Pain patients in Kansas City join nationwide ‘Don’t Punish Pain’ demonstrations

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Government data shows more than 100 people per day die from opioid-related drug overdoses.

In response to the growing opioid crisis, some doctors are cutting back on prescribing pain medications. But a group of KCMO residents say this effort to curb addiction is actually hurting them.

 Sleeping, getting out of bed and walking for even just a few minutes has become very hard for Autumn Gabriel. 

“I’m no longer able to do as much as I was able to do. My stamina is worse, and the pain is also worse,” Gabriel said.

A bad car wreck in 1998 left her with severe nerve damage and a lot of hip pain.

“Even with the best medication, I’m still in pain. It’s just a little bit more tolerable,” Gabriel said.

But recently, the medicine Autumn said she needs to function has become a lot harder to get.\

“Since the CDC has put out the national guidelines, my pain management doctor has changed my medication, cut down my dosage,” Gabriel said.

On Tuesday, she and a small group of friends met near Country Club Plaza to share a message with passersby.

“There are chronic pain people with intractable pain that actually need the opiates in order to live a decent quality of life,” Gabriel said.

Local doctors said they see patients who fit this description everyday.

“We do see a lot of patients coming in on high doses of opioids,”  said Dr. Muhammad Farhan, chief pain management director for University Health.

Farhan, who works at the University Health Pain Clinic, said although each patient and the way they experience pain is different, when it comes to opioids, it can be a very slippery slope.

“Once you’re on opioids, there’s no end to it. You build up a tolerance for it, and next thing you know you require more medication to control your pain,” Farhan said.

At his pain management clinic, the staff focuses on other ways to address chronic pain.

“We have a mind/body clinic in which we do a lot of relaxation techniques, biofeedback, hypnosis, meditation, yoga for pain,” Farhan said.

And for the past three years, he’s seen overwhelming success even in the most reluctant patients.

“We see a lot of patients at the clinic that are on high dosage of opioids, and they’re still not better and are still in pain. But when they learn to self-manage their pain through meditation or hypnosis or relaxation techniques, then they feel more in control,” Farhan said.

Tuesday’s rally at Country Club Plaza was organized by a nationwide group called Don`t Punish Pain. Similar events took place on the same day in cities all across the country.

The goal of these demonstrations is to get the CDC to change its guidelines to better accommodate chronic pain patients. In late August, the CDC released its latest set of guidelines for prescribing opioids for chronic pain.