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State’s Opioid Plan Means More Citizens out of Work - Like Me

They say TN Together – the state’s plan to address the opioid crisis – is helping people. But what they fail to mention is that the chronic pain patients who use opioids correctly are suffering. I am one of those patients who has been negatively affected by TN Together. This policy limits the medication I can get, leaving me and others like me in pain on a regular basis.

If we are in pain, then we are not working. How does this help the economy? The medication I get helps me be a productive member of society. I cannot do basic tasks, like going to work, that I would be able to do if I could receive an adequate amount of medication.

Some people may think that no one needs to be on an opioid, but that simply is not the case. Doctors base it on how severe the person’s pain is and their medical condition. I was born with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and have been diagnosed with multiple conditions. My pain is severe, and it takes a lot to control it.

Because I cannot get enough medication to control my pain, I am out of work and I have to rely on my kids to help me. I know I am not alone in this. If we cannot get medication from doctors, where are we going to get it? The next best thing is the street. Not everyone is going to do that, but it is one of the options we have.

TN Together has made it harder for those in need to get pain medication legally, which in turn causes a rise in illegal drug use, and this causes a rise in drug cartels coming to our state to sell drugs.

If someone is getting their medication legally, they sign a legally binding document saying they will not use it incorrectly, nor will they sell it. The patients also get drug tested and take surveys to gauge their possible addiction and mental health. Only 5 percent of people on legally obtained pain medication become addicted. I say only 5 percent because there are millions of people on prescription pain medication.

What Gov. Bill Haslam fails to mention is that most drug overdoses and addictions do not come from prescription drugs. They come from illegally purchased drugs, mainly heroin, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse. The drug cartels are making a large profit from drug abusers, but the governor created an even bigger drug market by restricting pain medication for chronic pain patients through TN Together.

On this issue, the governor refused to listen to experts in the field and evidence-based medical interventions. Different medical associations lobbied against the bill, asking that changes be made so that it does not negatively affect chronic pain patients. The governor said that it would not affect chronic pain patients because they could get an exemption, but this is a lie. The exemption he is talking about gets denied. The governor clearly felt he knew better than those who work with patients every day. He clearly was not thinking of patients who are suffering from life-altering pain.

TN Together means more citizens out of work and more illegal drugs flooding the streets of Tennessee. TN Together has failed Tennessee citizens.

Melissa Canedy is a Knoxville resident.

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