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McMinn County man explains "other side of the opioid epidemic" that's left him in pain

Robert Conine hurt his back in a saw mill accident when he was 17. To this day, he says he needs painkillers to function.

Robert Conine bought his dream boat when his mother passed away.

"I talk to it all the time, don't I boy," he said.

That's about as close as he gets to a day on the water, because even his most prized possession can't keep him from drowning in unbearable pain.

"Oh god, nobody in this world can understand it," Conine said.

Conine hurt his back in a saw mill accident when he was 17. To this day, he says he needs painkillers to function.

"My wife right now, quite literally, I wake up and turn my head and she puts a pill in my mouth and I lay there for an hour until it starts working," he said.

But, he says that dose wears off in about three hours, and now that doctors have cut his prescriptions, he doesn't take another dose until before bed.

"My dose is down to like a fourth of what I was taking," he said.

According to the Center For Disease Control, the amount of opioids prescribed per person was three times higher in 2015, than it was in 1999. However, the rate has fallen in the past few years.

Doctors say that's due to new state regulations aimed at keeping patients from abusing opioids.

Rae Bond with the Hamilton County Medical Society says over the past few years, Tennessee lawmakers have set new guidelines that limit the number of prescriptions doctors can hand out.

"There's a lot of movement now to help physicians be more aware of alternatives to long term opioids," she said.

Conine says at first he was open to alternatives, but he hasn't found anything that compares to his medication.

Even though he's pushing the state to recognize the needs of those in chronic pain, he says he's not down-playing the opioid problem in our country. In fact, he knows the seriousness first hand.

"I've got two sons that OD'ed- not by my medicine," he said.

Thankfully, doctors got both of their lives back. Now, Conine is just asking for his.

Conine says wrote a letter explaining his position to Senator Bob Corker. He says Corker's office called him and told him they received his letter and would be sending it on to Washington.

Conine says he's now raising his grandchildren. That's one reason he has always kept his painkillers locked up in a secure box.

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