In NY follow-up letter, Dr. Bransfield connects Lyme to opioid crisis
Psychiatrist Robert Bransfield, MD, an expert on Lyme disease and a former president of ILADS, last week gave prepared remarks to a New York State Senate hearing on tick-borne illness.
Afterwards, he wrote the following letter to the two senators who chaired the hearing, giving additional information about the connection between Lyme disease and the nation’s current opioid crisis. Here is the text of that letter.
Senator Sue Serino, Chair, Senate Task Force on Lyme and Tick-Borne Diseases
Senator Kemp Hannon, Chair, Senate Standing Committee on Health
Re: Association between the opioid crisis and the Lyme epidemic
Greetings, Senators Serino and Hannon:
As a follow up to the meeting on Tuesday, I would like to add something that was not in my advanced written testimony. In the hearing, there were references by committee members to the opioid crisis.
As a psychiatrist, I deal with this problem as well as Lyme disease. I don’t think the link between the opioid crisis and the Lyme disease epidemic was apparent to the committee members.
I shall describe a representative case history describing something I have seen far too many times.
A young patient acquires Lyme/tick-borne diseases and the diagnosis is missed, dismissed and/or they are undertreated. The symptoms progress over a period of years to include psychiatric symptoms, chronic pain and other symptoms.
Eventually they are prescribed pain medications and/or other controlled substances or they acquire these medications through other means. Their use of pain medications (opioids) and other controlled substances increases and becomes an addiction.
They may then turn to multiple physicians, multiple pharmacies, illegitimate sources of drugs and/or turn to illegal activity.
They attempt to overcome their addiction, have a period of sobriety, then have some triggering event, relapse and take the dose of opioid they had previously used.
However, the period of sobriety altered their tolerance to the drug and that same dose is now a lethal dose. They are discovered deceased and everyone is surprised, puzzled and grief stricken.
The point I would like to make to the Committee is that inadequately diagnosed and inadequately treated Lyme/Tick-Borne Diseases as well as inadequately treated mental illnesses are contributing to the opioid epidemic.
Clearly not all opioid deaths are associated with Lyme or mental illnesses, but many are and better attention to both of these problems can contribute to reducing the severity of the opioid crisis.
- September 6, 2017 at 5:37 am
I use Hemp CBD oil for my chronic pain and brain fog from lymes. It works well and it is non addictive. I also have heart block from my lymes and it helps with that also. with out the CBD my heart stops on occasion. There are good ways to manage lymes out there.
- September 9, 2017 at 3:00 pm
Where do you obtain safe hemp cbd oil? Thank you
- September 13, 2017 at 4:25 pm
Wow! This is literally exactly what happened to me. Years of suffering with doctors telling me I just needed antidepressants, that my pain, brain fog etc wasn’t real. I eventually found relief with opiates, from the pain and gave me much needed energy to somewhat function like a normal person. Of course that eventually got out of control and I have been on subutex for 3 years. I recently found out I have been dealing with lyme, other infections, and Epstein Barr virus this whole time that has now caused thyroid, heart and neurological problems. But now because I still take the subutex I am judged and treated horribly by every doctor I’ve went to for help even though I have only ever asked for legitimate medical help. It is a catch 22 and a terrible cycle the medical profession has created of treating people with lyme and past addictions like they are not worthy of being healthy. I see some people dont agree with the association but this absolutely is taking place in our country.
- September 6, 2017 at 5:43 am
I fully appreciate the spirit in which this letter was composed. I truly do.
But the desired effect of educating people of the need to prevent Lyme and other debilitating illnesses Be for chronic opioid is required is NOT what they will hear.
Sadly this letter will be used to prove Lyme patients in severe pain should be denied pain relief.
I’m out here as a patient since 2009. I have repeatedly been denied any treatment because “chronic Lyme doesn’t exist”.
Last Sept I finally found a doctor to test me and prescribe antibiotics. I recently relocated to NC where Wake forest has denied me ANY Lyme treatment. This is not related to opioid.
19 doctors over 8 years. No accurate testing. No treatment. Thrown to the curb.
I am disabled. Primarily bed and couch ridden. I can’t afford an Lyme literate doctor. I can’t afford the herbal remedies.
We are left to suffer and die. The last insult would be to leave us in pain.
- September 6, 2017 at 10:39 am
I wish that WAS the last insult. The last one is to call us cowards and mentally ill when we suicide because we can’t take it anymore.
- November 7, 2017 at 7:16 am
- September 6, 2017 at 10:52 am
There’s a difference between addiction and dependence, as any good doctor should know. Lyme patients rarely become addicted to opiods. They’re dependent on them for relief from the searing pain of trillions of tiny bacterial corkscrews drilling into their flesh, damaging their joints, destroying their organs and inflaming their brains. The pain doesn’t just disappear as it would if they had an injury that could be healed.. it’s a permanent part of their lives. If the disease was treated properly by physicians who didn’t need to be fearful of losing their licenses, I’m sure there would be fewer overdoses (and suicides) since they wouldn’t need the painkillers or sleep meds or anxiety suppressants or, or, or……
- September 13, 2017 at 4:23 am
Elsie Gordon, Thankyou for your input here on the difference between addiction and dependence!!! It is SO important that everyone understands this!! There is research and data to back up this. Thankyou!
