Opinion: Restricting painkiller access will hurt those who need them most

Codeine pills
Making painkillers harder to get will punish those just trying to get through the day, says Anand Hira (Getty)

The Medicines Classification Committee will decide in May whether to restrict access to over-the-counter painkillers containing codeine, which would make them prescription-only. As a chronic pain sufferer, Anand Hira is well aware of what the consequences of that would be.

OPINION: Pain hurts.

I know that's obvious, but stay with me. Being in pain all of the time, hurts all of the time. Imagine the worst pain you have ever experienced. Now picture that every moment of every day for the rest of your days. 

This is the life many New Zealanders live, including myself.

Now imagine there was a pill you could take, to take the edge off. Not to stop the pain, but just ease it a little. There has been some talk of making some painkillers prescription only like Australia will from 2018. Making painkillers harder to get may stop some dropkicks who abuse the system, but it will punish those just trying to get through the day.

Due to my condition I have met many people with chronic pain and do you know what most of them want? They want to be able to experience some normal life.

You thought they would want their pain to disappear completely? That's not how we think. Many of us realise wishing it will end, but knowing it won't, is a path to destruction. Pining for what you know is impossible is paralysing, demoralising, depressing and can only lead to one place - destruction.

All I want is to feel normal sometimes. To experience the simple things others get to enjoy every day. To not let pain ruin every moment.

My best days are the days no one knows how much pain I am in, when I can fool everyone into thinking I'm just a normal guy. It may not seem like a lofty goal, but I don't succeed often and it takes all I am to achieve it.

I can fool people some of the time because I have access to medication that takes the edge off my pain. It doesn't stop the pain, but it's enough.

I have doctors who have taught me what medication to take, how to take it and what to do when everything gets worse. Together we have come up with strategies for every conceivable situation. I trust them to look out of my wellbeing, they trust me to handle my pain.

So I don't care about dropkicks who abuse the medical system. I care about the people in pain, not the people who waste doctors' time.

I don't care about people who go into pharmacies and buy painkillers just to abuse them. They can go on hurting themselves. Painkillers are in pharmacies to help those in pain. They matter, they need it and they are the ones we need put first. 

Anand Hira produces RadioLIVE's NightTalk, 8pm – midnight weekdays.

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