Experts recommend alternatives to opioids for managing chronic pain
PHOENIX – Eric Johnson has had pain throughout his life.
At 8, doctors diagnosed him with mononucleosis – also known as the kissing disease. That likely led to fibromyalgia, a common chronic pain disorder affecting muscles and soft tissues, as an adult, he said.
In 2011, he had such extreme breathing difficulties that he went to the emergency room in Tucson, where doctors discovered he had myasthenia gravis, a disease that weakens the muscles.
Johnson, 65, also underwent open chest surgery for a cancerous thymus gland.
At one point, the Phoenix resident was “in such extreme pain, I wanted to kill myself.”
The pain felt like being beaten with sticks all over the body, “not so much as it’s happening, but when it’s over, the ache, that pain’s everywhere,” he said.
Johnson has taken pain relievers, such as Lyrica and tramadol, as well as opioids, such as morphine and oxycodone. But he prefers medical marijuana, which he says has helped reduce the amount of prescription pills he has to take.
Johnson said he’s worried about getting hooked on prescription drugs. He wanted to wait as long as possible before taking opioids because “when the pain gets so bad, there’s no alternative, only increased dosages or stronger prescriptions offer some relief.”