In early 2007, JonnyM, as he’s known online, was seriously injured when his car was struck head-on by a drunk driver. Left with severe back pain, he told me, he was prescribed “a massive amount of pain meds” and referred to a pain management specialist.
Despite having a valid prescription, he found pharmacists condescending and hesitant to give him the powerful painkillers he needed.
Once, a pharmacist refused to give him his medication when his usual prescription was signed by a different doctor in the same clinic.
“A lot of pharmacists would look down on me ‘cause I was young, and I was having to take all these pain medications,” said JonnyM, who’s now 27. “You get so many problems [filling prescriptions], it almost feels like you’re carrying around this weird medical scarlet letter.” Looking online for advice and support, he came across Opiophile, an online forum for users of opiates both legal and not.
“When I first joined, it kind of helped just to have an outlet to kind of talk to someone or just kind of express frustration,” said JonnyM, who like other forum members asked that he be identified only by his online handle.
“Even getting advice, [like] ‘I get this a lot, switch to a mom-and-pop pharmacy where you can get to know them better, and you won’t get as much of that kind of criticism.” About half of Opiophile’s members use drugs like Vicodin, Percocet or Oxycontin for pain relief, JonnyM estimated.
Many of them are looking for advice on talking to doctors and pharmacists, along with a sympathetic ear.
(In a World of Opiate Addicts, the Internet Plays Doctor and Therapist)