Chronic Pain, Suicide, and Opioids
A came across a study today that linked chronic pain and suicide in a significant way. About one in ten suicides are linked to people with chronic pain. In all likelihood, according to this report, those numbers are underreported. More disturbingly, the recent uptick in suicides for those in chronic pain may be connected to decreased access to opioid-based painkillers. Despite public perception, these suicides do not appear to be linked to increased usage of opioids. In fact, there is growing concern that the new CDC guidelines concerning opioid prescriptions has restricted access to those in dire need of relief and thus increasing their suicide risk.
Personally, I have been hearing more stories from chronic pain sufferers who genuinely worry that their life will become unbearable if they are not allowed by practitioners to get powerful painkillers. These people are not addicted and certainly not abusers. They just can’t function without dulling their pain. These people should not be stigmatized. They deserve compassion and access to drugs to make their life bearable.
I am aware of the power of these drugs and I believe they should be used with caution. Personally, other than post-operative care, I have been able to avoid using opioids. I take nothing stronger than tramadol (and not regularly at that) and have learned to get by with anti-inflammatories along with disease-modifying drugs (biologics). I would rate my pain on most days around a five on a scale of one to ten. If you bumped that up closer to a seven, I would be desperately looking for a doctor to give me something that would help me cope. I can’t imagine pain any higher than that and coping without serious painkillers, and yet many of these people are regarded with the same level of dignity as your neighborhood meth addict (who also needs serious help).
If we are going to be living in a society that has become hostile toward those who need pain medicine, then people are going to need spiritual and emotional support more than ever. I don’t know how isolated the suicidal person becomes before they commit that irreversible act, but it is a major goal of this ministry to help people realize they are not alone. To be in intractable pain and be completely alone is to behold a horrific and hopeless horizon.
I am firmly committed to the belief that God is “close to the brokenhearted” (Ps. 34:18). Maybe you are having a hard time believing this today. Maybe you aren’t sure if God is there at all. Then, at least, know that there are many who are hurting with you. You are not alone. We are in this together. No matter how much you are hurting, your life is valuable still. Be a part of the “broken and mended” community. You are welcome here.
P.S.: We are also a Facebook group. Find us here: Broken and Mended
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