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Arizona doctor, patient explain why access to opioids is necessary

PHOENIX — A pain management specialist and a patient suffering from chronic pain say that access to opioids is necessary to people who need them to manage their conditions.

As Arizona and other states work to place more rules on opioid prescriptions, some patients are afraid they are being lumped in with addicts, according to pain management specialist Dr. Tony Bui.

“For the chronic pain patients, it’s been very difficult for them because … they feel pretty marginalized from the restrictive action that the state has taken,” Bui told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Bruce St. James & Pamela Hughes Show on Thursday.

“We’re talking about people who are not … (experiencing) addiction, but more like dependent on these medications, only because they have pain.”

Lori Cutter, one of these patients, suffers from fibromyalgia, degenerative disk disease and neuropathy.

She told Bruce & Pamela that she spent $14,000 last year out of pocket and went to over 200 doctor’s appointments trying to find ways to manage her pain.

“To get the kind of care that I need, that helps me thrive, I don’t want to just go to the pill,” she said.

She said at one point she was on four to five medications before she and her doctor decided to stick with hydrocodone, a well-known opioid.

Bui said it’s common for people taking these types of pills to have exhausted all other options.

“With the opioid medications, it’s usually for the person who has tried various other medications, or other modalities like injections, or beyond, that haven’t worked for them and they still find themselves very dysfunctional from an activity standpoint,” he said.

Cutter said she has sometimes struggled to find a provider who will write her a prescription for the potentially addictive drug.

“That’s a legitimate fear inside me sometimes … because I don’t know how long my doctors will continue to fill that,” she said.

Without the drug, she said, “I don’t think I would be functioning as highly as I am. … There’s days I probably wouldn’t be able to get out of bed or sit at my desk very long.”

Bui said his patients often feel like they are automatically labeled as addicts and are looked down on by society.

Cutter said she feels that stigma every time she reaches for her pill bottle.

“I’m hearing these words, ‘abuser,’ ‘addict,’ because that’s what the media and everything is blowing up right now,” she said.

“I think we need to be celebrated that we are managing life as best we can.”

Tune in to KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Bruce St. James & Pamela Hughes Show each day this week at 10 a.m. for special coverage of Arizona’s opioid epidemic.

To reach the Arizona Opioid Assistance and Referral Line, call 1-888-688-4222, or visit the website for more information.

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