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Drug dependency lessons from Pharma ads and my two mothers

I can’t stand TV as it hurts to sit or lie back and watch but recently, while tuning in to one of the very few shows I do watch, I caught a message from a Pharmaceutical (Pharma) advertisement about pain medication.

It made me think about my personal situation and about my two ageing mothers who are in daily pain – both drug dependent and waiting for a pill to pop out of the sky and into their weekly pill box to ‘make them better’.

It made me think about the way they’re currently trying to dodge the countless darts from the ageing process that are coming at them thick and fast – one striking occasionally, that they still somehow manage to catch and quickly tuck under a very thick carpet.

Back to the TV.

The Pharma ad clearly demonstrated that I (and you) could take this Pharma’s brand of medication and resume the activity that caused the pain. In fact not only resume the activity, but even prepare me for a follow up activity of the same kind.

Double whammy meds- oh bring it on please! What could be easier?

Stupid ad. There are many stupid ads like this one.

My mothers have been watching.

What are we really learning here and what is it that we really need to learn instead?

Humour me, let’s say I was making the ad.

And remember, I’ve just entered my 10th year with chronic pain (yes, I neglected to acknowledge it with a ‘special’ post this year, in fact I didn’t even bring it up as I chose to enjoy my day instead).

I’ve learned and lived alot of chronic pain and even tried to make some communication myself… and in various forms.

I believe noone is getting the message across to the general public. Pharma are winning. People are pill popping. I believe this is where the dependency begins.

Pain professionals, patients with pain and their friends, their associates and their families, advocates of pain, and anyone involved with pain – we’re all aware of this issue and busy advocating. Between us we’re doing a great job and we’ve learned loads.

But if you take this post, for example, my pain free friend isn’t going to read it. Neither is yours.

Even celebrities with pain have tried to advocate. But, it’s just not sexy is it? Their message is usually flat and lifeless and I can bet you their pain related stories were the least popular.

During the 9 years of being a personal witness to this pain advocacy and the poor attempts in hope of change, Mum 1 and Mum (in law) 2 have both popped until they’re almost dropping. And drop they will in excruciating pain having digested thousands of pills. They win just one prize for this, it’s the :

drug dependant and lowest level of understanding for managing pain prize

It’s more than sad. They’ve not won anything.

So back to me making the ads. They would go something like this instead (and I fully acknowledge that only you will tune into them and the sales would dramatically plummet):

A person hurts their back washing their very large and dirty pet. They REST. Perhaps they take a pain killer WHILE THEY ARE RECOVERING. When they recover, they try and wash their very large and dirty pet but the pain persists, so they REST again.

The person in pain calls someone who can wash their pet while they recover.

The person recovers and doesn’t try to wash their pet again realising what they’re doing is going to cause them pain. They also realise if they don’t persist, the pain may go and they won’t need the medication.

Fast forward 15 years (since my ad)

The person with the very large pet, bought a small pet after their pet passed and learned to adjust their daily life before reaching for medication.

They are least likely to be drug dependent as they applied this thinking to their daily life.

Fast forward 15 years (since the Pharma ad)

The person has ceased to respond to the product in the ad and now needs the Pharma’s Opioids (remember the message: seek advice if pain persists?). They even replaced their pet and bought one just as large and resume the painful activity of washing their large and dirty pet. To add to this, other daily basic tasks are causing pain also. Their quality of life is declining.

Fast forward even further and you’ll meet both my mothers (with very clean, large pets). Sadly our conversations have shrunk – there isn’t much medication left to talk about – and their whole day pretty much revolves around pain.

Stupid ads? Smart Pharma? Or have we been taught to be very lazy?

Post resources: My painful backside and my two mothers

By |2017-12-11T09:16:55+11:00April 18th, 2016|Blog, Learn, Personal resources|3 Comments


  1. Joletta Belton April 19, 2016 at 1:24 am - Reply

    It is amazing to me sometimes when we are on such the same page! Just in the last two days I have had a lengthy discussion about how to reach pain patients and the general public with our message of pain science and self-management strategies because I don’t think we’re doing a very good job of it. I think this because whenever I go on the pain support group pages it’s so often about opioids, as though that is the only form of pain management. I have asked the questions ‘how did we get here?’ and ‘how do we get out of here?’, I think the ads for drugs are one of the reasons we are in the state we are in. When it is constantly peddled on TV and the internet that there is a pill to solve our problems, and no information in those places to counter it, how would people be expected to believe otherwise?

    It’s incredibly frustrating. There are wonderful, smart people out there doing wonderful, smart things for people in pain, but they get no recognition and don’t have the time nor money to create large public information campaigns to counter what is ‘common knowledge’ as gleaned from the pharmaceutical companies.

    I think part of the problem, too, is the notion that being pain-free is the definition of success, which sets most of us up for failure. We need to shift the definition of success, we need to shift the way we think about pain treatment, we need to shift the way we think about pain. So much shifting is needed, I don’t quite know how to get this ship to change course.

    Thank you for this post and for all that you say and do, Soula.

    • soula April 20, 2016 at 9:30 am - Reply

      Darling Joletta, it’s great we’re on the same page but also very sad!
      You’re right about the notion of being pain-free defining some kind of success – it is so wrong.
      We’ll need to get together some day… x

      • Joletta Belton April 21, 2016 at 12:44 am - Reply

        You are so right, Soula, it is wonderfully sad, isn’t it? I would so love getting together and having a chat, hopefully we can make it happen some day. xoxo

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