In fact, she's been taking Oxycontin for chronic pain for nearly two decades.And that's the problem: She feared that if she went to the hospital she might be labeled a drug-seeker, which could lead to her doctor cutting off her opioid prescription, leaving her without the treatment that makes her life bearable.Czyk is just one of the more than 100 million Americans with chronic pain caught in the latest drug war crossfire.
Like Czyk, those who genuinely need painkilling drugs are now subject to policies like random reports to the doctor's office for pill counts, prescription limits, extra refill appointments, urine testing, and other restrictions that can become expensive and onerous.
Worse, they are often made to stop taking drugs that help them.
While she knew she risked her health by postponing care after her crash, Czyk tells me that she felt waiting offered less risk than being falsely labeled an "addict" and was "not as dangerous as losing my pain medications." Opioid addiction usually begins in the same place that all other addictions start: in the childhoods, traumas, mental illnesses, and genes of those affected.
Photo via Flickr user Marko Javorac When 58-year-old Zyp Czyk* had a serious mountain biking accident in June, she refused to go to the emergency room even though her injuries knocked her out cold and her husband pleaded for her to seek help.
Instead, Czyk slept for two days—contrary to the conventional wisdom of what you're supposed to do after sustaining a head injury.
Only then did she finally agree to go to an urgent care center, where she discovered she had broken her collarbone and some ribs and needed surgery.Czyk isn't afraid of doctors, hospitals, or pain medication, and she's not opposed to Western medicine.But these efforts are as misguided as most "supply-side" drug war initiatives, and the collateral damage tends to be excruciating.Last week, the CDC released a report showing that the rate of heroin overdose deaths in America quadrupled between 20.In a press briefing, CDC director Thomas Friedman said that rising use of medical opioids "primed" Americans for heroin addiction and called for "an all-of-society response," including a reduction in prescriptions and better law enforcement.Likewise, in its 2015 assessment of the threat from heroin, the DEA reported, "Increased demand for, and use of, heroin is being driven by both increasing availability of heroin in the US market and by some controlled prescription drug (CPD) abusers using heroin." You'd never know it from the official government line, but while the "opioid epidemic" is linked to increased use of pain medications, the overwhelming majority of addictions do not start with a prescription—and most opioid prescriptions do not cause addiction.