The Other Side of the Counter

Do you guys remember when I wrote “Just Blowing Off Steam” and I was all kinds of fired up because a person who felt like a friend at the time shared all kinds of memes that pretty much degraded the entire patient population as a whole? Well, this is going to be like that post.

Today on the Cynical Pharmacist’s Facebook Page he shared a post about how the weather in his city was getting bad and wrote “living in South Louisiana, with a storm coming, people love using hurricanes as an excuse to try to get narcotics filled early. A few coworkers and I were joking around that it’s a little like this…

With the storm coming, the druggies today be like….”  with a video of cats getting all crazed.

Being me and getting really, really, really tired of being treated a particular way because I don’t look sick enough, or I don’t look like I’m in pain or simply because I take painkillers as part of my pain management I spoke up. My comment went a little like this….

There is a real fear there for those of us on controlled substances. If something, anything were to delay us filling our meds both the fear of our uncontrolled pain and the sheer panic the idea of withdrawal creates a very strong desire to make sure it doesn’t happen. Maybe don’t laugh at it until you’ve been there. Also, maybe don’t call your patients “druggies” since it’s why you have a job in existence: medications.”

The comments that followed were 90% opposed to what I had to say running the gamut from things like “Are you even a pharmacy employee? That’s who this page is for….” To one of my very favorites by Lisa Marie who explained that if I wanted the “narcs” I needed to deal with the treatment I got when I tried to fill them at the pharmacy.

I mean, I know that some people who work in health care are jaded, shit I’M jaded you guys.  As a patient I’ve been drug through the mud so many times I often marvel at my ability to try a new doctor or surgery without coloring them with the stain of the last guy who said Endometriosis wasn’t a real thing. But the difference is these people went into medicine to help people. To take care of people; that’s why it’s called a “care team”. So when I saw all of the comments that justified their assumption that patients asking for their refills before the start date are “druggies” I was incredibly disheartened.

And then I thought of you guys, my fellow Spoonies, my community, and I thought you would like to know who exactly is behind the counter at your pharmacy. Meet your care team:

Lisa Marie is a chronic pain patient and also a pharmacy tech therefore her experiences and opinions about life as a pain patient are much more valid than mine. Lisa Marie believes that if you “want the narcs, you deal with the poking”. “Poking” referring to the hassle you get from the Pharmacist assisting you; questions, digging through your medical history trying to figure out why you need these meds.

Let’s stop here for a sec. This is bullshit. Complete and total bullshit. In fact, it’s like telling a woman in a short dress she deserves to be assaulted or a person of color they deserve to have their bag searched before they leave the store. Narcotics are medication. End of story. And even if I was a “druggie” as Good Ole CP describes such patients I still deserve to be treated like a human.  But if you ask Lisa, being a patient on Percocet makes you less than the patient in line behind you refilling their Cymbalta. In fact, being a pain patient makes you fair game for discrimination and hassle at the counter.  This kind of thinking is exactly what is wrong with patient care these days. It’s this mindset that we are sneaky or lying that makes us feel like we have to justify ourselves to everyone. Which brings me to our second care team members Kelly Jones Chong and Allison Baxter.

These two lovelies believe that if you feel the need to justify or defend your position as a patient or if you get upset about a post such as this one from the Cynical Pharmacist then we must be one and the same with the “druggie’ because no legitimate pain patient ever feels like they have to defend themselves. Except like every minute of every day right? This blows my mind you guys and it also reinforces the idea that the person with the meds has all the power. As patients if we push back at all, speak up in any way, we risk raising red flags and losing our care all together. Doctors are free to tell you it’s all in your head, pharmacists free to refuse to fill because they don’t believe you need them, or make assumptions about your use because they are the ones with the meds. We are completely at their mercy without much to fight back with if we want to have our pain controlled.
Moving on to the next members of our team are the people who believe we never follow the directions on the bottle i.e. “Take 1-2 Tabs by mouth every four to six hours for pain.” Holly Pellegrin believes that no pain patient would ever need to wake up in the middle of the night to take their meds, so they must be using extra during the day because they are always out exactly on their refill date:“You’re not going to convince me that a patient who’s bottle reads every 4-6 hours as needed wakes up in the middle of the night to pop a pill.”

I don’t even know what to say to that you guy….oh wait, I do. Yes, we do wake up in the night and take our meds because we are in pain 24/7 which means even when we are sleeping. Even when Holly believes that no pain can be felt under the spell of sleep we feel pain. Just last week I dreamt I was shot in the pelvis above my right ovary and I woke up in agony. Turns out a cyst ruptured on my ovary and the pain woke me from a dead sleep.

Oops, I’m defending myself…sorry Kelly and Allison…..

A repeated response to my comment was to not take it so personally and I understand where they are coming from. It’s hard to hear that what you said/wrote/posted hurt someone or affected them negatively. Rather than take responsibility for that we blame the other person, the “injured party” in the situation saying “you took it the wrong way” “don’t be so sensitive” or “don’t take it so personally”. I wish I could not take it personally, I really do.

The problem with just letting it sit without speaking up is that the only thing every really being posted on this page is negative things about patients. It’s the only thing that ever gets any noise or attention. It’s all over the news and social media and it’s infecting our medical communities like a wildfire. Patients are being left out to dry because doctors stop prescribing out of fear of getting in trouble, or go with significantly less pain control than they need because their doctors won’t give them any more.

My goal here wasn’t to start a fight but to give you a little of what it feels like on our side of the counter. That’s why I follow CP to begin with, to learn how your side feels, thinks and operates so that I can be more patient and understanding when my script is late or missing (yep that’s happened) or the stock you said you had on the phone is suddenly all used up. (*I hate that I know when they read this they will say “That’s cause she is probably a ‘druggie’” to which I would list off my med trials and surgeries to justify my meds and then they would say I was trying too hard to prove myself.  Literally can’t win you guys.)

Again, my point here is that the attitudes being put out there on social media, on pages like this when you think you’re just venting is harmful. It’s harmful because you wouldn’t say it if you didn’t feel it, and if you feel it, it shows in your work and if it shows in your work if affects the patient your helping at the counter who goes home feeling as big as an ant because you didn’t give her the decency and compassion that she deserved.

I know it’s hard to be told that your almighty Pharmacist degree didn’t teach you everything you’d ever need to know about being a pharmacist or a tech. I would be pissed too if I spent that much money just to find out I still don’t know everything but hey, don’t take it so personal huh?


*I don’t typically use names without permission ya’ll but this is a public page they posted on so….it happened. If you want to chime in on the conversation here is a link to the thread

4 thoughts on “The Other Side of the Counter

Add yours

  1. Thank you! I started following your blog almost 2 yrs ago. I found it when researching for support for chronic pain with endometriosis. I’ve had a surgery, many ER trips, a couple drs, and lots of different meds. The k you for all you post. Your blog really makes me feel like I’m not alone .


  2. ♥ I read the thread you’re referring to. It’s yet another sickening example of the abuse of power rampant in the medical field. There’s a difference between venting and trashing the same people you are promised to help. The Hippocratic oath doesn’t pause when you’re posting on the internet. Playing into stereotypes isn’t just hurtful to your patients, it’s hurtful to the entire medical field because of the mistrust it creates. #Boo


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