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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


 Yikes! That's awful. Doctors can be real jerks sometimes, not to say something worse.  It goes to remind us that they are sinners too.  In fact, my mom, age 92, who worked with doctors as a social workers often says that they are business people in white coats because many of them go into medicine for the money, and compassion for patients is mostly an afterthought.

Doctors do have a challenging task. They can ask their patients to do something or refrain from something yet have no power to force their patients to do so.  We should pray for our medical teams that they have the best interest of their patients at heart. Perhaps a card from the doctor specifying the maximum amount of medicines that can be applied and going to the same drug store may help a bit.

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