Chronic pain patients feel stigma when it comes to medications - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Chronic pain patients feel stigma when it comes to medications

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Photo by WRCB reporter Kate Smith. Photo by WRCB reporter Kate Smith.
CLEVELAND, TN (WRCB) -

A Cleveland woman said she depends on opioids to survive. She has several painful diseases, preventing her from doing day-to-day activities.

The government is working to eliminate unnecessary opioids from communities, she wants others to remember people like her, suffering and living with chronic pain.

Christy Wells-Reece manages her pain with a strict daily regimen of opioids. For chronic pain patients like herself, the new government crackdown isn't life-saving, it’s life-threatening.

“One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, that’s for the night time,” said Christy Wells-Reece while counting her pills.

READ MORE | Hamilton Co. paramedics encountering opioid overdoses

She sits on her couch, an arm's length away from her medicine and other personal items. It's by design, she stays in her chair for the majority of her day, every single day. “There was a time I couldn't get out of bed. I spent every day in the bed.”

She has lupus, arthritis, and fibromyalgia. These are diseases that cause widespread pain, forcing her to take 30 pills daily to relieve discomfort.

“I used to feel a lot of shame," Wells-Reece said. "But now, when you go to a pain management doctor, the first thing you do when you go to another doctor is, you tell them. I go to a pain management doctor.”

Her pain management doctor is responsible for writing any opioid prescriptions. It's a safety net to avoid abusing pain medications.  “At the end of the month, when I go back to my pain management doctor, they know how many is left in my pill bottle. They can question me. You don't have enough left here, why don't you have enough left in your bottle? You should have so many days left.”

Last month, President Trump declared the opioid epidemic a Public Health Emergency. Christy understands some struggle with addiction. “I know how hard that is. But it is also hard to live with pain everyday.”

READ MORE | Trump to declare opioids ‘Public Health Emergency’

For her, even though she might not always show it, the pain is there and it's real. “They see me, they see my smile. They see that I talk on the phone, and they don't hear it in my voice. Or they will see me out of my chair, but they won't see the pain.”

President Trump wants to crackdown on drug distributors and traffickers, and to work with state and federal agencies to lure people away drugs and opioids.

President Trump nominated Alex Tzar, a former pharmaceutical industry executive, to be the next Health and Human Services Secretary.

Tzar would replace Tom Price, who resigned in September.

Tzar said he found his life's calling: to help people around the world live longer, healthier, and happier lives. 

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