CHESTERFIELD, Va., -- A Chesterfield mother struggling with a chronic disorder blamed the national fight against the opioid epidemic for causing much of her pain.
"I've been struggling for two years trying to get my life back," said Melody, a mother who only wanted to be identified by her first name.
Melody suffers from fibromyalgia, an untreatable, chronic disorder characterized by fatigue, and extreme pain felt in the muscles and joints.
"There are times it feels like someone is literally ripping the muscles off my bones," she described.
Several years ago, doctors once prescribed her 80 milligrams of Oxycotin twice a day, which allowed her to live a relatively normal life. Now that medication is no longer available to Melody and others that suffer from chronic disorders.
"This is what, quote unquote, I was told by a physician. That cancer patients are the only ones that should be on OxyContin or any painkillers at all," Melody said.
President Donald Trump declared the opioid epidemic a national public health emergency on Thursday, telling an audience in the East Room of the White House that “we can be the generation that ends the opioid epidemic.”
The same day, hundreds packed the Richmond Convention Center to discuss the opioid crisis at Revive RVA, a regional summit aimed at exploring local solutions to the opioid crisis in Central Virginia.
Deaths related to opioid overdoses in Richmond, Chesterfield, Henrico, and Hanover have spiked over the past six years, according to data from the Virginia Department of Health.
Since 1999, the number of American overdose deaths involving opioids has quadrupled. From 2000 to 2015, more than 500,000 people died of drug overdoses, and opioids account for the majority of those. Recently released numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that around 64,000 people died from drug overdoses in 2016.
Years ago, public health officials and regulators began highly discouraging medical professionals from prescribing opioids for chronic conditions - citing the current crisis as "doctor-driven."
Since then, Melody has struggled to find a healthy alternative way to manage her pain. Doctors recommended she go to pain management therapy, but said they wouldn't treat her since she's also allergic to anti-depressants.
Without the stronger dosage of her pain medication, she often finds it's hard to get out of bed. Melody described screaming into a pillow in the morning so she wouldn't wake up her neighbors.
"Slowly and surely, over the past two years, doctors have been taking the pain mediation away," she said.
Doctors are now weaning Melody off a lower strength OxyIR prescription to prepare her body for a future without opioids.
Melody's daughter also suffers from fibromyalgia and is also stuck wondering if she will find a safe prescription to ease her pain. Melody's worst fear is the younger generation of chronic pain sufferers will turn to costly and illegal alternatives.
"What is happening is that people are going out and finding their own cure and people are dying," Melody said. "I know that people are committing suicide because they are in so much pain."
The mother of three is considering moving to a state where alternative medicines are legal.
"Give us choices," Melody pleaded. "Give us something in place of opioids, but there is nothing in place."