the drugs as-directed.  "One pill per day" or whatever it is.  I marvel at folks who can do that, because I know I wouldn't be able to.  And I think that is where the disconnect happened last night on Twitter.... the issue at hand was people who abuse and mis-use prescription drugs, and how people are dying left and right in this country.  Particularly here in New England where this is a huge, horrible problem.  Our 20-and-30-something kids are dying from this!!

And now, I have become preachy.   Thank you so much for listening.