Patient worries opioid crisis battle will cause her more pain

Woman says she needs opioids for chronic pain, isn't addicted

By Scott Johnson - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - As President Donald Trump announced Thursday that the opioid crisis is a national health emergency, those who use opioid medications to battle chronic pain said they're concerned about the implications.

The government will now spend a lot of time and money fighting the opioid crisis.

"Working together, we will defeat this opioid epidemic. It will be defeated,” Trump said. “We will free our nation from the terrible affliction of drug abuse and, yes, we will overcome addiction in America."

Trump said that last year 64,000 lives were lost due to drug overdoses.

His announcement Thursday will free up more federal funding to fight the epidemic, but the fight could come at a cost to some patients, like Julie McElwee.

“I take a lot of medications,” McElwee told News4Jax.

She said opioids have become a bigger part of her life since a severe fall in 2015. Now, she lives with daily pain and said her medications are not abused, they are simply necessary.

“They’re not tackling the issue of we’re putting all these regulations in place and it’s hurting people like me that need this medication -- not because they want medication -- to function, for quality of life,” McElwee said. “If I didn’t have it, I would be in bed 24/7.”

McElwee has watched the national debate on opioids closely, including Thursday's announcement by the president that it’s a national health emergency.  She said she already deals with skeptical medical personnel who suspect she’s looking for drugs rather than pain relief.

“Are the regulations going to get so severe and strict that it’s not OK for the doctor to prescribe me my medication?” she asked.

Evan Jarschauer, clinical director at Recovery Coast, an opioid rehab facility in Jacksonville Beach, said opioids do work for many patients for pain relief when many other drugs don’t. But it’s a slippery slope to addiction.

“This is one of the most challenging conversations we have with clients,” Jarschauer said. “It becomes a real conflict to work with those clients, because we don’t want to tell them that their doctor is wrong, because they were receiving comfort. Their pain issues were being relieved with those medications.  Unfortunately for them, they’re also not able to live a full life.”

McElwee said she hopes the battle to control the crisis doesn't become an obstacle to stopping her pain with her medications.

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