For patients with chronic pain, taking a prescribed opioid treatment for long-term pain management may provide pain relief but can also cause opioid-induced constipation (OIC). However, some patients may not realize that constipation is one of the most common side effects of their prescription opioid treatment. They may be too embarrassed to talk about their symptoms with their doctor. AstraZeneca is committed to raising awareness about OIC to drive an important patient-physician dialogue about one of the most common side effects of opioid therapy.
To help educate others about this medical condition, AstraZeneca sat down with Lynn Crisci, a 38-year-old Boston Marathon bombing survivor who is experiencing OIC as a result of managing her chronic pain with opioids as prescribed by her doctor.
AZ: Lynn, tell us about your chronic pain journey.
Lynn: In 2006, I suffered a disabling accident, which left me bedbound and in a wheelchair, on and off medications and at doctors’ offices almost every day of the week. I had a six year journey from wheelchair to walking again and was starting to finish my BA in theater arts. I only had 12 classes left to go when I sustained severe injuries during the Boston Marathon attack on April 15, 2013 – and that’s when my injuries left me in so much chronic pain that opioid pain therapy became part of my daily life.
AZ: When did you first start to experience OIC?
Lynn: I noticed within weeks of starting to take the opioids that I had some pretty severe constipation.
AZ: When you first started to notice these changes, what did you do?
Lynn: I didn’t get the courage to bring it up to my primary care physician or any of my specialists. It was my new normal and I started to think that all pain was normal and I wasn’t sure what I should tell my doctor about, I wasn’t sure if it was new pain, or normal pain, because you hear from doctors so many times, “Oh, that’s normal. That’s normal.”
AZ: How would you describe the impact OIC has had on your life?
Lynn: I just feel like OIC controls my life. You end up planning your days and what you accept for work, what you accept for social activities. You end up saying “no” a lot when you really want to say “yes”, because you’re just afraid of being embarrassed. It’s very isolating. I don’t tell people why I’m saying no.
AZ: If you knew someone else being prescribed opioids, what would you tell them about OIC?
For Lynn, starting the conversation was the first step to finding support for her OIC. Talking about the full impact of OIC may be difficult, but it’s important to have a discussion about it with your healthcare provider. AstraZeneca encourages health care providers and patients with chronic pain to have an open conversation about OIC and the benefits and risks of prescription opioid treatment. For more information about OIC and guidance to help begin the conversation, visit our community blog, www.ohIsee.com.