“We’re not all drug addicts;” patients reliant on opioid pills fear they won’t have access to them after new regulations

GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan-- It's a scary time for Matt VanEtten, after an almost-deadly crash turned his life upside down.

"We’ve all had ice cream headaches. Picture that 24 hours a day," he said. "It feels like your head's literally going to explode from the inside out."

An accident on the job ten years ago rendered the handyman unable to work today. Now, he's on disability insurance and opioids, using them daily to help manage the pain.

He's also one of the many people fearful new federal regulations will interfere with his access to the medication he needs to get through each day.

Just last week, President Donald Trump declared the opioid crisis a "public health emergency." That's on top of increasing regulations, cracking down on access to certain drugs.

VanEtten is one of many chronic pain patients across America, fearful their access to pulls will be threatened by the government's involvement in the opioid fight.

He says there is nothing that doctors can do surgically to fix his pain problem. The injections he receives help temporarily, but he says they often wear off before he is able to receive another that would be covered by insurance.

And since he's living on a fixed income, he is unable to afford the injections more frequently.

"I've spent, in the last 9 years, easily $500 dollars on pills," he said. "Every kind of orthopedic pill on the planet I've tried. And they don't work."

"We're not falling through the cracks here. We're falling through the Grand Canyon. No one's talking about the people like me, they're talking about the people that abuse it."

And there are a lot of abusers. The epidemic is sweeping the country, affecting all races, classes, and genders.

According to the CDC, more than 140 Americans die from overdoses a day. More than half a million have died since 2000.