“Cake,” starring Jennifer Aniston, does an excellent job of illustrating how easily one can slip into a true mental addiction to narcotics. The most widely available “treatment” for chronic pain in the US is the use of narcotic pain medication. The patients are often miserable and desperate, and the medication is potent and feels…good. Is it any surprise that there is such a massive problem with narcotic pain medication addiction in the US? Our aging population has a high rate of chronic disease, we have widespread access to healthcare, and our treatments are almost entirely pharmaceutical in nature; all in all, the perfect recipe for widespread addiction. In reality, as well as in Clara’s case, the lines between true need and addiction are rarely as black and white as policy makers or the media would have us believe. It’s obvious that Clara is in severe, often unbearable, pain.
The kind of pain that can greatly diminish your ability to think clearly, be rational, or make strong decisions. In one case, she can’t sleep due to pain and takes an extra pill, in another case she doesn’t want to talk about a tragic event, but in both cases she is in extreme discomfort, and she didn’t have to think very hard to come up with a “solution.” The problem is that it isn’t really a solution; for either the pain or the mental anguish caused by the pain. The physical pain breaks through the surface, the effects only last a few hours, and its just as difficult to think clearly on narcotics as it is off of them. As for the mental anguish, Clara’s hallucinations about Nina, which she only experiences after taking too many pills, clearly illustrate the futility of the medication in helping her Psychologically. In Clara’s case, it became clear that the pills were doing more harm than good, and the only thing left for Clara to do, when she realized that neither suicide nor swallowing dozens of pills every day wasn’t working for her, was to truly face the pain. But, that also leaves Clara with no options for treatment save physical therapy and maybe a support group. Again, the lines aren’t black and white; there is no right or wrong, or “one size fits all” solution to the medical use of narcotics. Responsible, controlled, and supervised use of pain medication can make the difference between having a life and just surviving. But, it can also lead to a long-term, life-destroying addiction. It’s a terrible burden for both doctors and patients alike to have to weigh the risks and benefits of its use. But, until there are more effective treatments for chronic pain, the issue will continue and most likely grow. Well done to “Cake” for bringing the story of chronic pain and its screwed up reality of intermingled anger and addiction; an all-to-common daily reality for millions of Americans, to beautiful and realistic life.
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The portrayal of anger and irritability were also very well-done. Look for another post on that topic coming soon!