Tale of Two Suicides; Lessons for Opioid Public Policy
For one it was the best of times, for the other, the worst. At no time did the paths of their lives cross, but they shared the same fate, one most would consider a tragedy. Their legacies, for pain and public policy, could not have been more different…
I knew one, only heard of the other; both dramatically affected my life.
Bob was a marine. He had valiantly served his country, and he was proud of it. His identity was so tied to his service that he could not handle the thought of being any less of a marine, a warrior… a man, whatever that means. His back injury robbed him of that identity, and he struggled in a futile attempt to regain that which he no longer was, or, at least thought he was. Perception is reality, and his perception was that he was no longer what he wanted to be, needed to be.
Surgeries and elixers, therapies traditional and non-traditional. All tried in a vain attempt to rid himself his pain. All failed. Some made his pain worse. He used pain meds to numb the pain, but they couldn’t restore his manhood. In desperation, he kept taking more and more. After a while, he gave up the hope for a cure. He was a broken man, not just physically, but also mentally and spiritually. The meds became a temporary reprieve from his painful reality. I was his doctor. I never really saw that brave marine. Rather, I saw a broken, staggering man, subservient to the world his pain had created for him. Our goal for any treatment is to improve one’s function. For many, opioids accomplish that. Not for Bob.
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