Tom Durkin multimedia writer-editor-photographer
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The Myth of the Accidental Overdose

There really is no such thing as an “accidental” opiate overdose. Virtually all drug overdoses are intentional. Look at it this way. If you take your opiate medicine as prescribed by a responsible physician, you’re not going to get high — not after the first few times anyway. If you’re lucky, you’ll get some acute or long-term pain relief. If you start chasing an opiate high and/or total pain relief, you will have to take more pills than prescribed. Overdose. Nothing accidental about it. And if you combine an opiate overdose with intentional abuse of other drugs like alcohol or benzodiazepines (e.g., Xanax, Valium), you could very well kill yourself, either unintentionally … or on purpose.

Sticking to the script

I’ve been on opiate medication most of my life, and on one benzodiazepine or another for decades. I am the product of better living through chemistry. I’m not proud of this. It’s just my reality. For me, my opiate prescription — along with a total pain management protocol — has allowed me to keep my chronic pain at a “tolerable” level so I can work and have a life. Likewise, my prescribed benzodiazepine — along with years and years of cognitive behavioral therapy — helps me stay focused on my work and not obsess with suicidal ideation. These are my medicines. They are the reason I’m still here, and the reason I am able to be a productive member of our community — instead of an invalid on SSDI. Or dead. Nevertheless, the government, medical corporations and insurance companies are attempting to “wean” me off these critical medicines. Why? Because they want to “protect” me from the “risk of overdose.” Yeah, right. I don’t overdose, because I don’t want to “risk” intolerable pain. I need my pills to last the whole damn month.

Medicine is for patients. Drugs are for addicts.

I’m sorry so many people are accidentally or intentionally killing themselves with opiates and benzos. It truly is tragic. But that’s no reason to take away medicines that I use as prescribed and that are essential to managing my disabilities. I’m not an addict, but I am physically dependent. Taking me off these medicines is dangerous. Literally, cold turkey could kill me. So I have to be tapered off and/or possibly given drugs I don’t want to counteract the effects of withdrawal. More important, depriving me of my medicine would destroy my quality of life. It’s not like they have a better plan. Forcing me back into intolerable pain and obsessive suicidal thinking is not protecting me from anything. It’s not reducing my suicide risk. It’s increasing it.

Millions of innocent victims

I am not the only chronic pain patient who is being harmed by the anti-opioid hysteria. Millions of us are being sacrificed to “save” addicts who will just move on to other drugs … as they always do. According to the 2018 “The Draft Report on Pain Management Best Practices” from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Today, chronic pain affects an estimated 50 million U.S. adults, and as many as 19.6 million of those adults experience high-impact chronic pain that interferes with daily life or work activities. Pain management stakeholders have been working to improve care for those suffering from acute and chronic pain in an era challenged by the opioid crisis. Even an organization that specializes in opiate withdrawal medication, The National Alliance of Advocates for Buprenorphine Treatment, recognizes the difference between an addict and a patient: Physical dependence can occur without addiction; this is the common experience of most chronic pain patients who are able to take their opioid medication as prescribed for pain but don’t develop the uncontrollable compulsion and loss of control. A desire to avoid withdrawal is not addiction. Chronic pain sufferers are not the cause of the “opioid crisis.” We are the victims of it.