When suicide becomes the option due to the opioid epidemic
I have been involved in the suicide prevention things for the past eleven years or so. I have been reading research articles from those in the field. Then I became disabled and my suicidality increased but I have not made any attempts. The reason I say this is because I am now involved in the chronic pain community and found that there have been a lot of suicides since the crack down on opioids really started bearing down on patients and their doctors.
Recently there has been a woman in Montana that ended her life after the DEA went after her doctor. I find this, sadly, preventable. These pain patients have severe pain and need opioids to get relief. Since October, I have been trying to get adequate pain meds to relieve my pain but have been facing nothing but red tape. I have had two psych hospitalizations, which have not been helpful in the least. My psychiatrist is really worried about me. I have a plan to end things in a few months. It is a coping mechanism for me to make these plans. I don’t know if I will go through with it but it’s helpful for me to know there is an end to my suffering.
In the suicide prevention community, specifically a social media twitter group called SPSM (suicide prevention social media) there has been a lot of talk about getting the medical professionals to talk openly about asking about suicide as there has been research stating most suicides happen a within a period of time after seeking a medical professional. I argue that the psych professionals also have to ask the question, which sometimes does not happen for a variety of reasons. What is missing in those with chronic pain, is also lacking the talk of asking about suicide after pain meds have been forcibly cut or stopped all together. This kind of action has lead to multiple suicide that Dr. Kline, a pain physician, has written about.
I really think that if the pain psychologist in these pain clinics ask about it or even the health care professionals do, there might be a chance of saving a life. These patients feel their backs are against a wall and they cannot function without these meds anymore. The epidemic is nothing but hysteria. The CDC lied about their statistics and made it look like prescription opioids were the problem when it was really illicit drugs. Compounding the problem with chronic pain patients not getting the meds they need are the patients that have substance abuse disorder. The stigma surrounding substance abuse is probably as bad as those with suicidal ideation. There are no easy answers as some chronic pain patients has been grouped with the substance use and vice versa. Both need to be treated with meds but stigma and thoughts of not being able to be “strong” enough to stand the withdrawals or handle pain is just not a way of doing it. Unlike alcohol abuse where abstinence helps, substance use need medical assisted treatment with meds such as suboxone. There needs to be no legal punishment for those seeking treatment. More overdoses have happened due to people being released from jail and then using again because their tolerance has been lowered while being away from their substance.
With chronic pain, those that have been stable for years and being taken off abruptly, often turn to suicide because their pain is making their lives miserable. They can no longer do the things they did while on pain meds for their chronic pain. Often these patients feel abandoned by their doctors and some have been and are unable to find another doctor to treat them. Some have to travel far from their homes for care. It is a sad situation. Pain needs to be addressed. It was the 5th vital sign but the crisis has done away with it. So those with deep emotional pain don’t get asked about suicide and those with deep physical pain are neglected and never asked about their suicidal thoughts. Can we bridge this huge gap? Tough question to be answered.