Chronic Pain, Suicide, and Opioids


Photo from the linked article in the 1st paragraph.

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.

opioidsI 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






About David Heflin

I blog about topics related to the Christian faith and the struggle of chronic pain. I have ankylosing spondylitis and have dealt with chronic pain since 2011. I hope to provide support and community for those going along that same journey with me.
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12 Responses to Chronic Pain, Suicide, and Opioids

  1. I'm still alive says:

    Read my blog dude

  2. I think the number is much higher than one in 10 suicides are due to chronic pain. i don’t know how these numbers can be tracked, but as these rules and guidelines get more and more insane, people are continuing to be cut off of their pain medications. When will it end? When no one gets pain medication? I feel like the only way this is ever going to stop is if more people become aware of the real numbers. We should be hearing a lot less about Jeff Sessions telling us to “take an aspirin” and more stories in the media about the hundreds, probably thousands of people who have committed suicide due to their pain medications being reduced or cut off.

  3. I couldn’t handle it if I lost access to Tramadol and my occasional Oxycodone and I really hate saying that. They’re the only things that even dull the pain enough to survive. Fibro patients are 10 times more likely than the general population to commit suicide. TEN times!!! If the attitude and guidelines towards pain management continue to eliminate our options, that number is going to multiply. I hate being on pain meds. The fear of becoming an addict is in my head every. single. time. I reach for that bottle. I’m sure many share that same awareness. We don’t want to live this way, but illnesses out of our control force it. Strict blanket guidelines that don’t factor in the right circumstances are not the answer to the Opiod Crisis. Many (I dare say most) chronic pain patients are not the abusers these very laws are erroneously targeting.

    • David Heflin says:

      Stacey, I appreciate your comments and adding some real-life perspective to this topic. I’m glad you still have the access you need. I am quite sure you are right that the majority of abusers are not chronic pain patients. It is immoral what is happening to some people. There has been some push back from medical professionals and patients to try raise awareness of the damage these new policies are doing and without any statistical benefit to the problem of addiction in general. Hopefully, that push back will be heard.

      • I agree. Maybe our voices, if we stick together and yell, might be heard.

        It also isn’t as cut and dry as cutting off access to opioids or pain relieving narcotics. We have a dear friend who died from a heroin overdose after being cut off from pain medications. It was heartbreaking. So I don’t mean to sound so cut and dry in what I said, whatsoever.

        There’s multiple circumstances to this crisis; which involves human beings. Therefore, trying to approach it from only one direction is ignorant.
        Because you have people who use the meds property. You have people who’s pain wasn’t being controlled sufficiently and just need more-so they take too much. You have people with addictive behaviors prior to being given pain pills and it just snowballs. You have people who are addicted who will seek anything. Finally, you have people who’s pain was “contained” who take the meds as prescribed, who then get cut off meds all-together. In agony and desperation, they turn to “other ways” to get it.

        So, how in any scenario above, but ONE, is cutting off access to meds helpful?
        If anything, cutting off access introduces a whole new subset of “addicts”.

        Sorry for the lengthy response. LOL. You hit a nerve with your awesome comments. ~Stacey

  4. Pingback: Truth in the Opioid Crisis | Broken and Mended

  5. Pingback: At the Intersection of Grief, Depression, and Illness | Broken and Mended

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