I don’t like to go out much during the winter. I hate snow, I hate cold, and as my family and friends all know, I’m not particularly fond of wearing clothes. People will call before they come over to give me a head’s up. Or, if they do pop in, they know to yell “are you decent?” as they enter. My ex-wife and I once visited a nude resort, but that’s a story for another time. Further ratcheting up my disdain for outside ventures, was that my trusty Toyota had recently died, and I was using a Volkswagen Bug that my parents had loaned me. It took my father days to install the hand controls. It was difficult, and possibly dangerous, for me to attempt getting in and out of this car. The wheelchair-to-car (and car-to-wheelchair) transfer was not easy. Any snow or ice makes it far worse, as the chair can slide away. Brakes don’t work on ice. It had snowed the day before so I knew it would be some work just to get TO the car. Then more shoveling and work to get the car cleared off; and then the dangerous transfer into the car.
Despite all of this I needed to get my pain prescription refilled. When you are dependent upon an opiate, you watch carefully as the pills dwindle. Since these pain medications (drugs) are so heavily regulated and monitored, there is an elaborate process just to get a prescription filled.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) had provided some helpful infographics to make the point. Addicts have “doctor shopped” until they find someone willing to write a script. Doctors are less willing to write these scripts, so addicts will visit emergency rooms trying to get doctors to write a script. Doctors are now trained to recognize “drug seeking behaviors” and the scenarios that addicts devise to get a script written. Hospitals have developed protocols to make sure that not just patients, but increasingly doctors and nurses, aren’t able to obtain and abuse these drugs. There are horror stories of abuse, overdose and death. Nurses were discovered eating Fentanyl patches rather than discarding them, after they had been affixed to a patient’s body for 3 days. Now you must have two nurses present just to discard the patches. There’s more information on the National Institute for Health’s NIDA link here. Unfortunately, the addicts that are driving the need for the increase in regulation effect patients that are not addicted, but dependent upon the same medications. That is an important distinction for people with chronic pain issues, that appropriately take medication under their doctor’s supervision. What this means for me? I have to jump through all the hoops put in place to prevent addicts from abusing the system.
My doctor’s office requests that you call 5 business days in advance, so that they can make sure they have time to check against the state database to see if they are cleared to write a script for me. The state database ensures that I haven’t been out visiting a bunch of other doctors, and getting prescriptions filled at different pharmacies. If it’s been enough days since they’ve issued a prescription, the office will print the script for the doc to sign. My physician works in one of the myriad offices across New York State that have either not yet spent the thousands of dollars to upgrade their computer system, or are awaiting the installation and connection to the system. The offices that have completed the process are able to fax or email the scripts for controlled substances to the pharmacies already on the network. Until connected, I can either go in and pick up the script; or I can have it mailed to my pharmacy. I’ve had some delays with the mail in the past, so I’m no longer willing to risk relying on the US Postal Service. I say “risk” for a reason. If I don’t have access to this medication I will experience withdrawal symptoms. These are bad for anyone, but very bad for me, as I’ve described in a earlier post. Yes, I can die. That’s why I put I “needed” to get my pain prescription refilled. Continue reading “Painkillers, iPhones and Police (A Day in the Life)”