The other side of opioids: Patients who say their medications are being cut

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Oregon is starting to get a handle on its opioid crisis, in terms of fewer deaths and fewer overdoses.

Still, thousands struggle with addiction.

Meanwhile, thousands of other Oregonians struggle with severe pain and rely on opioids to relieve that pain. Under new federal rules, however, their meds are being cut.

Erin McDermott lives in Salem and suffers from ankylosing spondylitis, an incurable autoimmune disease that affects her joints and spine. She's depended on pain-killers for the last 10 years.

Her medications are now being cut due to the new federal rules.

"I'm really scared,” McDermott said. “I'm already feeling pain I never felt and I'm afraid."

McDermott has been taking a total of 22 pain pills a day, including anti-inflammatories and muscle relaxers to cope with her extreme pain.

Her doctors are now tapering back on the dosage.

The new rules are designed to solve the nationwide problem of opioid addiction, but McDermott says, "There's a difference between dependency to function and being addicted to it."

McDermott’s doctors declined to speak on the subject to FOX 12, but Dr. Grace Chen at Oregon Health & Science University’s Chronic Pain Clinic said while doctors should not just rely on opioids for pain relief, she knows some patients are really hurting due to recent restrictions.

“We have no doubt that there are many, many patients that suffer from severe pain, whether that’s cancer-related or chronic disease and they have severe functional limits,” Chen said.

McDermott said she can no longer stand for even 15 minutes at a time. She said before doctors began decreasing her pain medication, she could take her dog out for a short walk a couple times a day.

She is now relying on her mother to handle household chores.

“I spend more time on my couch but now I’m not even sleeping and I feel the pain all day,” she said.

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