LAS VEGAS - When you hear the word "opioid" on the news, it is usually attached to other words, including "crisis" and "epidemic."
Opioid stories have become a staple of the nightly news as politicians at the state, local and federal levels demand crackdowns and other initiatives.
One side of the opioid issue has been largely ignored though -- the needs of chronic pain patients.
The I-Team's George Knapp starts a week-long investigation of the opioid conundrum tonight.
Everyone listening to this program has either experienced chronic pain or has someone in their family struggling with pain issues.
An estimated 100 million Americans cope with chronic pain, and tens of millions of those rely on opioids as one part of their treatment.
The medications help them function, go to work, live semi-normal lives. Not any more.
The crackdown, aimed at drug abusers dying of OD's, has led to abandonment of legitimate patients who've been forced to live in agony.
"It was a whole new level of pain. You just don't even think. You can't even imagine it until you experience it. There's other conditions, like arachnoiditis that nobody has heard about and knows about, but they cause this burning fire pain that excruciating and can make you question, do I even want to be alive if you can't get the right treatment for it?" Barby Ingle, a chronic pain patient said.
"It takes over everything, when you're in pain," said Ginita Hall, chronic pain patient. "It is hard to explain to people that have not felt the pain you feel because you can't explain how it incapacitates you. You can't explain how it hurts so bad you can't do anything. You can't do anything at all."
"Honestly, I was pretty close to killing myself because I just didn't think I could handle it," said John Lear, chronic pain patient.
"He said, 'Don't you dare let the doctor get away with this,' and he took the gun out, and he put it up to his chest, and he pulled the trigger," said Meredith Lawrence, pain patient advocate.
"It is almost unbelievable, the number of people whose lives have been destroyed, the number of people planning suicides, the number of people who tell me that they don't want to live and that they see no hope for the future because they have been abandoned by their doctors," said Dr. Lynn Webster, medical professional.
Patients have had it. They're tired of being looked at as being criminals because they have chronic pancreatitis or chronic back pain, it's gone to far," said Dr. Dan Laird, Las Vegas pain specialist.
"The federal government is giving the message, we don't care if you die. We don't care if you suffer. We don't care if you lose your doctor, if you have unnecessary surgery, don't care if you are called a drug addict or have to go to a mental health center, we don't care anymore," said Dr. Forest Tennant, chronic pain specialist.
In September, 8 News NOW aired the first report in this project in hopes that pain patients would reach out to the I-Team and tell their stories. The calls and and emails are still coming in by the hundreds.
The I-Team interviewed dozens of people, pain sufferers, pain experts, doctors, regulators, people on the front lines.
There is a silent opioid crisis, but it's not the one that's been reported so far.
All this week, the 8 News NOW team will show you the faces of pain, how legitimate patients have become collateral damage, abandoned by doctors and pharmacists who have been intimidated based on evidence that is specious and contradictory.
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