Eight years ago, I developed pain in my knee that kept getting worse, eventually leading to a total knee replacement. I learned that I have moderate osteo and some form of rheumatoid arthritis.
Because I am allergic to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Aleve and ibuprofen, I take steroids for inflammation and a mild, synthetic opiate for pain. Without this medication, I could not function or even lie down at night because my arthritis affects my large joints, spine, sacroiliac joints, and shoulders.
Because opioids are misused regularly, I am required to have a pain management specialist who prescribes my medications. For those of us with documented and chronic conditions like arthritis—and an allergy to NSAIDs—opiates are the only option.
I have to visit my doctor in person every month to renew my prescription, and I have never misused my medications. Still, I am often treated like a junkie looking for a fix when I ask for a prescription renewal. I am questioned, drug tested, and often told my medication will be reduced to less than I need. It is a frustrating, exhausting process in itself—never mind the constant pain of the arthritis.
I am grateful for medications and for health insurance, but I resent being treated like a criminal when I seek help. Arthritis is a disability, not a crime. I have a physical dependency on medications because my body can’t function without them, but I am not addicted. There’s a difference. I hope someday we will find a way to provide treatment for people with painful disabilities without the added shame and suspicion associated with drug abuse.
Amy Nyland is Executive minister, Regional Synod of New York (RCA), Tarrytown NY.
This article is from Breaking Barriers, Winter 2020.