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Reader: A balanced view on the opioid crisis




Pain (mis)management

Thank you so much for printing Heidi Beedle's thoughtful discussion of the other side of the "opioid crisis" in your Nov. 21 issue ("Opioids come with dangers, but also provide relief," Cover). The article struck a chord with me because my 93-year-old mother, who had been on opioids for 15 years to manage extreme pain and muscle spasms, was forced to go off of them, beginning to taper off the oxy on Oct. 5 this year. We feel her death on Nov. 4 was a direct result of being taken off the medication that had helped for so long.

Mom had tried many medical and alternative treatments (all the things that are suggested instead of opioids) in four different states for decades before the oxy was prescribed and she finally got some relief. She lived in Kentucky, basically ground zero of the "opioid crisis" so there was even more pressure there for physicians to stop prescribing. She went off the opioids very gradually so fortunately did not suffer from withdrawal symptoms. Unfortunately, as she had less oxy, she had much more pain and the spasms returned, which affected her appetite and she got weaker. Five days in the hospital did not give her much relief or help her gain strength. The half-dozen medications she was given to replace the one that worked upset her stomach but didn't control the pain or convulsions. Taking pills every couple hours instead of four times a day made her gag and choke. All this made it harder for her to eat so she got weaker. We were desperate to do something to relieve her pain but were given no options but to watch her suffer until she gave up.

The pain caused by opioid addiction, as well as misdeeds by the manufacturers and physicians, have been well-documented. It's important for the public to also know that appropriate opioid use prevents pain and anguish. Beedle's profile of Lisa Gray's experience provides a vital, more balanced view.

— Kim Sayers-Newlin

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