The Dangers Of Medicating Chronic Pain


The Law Of.. coping with chronic pain

In the wake of the news from the Midwest Examiner's Office that Prince's death was caused by an accidental overdose of the powerful opioid Fentanyl, Melanie Burden – Chronic Pain Specialist Solicitor at Simpson Millar LLP – explores how many celebrities, crippled with chronic pain, face a daily struggle and looks at the potentially lethal effects opiate pain control can have.

Prince at CoachellaPrince performing at Coachella in 2008

Loss Of Artists Highlights Dangers

In recent years there have been a number of tragic stories of great artists dying from unintentional overdoses of pain medication.

In recent history the deaths of Prince and Michael Jackson highlight how chronic pain can often go unnoticed and while the circumstances of their passing were different they are both cases that saw great artists trying to manage and cope with crippling pain in a bid to be able to continue to perform and delight their fans.

As Melanie explains, it is this commitment from the performers that adds to the tragedy of their passing:

"What a tragedy that their very drive not to let their fans down and continue to perform by managing their pain with powerful pain medications may have ultimately played a part in their untimely deaths."

Fentanyl, which was found in Prince's body, is said to be 100 times more powerful than morphine. It is a particularly fast acting drug in the opioid group that can give rise to lethal consequences. One of the most serious side effects of opioids is respiratory depression, which can cause a person to stop breathing.

Opiates have been a preferred choice in recent years to manage chronic pain – this practice is now being challenged. Opiates have been championed in the past due to the risks of alternatives – as some anti-inflammatory medications carry risks of impairment of kidney function, heart attacks, and strokes.

The dangers of opiates appeared in a recent case handled by Melanie, as she says:

"I have acted recently for a client who had heavy doses of an opioid drug put on repeat prescription. It was only after she started to experience distressing symptoms of respiratory depression that a medical practitioner spotted this and that the dosage was too high for her. Thankfully this saved her life."

How Wearable Tech Could Manage Heavy Pain Medication Levels

With the prevalence of wearable technology in today's society, from smartwatches to fitness trackers, Melanie questions whether these devices could offer chronic pain sufferers an alternative to potentially dangerous opiates:

"In society, we are increasingly turning to wearable tech to track our daily movements and dietary habits. I wonder whether this technology could be a solution to help medicate chronic pain sufferers."

"A number or research studies are currently being carried out to trial how new technology could be applied to complex medical fields, with researchers keen to measure the success rate in relation to monitoring the effect wearable technology can have on chronic pain sufferers."

"Of particular significance is a study currently being carried out at the Scripps Cancer Centre in the USA, which is working with cancer patients to monitor how a wearable pain relief device manages chronic pain via analgesic therapy."

Are There Options Available To Chronic Pain Sufferers?

Despite the promising nature of some research studies, there is no substitute for regular consultation with your health professional and referral to a Pain Management specialist. These professionals can ensure that you can be carefully monitored and will outline a programme of treatment that is tailored to your needs.

Melanie comments:

"My clients find that they benefit from a multi-disciplinary package of treatment and often tell me that psychological therapies, which teach them coping strategies, distractions, and relaxation techniques are particularly beneficial."

"Anybody who is suffering from chronic pain and would like advice on how the law can help implement a medication plan that is both safe and effective should seek advice from a subject expert, who understands the difficulties involved with cases of chronic pain."

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