Woman Shares Stigma Of Prescription Pain Killer Dependence

Pins and metal hold Lela Ferguson's broken body together. Time released morphine every 12 hours helps ease Ferguson's excruciating pain. Still, the 47-year old Hattiesburg woman says she is grateful to wake up every day.

"Even with the wonderful morphine, even with that, I'm still in pain, but I can live with it. I don't ever expect to be pain free. At least I have a quality of life. At least I can get out of bed. At least I have some independence. This m-s-contyn gives me that ability to maintain some independence."

Severe injuries from an accident two years ago disfigured Ferguson and she must walk with a cane. She says she can deal with that. What she hates is how others see her dependence on the drug she can't live without.

"The nightmare of this prescription is the stigmatism and prejudice that go with it. I'm fairly young to be in the pain and the situation that I'm in. I go in and present my prescription to a pharmacist and I endure the once over, "Well, let me check." And they run a computer check to see if I have some background abuse. It's just enduring the stigmatism of "Oh, you're one of those."

Ferguson says she feels even more victimized as she discovers fewer and fewer pharmacies stock the pain killer she needs.

"Even a drug store that I had been using didn't carry my prescription. "We don't have it," even though he knew I was coming in. So I had to go go out of town to a pharmacy that I've never done business with before," she says.

Ferguson says she has experienced every emotion from anger to self pity. But in her thankfulness to be alive, she says she puts those feelings aside and takes one day at a time.

Ferguson was a special education teacher before the accident that nearly killed her. She now works part time at a weekly ad paper.