MADISON, Wis. - On Tuesday morning, a group of people gathered in the Wisconsin capitol rotunda to tell their stories of chronic pain and protest guidelines the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has put on opioids in an attempt to stop the addiction epidemic.
Many of the attendees say opioids were helping them manage their pain, but they've recently been cut off or denied medication by their doctors.
"We're being judged and profiled by doctors. Honestly, you go in there and you're looking for help and they think you're a drug addict," said Donna Maysack, a chronic pain sufferer.
She said after her insurance stopped covering a steroid shot to treat her herniated discs and broken and missing vertebrae, her doctor refused to give her pain medication.
"They wouldn't help me and so now I just live with it," she said.
But she is not alone.
"I feel I'm dependent on the drug, the same as I'm dependent on several other drugs that I take that if I don't take I would be in very bad shape. They sustain my life," said Ron Bilanski.
Bilanski has not been able to renew his opioid prescription since January. He said instead, his doctors sent him to a pain clinic.
"My pain doctor, he literally told me 'Nothing we're doing is for your pain, we're doing it because that's the system,'" said Bilanski.
The group of protesters are hoping to bring attention to the punishment that say the fight against opioids has put on them. They say the pendulum has swung too far and it's pushing people like them to suicide or illegal drugs.
"People have become dependent on these medications. They play into people's everyday quality of life, and without them suicide rates are going up as a result of pain. Nobody wants to live in pain," said Mia Maysack, Donna's daughter.
Maysack said the addiction epidemic is "a completely different topic, but vitally and equally as important."
Mia Maysack said she suffers from post-infection migraines and fibromyalgia. She was named August's Pain Warrior of the Month by the U.S. Pain Foundation. She also runs a support group called Keeping Our Heads Up for people suffering with chronic pain.
"What it boils down to is if you're going to go ahead and eliminate these things out of the equation, we need to have an alternative. Massage therapy, water therapy, more holistic approaches are not covered by insurance," said Maysack.
"I feel the movement is warranted,” Dr. Mandira Mehra said. “But I also feel like it's a give and take process. We need to treat patients safely. That doesn't necessarily mean opiates but there is a time and place for opiates."
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