The other side of the opioid epidemic: Broken Arrow woman speaks out about chronic pain.

There’s another side to the epidemic, the people who need pain medicine to stay alive.

BROKEN ARROW, Okla. (KTUL) — Right now, a judge is weighing in on Oklahoma’s lawsuit against drug maker Johnson & Johnson.

The state is suing for $17 billion saying pharmaceutical companies should be held accountable for the opioid crisis.

But there’s another side to the epidemic, the people who need pain medicine to stay alive.

One of those people, Terri Whitter who lives in Broken Arrow.

She was diagnosed with Porphyria when she was 21 and has been living with chronic pain ever since.

It’s a rare disease.

Whitter said pain medicine helped her live a normal life, until about three years ago when doctors and lawmakers cracked down on the opioid dosage.

“The pain medicine has been tampered down so far that I don’t have much quality of life. It’s hard for me to get out,” said Whitter.

Now does she have less medicine, but has been called a drug seeker and addict by neighbors and even medical professionals.

“I’m now like the HIV patient from several years ago. No one wants to treat me. I get called names, there’s a big stigma attached to pain patients and it’s not fair,” said Whitter.

Whitter said it’s horrible to see people losing loved ones to opioids, but the efforts to combat that shouldn’t mean it’s assumed she’s an addict

“When you’ve been on pain medicine as long as I have you don’t get a high. There’s no buzz, what you feel is pain relief. Being compared to someone out on the street looking for a high is a slap in the face,” said Whitter.

In 2017, there were 388 overdose deaths involving opioids in Oklahoma.

The most significant decline occurred among deaths involving prescription opioids, from 444 deaths in 2012 to 251 deaths in 2017.

Whitter hopes lawmakers continue doing their research.

“Lawmakers have to do their research that the overdoses are mainly street drugs, people who aren’t prescribed the pain medicine, stole from somebody else and took them irresponsibly,” said Whitter.

Whitter has tried alternatives like medical marijuana, but it didn’t work.

“It’s actually not on the safe list for Porphriya but I tried it anyway because I had to try something to find something better than I have now,” she explained.

She is now dedicated to fighting to move the focus of this crisis off people who depend on this medicine.


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