- September 6, 2017 at 2:05 pm
Thank you for this! Every little bit of awareness helps. I can relate – struggled with Lyme for four years now, and what people really don’t understand is just how much of an inconvenience Lyme is. It makes life unlivable, but because we live in modern times, and because people are people, they blame victims and deny there could be any insidious difficulty. People in general cannot take brutal reality, so Lyme patients carry the brunt on their shoulders. My family doesn’t even want to hear about it – I can’t even bring it up, the one thing in my life I have to continually fight and deal with. I’m not sure what kind of human being can deal with that kind of rejection of spirit – I think it’s impossible sometimes.
I started using marijuana and it helped so much with Lyme symptoms. I quit any alcohol, obviously, and I used to enjoy a cigar here and there but gave up all tobacco for years. I’m only 34 – besides the marijuana, I haven’t used any substances for four years, including coffee. However, now I’m dealing with getting rid of the marijuana because I think it hurts overall. Again, I’ve had to figure all this out myself, getting many sides from many people. Everyone just blames me, but they’re all hypocrites – they all drink like fish, and they don’t even deal with the difficulty of Lyme. It’s psychologically hell going through Lyme – it’s good to see someone bringing attention to this.
If that was disjointed – I have s much to say about it, it’s hard to make this short. But thank you. And anyone out there going through Lyme – don’t blame yourself. Do what YOU have to do to make life livable. Try any small gains you can manage. Keep your real friends close and cut ties with anyone too stupid to help you psychologically.
This WILL come to surface, and you WILL have affirmation someday.
- September 11, 2017 at 5:24 am
these dr dont realize the pain we are in, the opiate crisis is because they dont prescribe pain meds so people go elswhere, cure the pain or disease and that will stop the opiate crisis
- September 14, 2017 at 7:55 am
To single out one group of people and say they are abusing pain meds is very misleading There will be abuse in any group. To single out very sick peoples suffering the horrible results of living with Lyme disease is cruel and unfair. Another Doctor with a small window of the overall problem who thinks he can see the big picture is very damaging and irresponsible view
I have been in Recovery for 29 years of continuous sobriety. I start getting ill in the 1st year and conditions continued to worsen. I was misdiagnosed many times by mainstream doctors who thought they knew everything by doing one test. My life has been devastated by Lyme. About 9 years ago the pain started eventually leading to pain meds. I have never gotten high or a buzz ever. I just am trying to relieve the pain and function. This witch hunt on pain meds I has gone way overboard !!!! I moved to NC and can’t get refills so after 4 months of living here I have to move or lay in bed all day. What a joke. Big brother is in the doctors office in a big way. Very dangerous and punishing sick people is no way to solve the problem. Thanks FDA and state government. They don’t understand addiction or the problem so how can they solve it !!???
- December 1, 2017 at 7:59 am
I had chronic Lymes symptoms for 10 years – from ticks I got while working as an ecologist. I was given opioids for the pain but did not take them – I only took non-opioid pain killers and they didn’t work all that well – so a lot of dealing/suffering with the pain. Thank God I found a Lymes knowledgeable Doctor who was willing to treat me with antibiotics long term instead of just wanting to give me pain killers or tell me that I was just depressed and only give me meds for depression (my HMO Doctor did this – totally ineffective with Lymes – but he did not believe in chronic Lymes and after treating me once decided it was “in my head”).
Slowly but surely the antibiotics did the job – once I stopped worrying when people told me not to take them due to causing resistance- I am very careful about not taking antibiotics for just anything – but IMO they were a life saver for me when it came to Lymes disease.
I can easily understand how a person with the pain of Lymes could end up with an addiction problem.
- January 25, 2018 at 7:21 pm
Due to years of missed diagnosis resulting in unnecessary operations on an already compromised immune system, my sister contracted pancreatitis 3 times, one of which her lipase level was 30,000 and she nearly died. Another time she was hospitalized with encephalitis and nearly died. From 8 years of abuse, neglect, isolation, and a stolen life, as well as being looked at as a drug seeking individual, my sister now faces monthly forced reductions of the only 2 medications which have kept her alive. This due to the reconfigured authority and control given to the very agency.who lied about the truth concerning Lyme disease. These measurements and cookie cutter lies, fast tracked in place to promote a “quiet” globalist agenda are torturing countless people, (many of whom in which all Advocacy was secretly yet publicly taken away.) The stupidly and absolute myth concerning humane pain relief for legitimate chronic pain sufferers is So shocking as to ” perplex” the UN, and have them tell the US it’s INEXCUSABLE.
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