Coloradans with chronic pain worry opioid epidemic could hamper access to medication

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DENVER -- The debate over opioid abuse has people living with chronic pain raising questions about regulation of the potent drugs.

"To me, it feel likes somebody's stabbing me with knives,” said Tiara Pachecho. The Denver resident is living with muscular dystrophy, diabetes and depression. She depends on a tube to breathe.

"I just want to feel relief and feel that I'm not in pain anymore,” she said.

Tiara feels opioid-based painkillers will make things more bearable.

But she's says doctors refuse to prescribe her opioids on occasion over concerns about addiction.

“I understand there's a crisis. And I understand there's people who abuse, and that addiction is a disease," she said. "I don't have an addictive personality. I'm not the type of person to get addicted."

Yet the opioid crisis is growing in Colorado and across the country. In 2016, more than 42,000 people died – more than any year on record.

The Colorado legislature passed a bill, that among other things, increases training – teaching providers best practices for prescribing the powerful, yet addictive drugs. But Gov. John Hickenlooper has yet to sign the bill.

That leads to the question: How do you regulate opioids while still being able to treat those that need them to live?

In all of this debate is an argument for some middle ground. That perspective comes from Tiara's mom, Brenda.

"I say look at the issue: The people that really need it aren't getting it. The people that are abusing it are causing the ones not to get it," she said.

At the end of the day, both say this is all about Tiara's quality of life – regardless of law or regulation.

"[I want] for them to see that I truly am suffering, that it's not just made up in my mind," she said. "That it's there; it's real and it hurts every day."

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