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Dear Mom, I’m Not Prince

Dear Mom,

I’m not Prince.

I’m not secretly taking Fentanyl or having to land my private jet in Illinois in order to get revived from a drug overdose. I’m not addicted to prescription opioid painkiller medication, nor will I end up slumped in an elevator at Paisley Park (or anywhere else). I will also not turn into a heroin addict, living on the street with a needle sticking out of my arm, resembling an emaciated Ewan McGregor in “Trainspotting.” My doctor won’t let that happen and I won’t let that happen. Have you seen “Trainspotting?” No thanks.

There is panic in the media almost constantly about the “Opioid Crisis,” and I realize you’re scared and you don’t want anything bad to happen to me–like those addicts shown on T.V. I also realize that even though you’re my mother and close to me, you don’t understand what it’s like trying live with the constant severe pain of RA. I get the feeling you don’t trust that I know what I’m doing managing my health and RA, and that’s both infuriating and demoralizing. My health is a top priority in my life and I treat it as a very important full-time job. I don’t want to end up with an addiction or dead in an elevator either, believe me.

While I agree that opioid abuse is definitely a problem, I also feel frustrated that only one side of the story is being told in the media. What about people who suffer from chronic pain, like me, who sometimes really need painkiller medication and who take the drugs responsibly? I feel like everyone (who doesn’t understand chronic pain) is basically freaking out about opioid addiction and abuse now, which is increasing stigma and shame for anybody who takes these drugs.

As your daughter, who loves you very much, of course I don’t want to see you worried or upset about me. But I also need to have the freedom and respect to responsibly take prescription painkillers if my doctor and I feel it’s necessary. I shouldn’t have to feel like criminal, forced to hide pill bottles, or answer probing, intrusive questions about which medications I took today. I can’t breathe, and it’s not from opiates

Before he died, Prince and I did share some things in common: short stature, dark hair and eyes, a hometown of Minneapolis, and chronic pain. However, I think that’s where the commonalities end. I’m not a musical genius or a rich superstar, and that’s probably a good thing. Maybe if I were those things, I would be a real drug addict. But I’m not and I never have been. I firmly intend to remain addiction-free, because think about it–do I really need any more problems to deal with? I don’t think so.

I wish someone would tell CNN’s Anderson Cooper and Sanjay Gupta (and whoever else is spreading opioid sensationalism) to calm down, or at least to try to calm down the mothers and families of those who suffer from chronic pain and take pain medication responsibly. I’m so tired of major news outlets hurling scary statistics at us, implying that if you put even one Percocet in your mouth, you’ll turn into an insatiable addict, ruined for life.

Calm down, Mom. Please calm down. Remember, opioids have some nasty side-effects, such as chronic constipation, dizziness, and physical tolerance. And do you remember those horrible, hair-drenching sweating episodes I developed from taking Vicodin? If that isn’t deterrent enough, I don’t know what is. Walking around with sweat drops in my eyes and toweling off with Kleenex and napkins all day, every day, is not my idea of a good time. I’d much rather find a better, less sweaty method of pain relief.

So, I don’t really know what else to say except to stress again how I am not anything like Prince regarding chronic pain (mis)management. I’m responsible, aware, and cautious–not to mention paranoid of getting any new health problems. Like you, I’m also a neurotic worrywart (I say this in a loving manner), and I do not want to get sucked into painkiller addiction!

Before I close this letter, I want to reassure you that I’m managing my pain responsibly and with the help and supervision of a physician. I hope you will see that I am an intelligent and well-informed patient. I also hope you’ll see, with the help of this letter, the ridiculousness of some of the media hysteria surrounding opioid drugs. Please understand that media hype is influencing more and more government crackdowns that only further hurt those patients who are already suffering and in pain. We who take prescription painkillers responsibly should not be punished for the abuse and addiction of others.

Please, Mom, hear me out and trust me–I’m not Prince. I don’t even like purple.

With great love and respect,

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Apryde
    3 years ago

    Thank you for this article. It’s a great way of bringing up the travesty that is currently happening. Everyone says there’s an opioid crisis, but according to the CDC’s own numbers deaths from drug overdose are not even in the top 20. More people are killed each week in car accidents, than die from opioids, yet drivers don’t have to go every three months to be evaluated whether or not they’re using their cars correctly, or if they’re driving too much. This story needs to be pushed to the media, over and over again, until a realistic pain policy and medication plan is made, and not one by primarily by people who run rehab centers. Sorry for the rant, but your article touched a nerve. Thanks again!

  • Wren moderator
    3 years ago

    Hi, Angela!
    I empathize with every word you’ve written here in your letter to your mom (and mine, and everyone else’s who takes opioid analgesics to manage their RD pain). Responsible, legitimate chronic pain patients have been left out of the discussion about these powerful drugs by the government and, more pointedly, by the media. It’s a terrible shame, and this ongoing campaign against prescriptions opioids is hurting thousands–even millions–of chronic pain patients. We’re stigmatized as addicts, which is hard enough, but worse, many of us have had our needed pain medications forcibly reduced or even denied without compassion. As alternatives, we’re told to meditate or try acupuncture, etc., even though in many cases, insurance companies either cover only a few appointments or won’t cover these “alternative pain management” choices at all.
    Sorry, I’m ranting. But like you, I’ll sure be glad when our media discovers how distressing and life-altering (in a very bad way) their “opioid epidemic” coverage is to chronic pain patients and start covering this other side of it.
    And like you, I’ll be glad when my family and friends have their eyes opened, too.
    One other thing: It would be wonderful if the media might also mention the fact that addiction isn’t a moral failing, but a disease. Not everyone has that disease, any more than every person who drinks a cocktail or glass of wine is an alcoholic.
    Oh, well. I can dream, right? 😉

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