Pain patients impacted by opioid misconceptions

RENO, Nev. (KOLO) Last week DEA agents served a search warrant on the offices of Dr. Gary Ridenour of Fallon.

We don't know exactly what agents were looking for, but we do know this was part of a three-state operation where agents were collecting evidence of health care providers they say were illegally prescribing controlled substances.

Pain patient Melissa Plechaty says she watched the news that night and had this reaction.

“And I absolutely believe the people who are abusing their meds should be brought to justice,” says Plecharty.

She also knows such events as a whole cast a bad light on patients like her and physicians who try to help.

“I’ve had an IV ripped out,” she says. “And an emergency room doctor said if I continue to use opioids I would not be worth his time to spit on.”

Back in 2001 before her accident at work, she says she was happy-go-lucky, liked to sew and had a passion for pastry; that's why she became a pastry chef.

But a bad fall at work left her with a damaged rotator cuff, and two damaged discs in her neck. Two surgeries on her shoulder and on her neck later, she has been dealing with chronic pain.

At one time she says she was taking 16 pills a day. With help from her pain physician, she has knocked that down to four.

She wears a Fentynl patch as well and says she's been stable for the last four years. Asked would she ever give her medication up if a magic wand could be waived and her pain gone?

“In a heartbeat,” she says.

That's because the use of these drugs has caused side effects including permanent damage to her digestive system.

She says she keeps her medications secure, doesn't share them, and has signed a contract with her pain management physician to be in complete compliance.

There are other patients just like her, she says, who are misunderstood by the public, and by some in the medical profession. To them she quotes this CDC statistic.

“There are 50,000,000 people with chronic pain. Of that 50,000,000, only 12% actually abuse their meds. 12%,” says Plechaty

With the federal crackdown on opioids, Plechaty says physicians, insurance companies and pharmacies are constantly changing internal policies and procedures concerning these drugs.

She says take these medications from the legitimate chronic pain patient, you’ll see an increase in suicides and overdoses.