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Don’t Treat Me Like That: Chronic Pain Sufferers Fear Pharmacists Consider Them ‘Drug Addicts’

It makes a lot of sense, but it’s an area that is a little-known truth: people who suffer from chronic pain have concerns about how they’ll be treated by their healthcare providers. A study by the National Pain Foundation found that more than half (52 percent) of chronic pain sufferers worry that their pharmacist will treat them like a “drug addict.” Another 29 percent expressed concerns that they’ll “be embarrassed by their pharmacist.” Nearly one in five (17 percent) said they’d been treated “poorly or very poorly” by their pharmacist. The survey results, posted on, show that 319 people (80 percent female), completed the survey that was initially distributed to 3,000 chronic pain sufferers. Subjects experienced pain for a wide of reasons, although fibromyalgia was the most commonly reported pain.

The Realities of Chronic Pain Treatment

Among the survey findings are statistics on the number of different physicians that chronic pain sufferers have visited: Seventy-one percent of chronic pain sufferers have seen four or more physicians to treat their pain. Forty-two percent have seen six or more physicians, and 20 percent have seen 10 or more physicians for pain treatment. Eighty-two percent said they’d stopped seeing a physician because of being treated poorly. But it’s not all bad news. Of the survey respondents, more than half (53 percent) said their pain management physician treats them well or very well, while 21 percent said they were treated poorly or very poorly. Fifty-seven percent of survey respondents said their nurse or nurse practitioner treated them well or very well, while 21 percent said they’d been treated poorly or very poorly.

Effects of Poor Treatment

What survey respondents had to say in the open comments section of the questionnaire on how they were treated and how that made them feel shows a general lack of empathy or compassion on the part of some in the medical profession. The poor treatment isn’t just from pharmacists. Doctors have been singled out as uncaring or having a negative attitude toward their chronic pain patients seeking help.

  • “I’ve been degraded, humiliated, called a drug addict, told I take enough meds to kill an elephant.”
  • “Most treat me with suspicion and assume I’m a drug-seeking addict.”
  • “Of all the doctors I’ve seen, only two heard me and understood. The rest assumed I was there for drugs.”
  • “I have a wonderful team of doctors, but it took 10 years of being treated poorly before I was diagnosed.”
  • “Sometimes I don’t feel like they understand.”
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