Wounded veteran caught in crossfire of war on opioids

Updated: Feb. 8, 2018 at 10:14 PM CST
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WETUMPKA, AL (WSFA) - Bill Wiles, a wounded veteran, said his doctor has been prescribing substantially smaller doses of the medication he takes for chronic pain over the last few months.

Wiles, who suffers from degenerative disc disease and rheumatoid arthritis, said he is in constant pain all over his body.

"My hands feel like they've been slammed in a car door, my neck and shoulders feel excruciating," said Wiles. "I constantly feel like I've just been in a bad motorcycle accident. The only thing that doesn't hurt is my hair."

For 20 years, he said he's been prescribed Norco and Methadone to treat his pain. He said, together, they make the pain tolerable.

"I've been prescribed four Methadone pills a day," Wiles said.

Starting last fall, he said his doctor's suggested dosage has stayed the same but the number of pills he gets prescribed have changed. For his last prescription, he received 64 pills. That's just more than half of what he would need to satisfy his usual prescription for a 30-day period.

"My doctor told me he couldn't go to jail or prison to give me pills," Wiles said.

Wiles said he believes his doctor is reluctant to give him the pills he needs to remain comfortable in light of the actions officials are taking against medical professionals who abuse the system.

Dr. Scott Harris, who is the State Health Officer for the Alabama Department of Public Health, said stories like Wiles' are common. He leads the state's committee to address the growing opioid concerns.

"I think some doctors reflexively say, 'Oh, I'm just not going to write any prescriptions for narcotics,' but that's certainly not the goal," said Harris.

In fact, Harris said protecting people who need these medications was a major focus for the council as it prepared its action plan to address opioid abuse in Alabama. He said the council's two main ways to combat that is to push for funding to upgrade its Prescription Monitoring Program.

He said the upgrades planned will allow for better data, access and information to make it easier for medical professionals to discern between those who legitimately need the medication and those are abusing it. He also said the council is working with the boards that oversee the groups responsible for providing prescriptions to encourage medical professionals to get educated and trained in safe opioid practices.

Meanwhile, Wiles said he has reached out to the Attorney General's Office and is seeking help. He said he hopes the government can find a middle ground and a solution because he fears what life would be like without the amount of medication he needs to function.

"I'll probably be stuck in my house for the rest of my life," Wiles said. "You'd think that after serving my country, I'd get to enjoy the rest of my life in it."

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