Helping make the health care system work for you

Fearful of opioid addiction, some under-medicate

Magic Madzik via Flickr Creative Commons

As the nation struggles with an epidemic of opioid abuse, KPCC has launched an occasional series in which we share your stories of dealing with pain, and offer experts' advice on how best to manage it. Share your story and insights through the Public Insight Network.

Gena Olson broke her back, hip and shoulder in a motorcycle accident three years ago. For much of the time since then, she resisted taking opioids, relying mainly on over-the-counter drugs like Advil and Tylenol, and on yoga, mindfulness and rest.

Despite all of that, she lived in constant pain.

Here's how she describes the pain she endured, using the zero to 10 pain scale: "Most mornings I wake up at a two or a three, which means that if I'm at home and … I want cereal but I'm out of milk, … I guess I'm not going to eat cereal, [because] I'm not going to walk those three blocks" to the store.

Read More...

Patients using opioids for chronic pain: Don't stigmatize us

The National Safety Council says more Americans are dying by accident, and opioid abuse is one of the leading causes.

Toby Talbot/AP

The National Safety Council says more Americans are dying by accident, and opioid abuse is one of the leading causes.

As the nation struggles with an epidemic of opioid abuse, KPCC is launching an occasional series in which we'll share your stories of dealing with pain, and offer experts' advice on how best to manage it. Share your story and insights through the Public Insight Network.

Kelli Glazebrook of Fresno lives with chronic pain.

Glazebrook, 38, has a rare autoimmune disease called Behcet's disease. It causes blood vessel inflammation throughout her body and has led her to develop other conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis and spinal degeneration.

She says she generally manages her pain through healthy eating, yoga and meditation. Glazebrook takes a high dose of ibuprofen when her pain escalates. But when her pain really flares up, she says, it's hard to think, she feels grumpy and it's hard to eat.

Read More...

A cautionary tale: Former addict developed 'gigantic addiction' to Vicodin

sharyn morrow via Flickr Creative Commons

As the nation struggles with an epidemic of opioid abuse, KPCC is launching an occasional series in which we’ll share your stories of dealing with pain, and offer experts’ advice on how best to manage it. Share your story and insights through the Public Insight Network.

"Mary" knew opioid painkillers were highly addictive and, as a former heroin addict, she knew she was at an elevated risk for a relapse. So even though she had been sober for decades, she pushed back when her doctor prescribed Vicodin for an injured rotator cuff and a couple of cracked ribs.

"I said, 'I'm really leery of taking Vicodin because I used to be a junky,'" says Mary, a 65-year-old who spent most of her life in California and now lives in Florida. She asked that we not use her real name due to the sensitive nature of her story.

Read More...

FAQ: How California's new vaccination law works

bandage band-aid shot vaccine immunization measles

Photo by Redcorn Studios [Matt] via Flickr Creative Commons

Believe it or not, the new school year is just around the corner. This year, for the first time, some parents will no longer be able to skip vaccinating their kids based on their personal beliefs. It's all because of a law that took effect last Friday.

What does the law do?

This law requires all kids who go to day care or school in California to be vaccinated. It eliminates vaccine exemptions based on personal belief or religion, while maintaining the medical exemption. The law also allows parents of special needs kids to forgo immunizing their children. More on that below.  

The law, authored by State Sens. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) and Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica), was spurred by the measles outbreak that started at the Disney theme parks in Anaheim in December 2014. Experts say the highly contagious disease was able to spread due to pockets of people who don't vaccinate their kids, and this law is intended to close those gaps.

Read More...

It's mosquito season: Who should wear insect repellent, and when

Morag Riddell via Flickr Creative Commons

Mosquitoes like it hot. As temperatures increase, so does the potential for the insects to bite - and possibly transmit diseases. That's a nationwide concern this summer, as the Zika virus rages through much of the Americas.

But health officials in Los Angeles and Orange counties are not currently recommending that everyone slather themselves in mosquito repellent all day long. At this point, they are mainly pushing people to protect themselves when they go outside at dawn and dusk.

The rationale is that for Southern California residents, the more pressing mosquito-borne disease is not Zika, but West Nile virus.

Here's why: While the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which carry Zika and several other infectious diseases, are in Southern California, none of the Aedes mosquitoes found so far in the state or nationwide were carrying Zika.

Read More...