Local man, 87, fights back against the opioid crisis

- Growing numbers of seniors on pain medications, are finding themselves in the middle of our nation's opioid crisis.

Some medical experts say seniors are just the latest growing population of opioid addicted and overdosed.

This is all happening at an alarming rate.

FOX 29's Joyce Evans talked to a sharp 87-year-old man from our area who is fighting back.

He reached out to us to tell his story.

"It's not how you look, but how you feel," Mr. John explained.

That's how Mr. John responds to all the compliments he gets on how great he looks at 87-years-old.

"I got my brace on, I got my oxygen in," Mr. John added.

"I have a torn meniscus in my left knee, I'm on oxygen. I guess I'll be on it for the rest of my life," he said.

Not so bad he says, as long as he keeps his gorgeous childhood sweetheart by his side.

This year will mark 70 years with his wife, and they have 5 children, 12 grandchildren, and 17 great grandchildren.

He loves keeping up on current events, and Miss Marie loves relaxing in her favorite chair, enjoying her favorite classic movies.

"We've seen hard times, we've seen good times and we've seen bad times," Mr. John explained.

But, no time has been worse, he says, than what he and his wife are going through right now; managing pain, in the twilight of their lives.

"They brought out something on the market, never warned me that it was going to get back and we couldn't get off of it, so now we're trapped,"

They're caught in the middle of the nation's opioid crisis.

"You really get dependent on this stuff,"

Seniors, and patients over 50 account for at least 30% of opioid overdose cases, according to a study by Johns Hopkins University.

And some medical experts believe the percentage now may have grown higher than that.

John says he never took a pain pill until we was 80-years-old, when he had major back surgery back in 2010.

At the time, he says he was given 180 pills a month of Oxycodone for almost 7-years.

"I was taking them like every 4 hours, every time I felt pain coming on," John said, "To me, it was like aspirin - I could take one and 25 - 20 minutes later, I didn't have any pain."

Now, all that's changed is that the government's cracking down on what authorities suspect was too many doctors over prescribing narcotic painkillers and patients and non-patients abusing the meds.

It's an effort to save lives.

"Well they're putting me in the category with all the addicts," John said.

We are not naming or blaming John's doctors, past or present.

We can't say that john was over-prescribed oxycodone for his condition, nor can we say that John ever took more than the dosage he was prescribed.

We can say he's done feeling ashamed or guilty and abandoned. 

"It's not fair, it's not fair," he explained.

John says after his doctor of nearly 40 years retired he entered a nightmare trying a new doctor who would help him manage pain at the level he was used to.

"She said, 'we're going to cut you down to a certain point where the pain will be tolerable," John explained.

John was prescribed 30 fewer pills a month, but things changed when his next doctor's visit came around.

Then his doctor told him he had violated the rules and was 8 pills short. After talking with her superiors the John says the doctor told him to go look for another doctor.

John said when he asked "why," the doctors said, "John if we keep giving you these things, we can lose our license."

John says he was losing his dignity and his ability to cope with the pain.

Desperation set in.

"I don't have anywhere else to go so I have to up to (unidentified doctor) once a month.  What used to cost me 18 dollars now costs 150 for the pain management doctor," John said.

When asked if he could get off of the pills, John explained that he has heard they are very hard to get off of and heard you have to go away to rehab.

"Sometimes I feel like maybe I should go. Then I say 'I'm not going to go away for a couple of months and leave my family," John explained, "Well, I'm 87 years old, and I don't know how much time I have left but I'd sure like to spend it with the least pain as possible."

John says his wife is also suffering right now, due to what they believe are the side effects from Fentanyl patches that he says were prescribed for back pain.                

She tells FOX 29 she is not taking anxiety medicine.

John says he is speaking out for all seniors who are in pain, desperate for relief and hooked on medication, through no fault of their own in doing what they trusted to be the right thing.

Growing numbers of overdoses and deaths do bother him.

"Sometimes I feel like, 'Hey, I'm getting off these things.' I'm starting to feel good and then all of a sudden it hit me the one day and I feel like I'm going into withdrawal," John said.

John is now down to 112 pills a month now, and he says he's doing okay.

Marie says she has no complaints about her treatment, which includes Vicodin, but they feel safer with their granddaughter Tiffany watching over them.

John's very much hoping his story can help others of his generation, and also serve as a warning for young people to think twice before using or abusing such powerful drugs. 

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