NORWALK, Iowa-- After taking prescription painkillers for years, Ryan Lankford says he was forced to turn to over-the-counter pain relief.
“I’ve been taking what is probably considered dangerous amounts of Tylenol. Like up to 15 to 20 a day,” said the 40-year-old husband and father from Norwalk.
He takes the pills to dull what he calls the constant, bone-aching pain his arm. Lankford has a scar that goes down most of his arm. In 2009, doctors cut out a rare form of flesh-eating bacteria.
Today, he’s fighting another kind of pain.
“I decided to go on what I guess you'd call a hunger strike. I'm not eating any food and I'm taking only water,” said Lankford.
Monday is day four of his hunger strike. He’s doing it to raise awareness about the plight of pain patients and the poor treatment many are receiving. Lankford says he can’t find a primary care doctor to take his case. He believes high-profile prescription drugs cases are hurting pain patients.
If some prescriptions are harder to come by, there’s a reason.
“The message we want to get out is, once you're done with that medication, take it to a drug take-back and get it out of your house so you're not supplying a family member or friend who may be addicted to those prescription drugs, said Paul Feddersen, with Iowa’s Division of Narcotics Enforcement.
Just last month, law enforcement agencies across the state collected four tons of unused meds. Feddersen said Iowans are becoming more informed about the dangers of prescription drugs.
Lankford is vowing to keep striking to get more people to listen. You can follow along at Ryan's Hunger Strike for Chronic Pain on Facebook.