The Addiction Label on Sickle Cell Warriors

Last updated: October 2022

While scrolling through's Facebook comments when I saw tons of comments about sickle cell warriors and addiction. All this time, I didn’t know other warriors faced the same problem. I thought it was just me and the other 3 warriors I met on TikTok. Truth is, I actually get why addiction and sickle cell (SCD) is a sensitive topic.

It is already a hassle talking about SCD itself and the pain that it comes with, let alone how much more addiction is related to it. Many warriors face this same problem: being called addicts every time they request painkillers at the hospital or at home.

Just because we look okay doesn't mean we're not in pain

The argument most times is that pain is always expressed through aggression, anger, and tears. Many patients have mastered the art of self-control, even when they're experiencing the worst pain. Personally, my over 25 years of constant hospital visits, crises, and general SCD complications have taught me to be quieter when in pain.

Anytime a warrior demands more pain medications, he/she is labeled with addiction, forgetting that the pain we go through is excruciating and can only be solved or reduced by strong pain medications.

Doctors and health workers always run to lower pain medications first in times of crisis. Not that it’s wrong, but with the pain we face and complain about for so long, you'd think they'd know by now that it’s a waste of time offering diclofenac or paracetamol for a pain scored or rated at 6 to 10%. But no, we always have to go through hours of pain even in the hospital as they explore options.

Fear of mistreatment

The fear mostly is that, if you demand for stronger pain medication, you will be tagged with addiction. It's ridiculous when you think about it, because SCD spells nothing but a lot of pain in the lives of those affected. So why not give them the painkillers they need for the pain?

The mistreatment is overwhelming even at the hospitals. For many who think and believe that the doctors and nurses (the hospital is your best friend?), well this does not always apply to sickle cell warriors. Not that we don’t meet good doctors, nurses, and health workers sometimes, but the hate and intolerance for SCD patients are just too much. A very recent experience with the addiction tag happened 2 months ago when I was forced to be admitted to the psychiatric ward for addiction when I’m not an addict.

Advice to health care professionals

The biggest problem if you ask me, is that most health workers prefer to stick to their gut, instead of listening more to the patient and being humble enough to believe them and learn from them. This is just sad. Why? A doctor who learned the job for a few years (at most 10 years), can never know the condition better than a sickle cell patient that has been living with it for over 20 years. This is simply impossible. Full stop.

My advice to health workers is to learn to believe the pain sickle cell warriors like myself go through instead of relying solely on their guts or test results. Why? The pain SCD comes with cannot even be compared to other pains you’ve heard about. Please treat us with more respect, kindness, and tenderness. Join us to raise awareness and help make this world better.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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