Critics: Opioid law hurts chronic pain patients; governor’s task force holds discussion

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A law meant to protect people from opioid addiction could be hurting people instead.  On Tuesday, Governor Brian Sandoval’s Opioid State Action Accountability Task Force met to talk about how the new state law that went into effect earlier this year is adding additional protocols for doctors before prescribing a controlled substance. 

Some experts and patients say it’s hurting the people who need it most.

“I’m dependent on my pain medication, but that doesn’t make me an addict,” said Esteleen Westby, a chronic pain management patient.

Westby deals with chronic pain on a daily basis. 

“I broke six vertebrae and crushed three when I was 12 years old,” she said.

Westby’s spent her entire life managing pain. She sat in on the video conference with the governor’s task force.

“I feel this opioid crisis term is so illegitimate,” she said.

Critics say a new state law that makes it harder for doctors to prescribe opioids has left thousands feeling abandoned and experiencing backlash.

“I was discriminated by other doctors looking at me like ‘what do you want drugs for? What do you want this?’ I’m like I’m a patient. I’m not someone on the street,” chronic pain patient Sandy Hunter said.

However, finding the balance is getting harder for everyone.  The main topics during the meeting consisted of figuring out ways to crack down on abuse, along with ways to combat it as well.

“We know we can do more of a comprehensive way of treating pain than just using medication,” said Sara Hunt, assistant dean of behavioral health sciences at UNLV School of Medicine.  “We can’t just look at one way to treat all of this. We have to consider all the data points and what they’re telling us about the progress we’re making, but where we still need to do some work.”

They’re working to find a balance between preventing overdoses to helping people live with their chronic pain. 

“It’s not a fun life,” Westby said of chronic pain.  “I’m not getting high.”

The third quarter status report meeting will happen in October.

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