The upside of opiates: How drugs taken properly are saving lives

KENOSHA COUNTY -- Michael Weirich, 51, rarely leaves his Kenosha County home.

Michael Weirich

Michael Weirich

When he does, he makes sure wherever he's going has a bathroom and that he can get to it quickly.

Using the bathroom presents two major problems for the Air Force veteran.

Michael Weirich

Michael Weirich

The first is because of a condition called Autonomic Dysfunction, he is not in charge of his bowels which is why he wears a colostomy bag. The bigger problem is that every time he digests a meal, he's in a great deal of pain.

"It's in my intestine. That's where 90 percent of my pain is and it's from multiple surgeries," Weirich told Fox6 recently from his home. "From the time I get up to the time I go to bed, I'm in constant pain. I've been hospitalized 30 times in the last six years for that."

Michael Weirich

Michael Weirich

Because of that, Weirich only eats enough to survive and each meal is topped off with a prescription opioid to help combat the intense pain that comes as his food is being digested.prescription-painkillers3

Weirich is on disability and he watches a lot of television. He's seen many of our Dose of Reality reports about the epidemic of opioid abuse and he's worried that people abusing prescription pain killers are tainting the way the public looks at people using the drugs responsibly.

Michael Weirich

Michael Weirich

"I just want to let people know that not everyone who takes these drugs is a drug addict. There are actually people who take them who need them like I do. If I didn't have them, I couldn't eat at all," said Weirich.

Doctor Scott Hardin of Aurora Health Care, is well aware that medications have been abused but too knows the quality of life they can add to patients when taken properly.

Dr. Scott Hardin

Dr. Scott Hardin

"There are very few to zero patients who died taking their prescriptions the way they are supposed to," said Dr. Hardin.

Dr. Scott Hardin

Dr. Scott Hardin

Hardin says pain doctors and patients need to work together to make sure most patients are on them for a short time only.

"When we begin our patients on opioids we also have a plan to get them off -- an exit strategy -- so they're on there for a short period of time compared to the past," Hardin said.

The reason for the increase in opioid overdoses is that patients don't realize how strong the drugs are and often take more than they should or physically alter the pills in an attempt to get a high. This is often a fatal mistake.prescription-painkillers2

As for Weirich, he wants people to know how careful most patients are.

"I hope they know there are people who take them like they're supposed to and I go to the doctor every month like I'm supposed to and that there are people who take them and need them," said Weirich.

Michael Weirich

Michael Weirich

Dr. Hardin says he can't stress enough how important it is to follow directions, this is where you come in even if you're not the patient. Keep tabs on how often, and how, a loved one is supposed to be taking painkillers. For example, if a 20-day supply is gone after ten days, there's a problem and the prescribing doctor needs to know about it.

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