HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - This month of September is Sickle Cell Anemia Awareness month.
Pine Belt resident Larry Martin wants to spread awareness of not only the disease, but the troubling misconception he said is labeled on patients like him.
"Because I am a sickle cell patient, I am not a drug addict," Martin said.
Martin learned at the age of eight-years-old he had sickle cell anemia.
As a child, he made up his mind to overcome the excruciating pain, and defy the physical limitations of this disease.
"Everything that I read was saying what I couldn't do, so I took that as a challenge out of life," Martin said.
He said his latest test is proving to doctor's sickle patients asking for medicine to ease the pain are not drug addicts.
"Because when you first say sickle cell they think you are there for drugs," Martin said.
Dr. Lara Otaigbe, of Southern Medical Care in Hattiesburg, is Martin's doctor.
"Sickle pain is probably one of the most misunderstood in the medical community," Otaigbe said.
Dr. Otaigbe said with sickle cell anemia, the red blood cells take on the shape of a sickle, this clogs the blood vessels and obstructs blood flow and oxygen to body parts.
"Patients have described it as anything from being stabbed over and over and over again in several different parts at the same time," Otaigbe said.
Otaigbe said there is research that shows the rate of drug addiction in the sickle population is no higher than in the general population.
She said in the majority of cases, the pain is under-treated. She offers this solution.
"If we schedule the medications rather than waiting for the patient to ask for pain medication it generally tends to work better," Otaigbe said.
Martin encouraged doctors to listen to their sickle cell patients and to be considerate.
"Because it hurts to be labeled as a drug addict," Martin said.
Otaigbe added another issue is doctors are trained to be cautious when patients ask for pain medications by name, but she said many sickle patients are not seeking drugs. She said they just know which medication works for them.