My Series on the Painkiller Panic

Monday, January 30th, 2012

This week at Huffington Post, I’ll be posting a three-part series on the latest outbreak of prescription painkiller panic.

The first part is up today.

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21 Responses to “My Series on the Painkiller Panic”

  1. #1 |  tarran | 

    I love the comments blaming drug abusers for fucking it up for everyone else. All the chrinic pain sufferes going thorugh the self-criticism of claiming “I don’t abuse drugs and hate those who do, but…” aer also in derpessingly common supply.

    Here’s a crazy idea. Let anyone who wants to take codeine take codeine! Let addicts get their fix without lying to a doctor or going to a dubious supplier on the black or grey market! Let doctors treat their patients without worrying about being thrown in jail or whether their patients are lying to them!

    I swear, in 200 years, historians will be writing books about our craziness when it comes to drugs that will eerily parallel all the efforts 100 years ago to prevent black people, mexicans or eastern europeans from mongrelizing and corrupting the western european gene pool.

  2. #2 |  Aresen | 

    There are people who abuse pain killers.

    There are people who abuse other drugs.

    There are people who abuse alcohol.

    There are people who engage in unsafe sex practices.

    There are people who spend too much money and get themselves in financial difficulty.

    For just about any self-destructive habit or lifestyle you care to name, there are people who do it.

    It is not my business or anyone else’s business to save them from themselves.

  3. #3 |  PermaLurker | 

    I agree with you Tarran. It’s because there is this addiction mythology out there. That somehow there are evil chemicals out there that mess otherwise normal people up, but they have cause and effect reversed. People have messed up lives and the drug or activity is a coping mechanism. Sometimes the coping mechanism makes things worse. Every “addict” I have ever known has been in pain, just not necessarily “legitimate” physical pain. I see no fundamental difference between someone who treats their PTSD with alcohol or heroin from someone who treats it with Prozac, yet we are told one is evil and degenerate and the other is “responsible”. People are hectored for being off their “meds” and others are hectored for being on non-State/Big Pharma approved “meds”.

  4. #4 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 

    Even in the absence of this issue, the War On Drugs is a prime example of Government idiocy. Put this in the mix, and so far as I am concerned, every advocate of the War On Drugs is a despicable swine who either knows what he is advocating (in which case, may he go to hell, soon) or an ignorant swine who should. This is barbarism, pure and simple. It is, godsdamnit, fully as barbarous as the debate in extreme Islamic circles over whether Homosexuals should be set on fire or thrown from a great hight. It makes me want to run out and chase down all anti-drug activists and agents with a ball-peen hammer.

  5. #5 |  Rob Painter | 

    My diagnoses was that it was unbelievable that I could even walk after a severe car crash in 1997. One disc (still inoperable c-4) was so bad that it was pressing on my spinal cord. Over time I now have 10 herniated discs in my spine. My spine has now fused itself together in its damaged state, coupled with 2 blown out knees and in 2011 diagnosed with MS.
    On a 1-10 scale with 10 being the worst, I average a 7, but I do go o a 12 in which I cry like a baby.
    I do not have to explain my pain, my countless MRIs,video fluoroscopies, sonograms, X-rays and more show the whole picture and I would say it is pretty hard to fake all of that.
    In 2004 I went to a hard core pain treatment facility. Its my opinion that their purpose was to get one hooked on rugs so they had to return for monthly treatments. I was told by my ex wife she was addicted in 2008 due to her two neck surgeries. She was on oxycotin and morphine. This legalized drug dealer doctor in 2004 prescribed for me 180 mgs of Kadian (Morphine), 50 mgs 0f fetnyal and 60mgs of percocet a day. For those that know little about drugs, if I did not have the pain tollerance I did, this prescription would have killed me. I felt no pain, but I would fall asleep driving, and was in a completely different world.
    I went back to my regular doctor, told him to get me off this crap and just prescribe percocet. I have been on 50 mgs of percocet a day ever since and all it does is make my life bearable. Because of the chronic pain, I have also been diagnosed with fybromyalgia. Sometimes it feels like my skin is coming off my bones in my legs and if I take 300mg of lyrica, that solves that problem.
    I am sick of hearing about the rug addicts. Because of them, it puts focus on someone like me who is not addicted, does not get high from their use, and someone trying to exist in this world.
    It wasn’t my fault or my choice that some drug addict felon who was driving a school bus rammed me at highway speed at the end of an expressway ramp in which I was stopped legally for a red light! I did not ask to be in pain so bad that I had to crawl on my hands and knees throughout my house! At one point I did not know if I would ever walk again. I was fortunate enough to have a chiropractor come to my house for 5 days in a row to get me walking. I have heard far too many horror stories of people that had back and neck operations that were not successful and I don’t need that. Case in point for the neck-Ex had 2 operations and still not fixed. Friend has 2 neck operations and back surgery. Her doctor considers her a success because she is only using 60 mgs of percocet a day, most likely for the rest of her life!
    I friggen know about pain and if some administer who thought he was oing the right thing by taking me off of my meds, I cannot be held responsible for my actions and I am dead serious about that! I don’t drink and I do nothing to escape reality.
    In reality because I have been on the same dosage of percocet for 15 years, I actually could use more or something a little stronger, but I can forget that because of the bogus stories about overdosing and death.

    Just like the acetaminophen scare. One minute the base line was 4,000 mgs a day and then dropped to half of that. I always kept concern o this when taking my pills. I was the one who suggested to thre doctor, drop it from 650 mgs to 325 mgs.
    There are many with the same story I have. Walk in my shoes sometime–2 hours of sleep maybe a day. Every step you take, you are fully aware of. I have now had to add a cane to my wardrobe, just to walk. My pain instills anger, depression, hatred for the pieve of crap that is known as a human being that caused this. Hatred of a court system (Wisconsin) that has a three year limit on such cases, where it took 7 years for everything I predicted would happen and I was right. This event assisted in my divorce from a wife 13 years younger that said “You aged much quicker that I thought you would.” This event ended what I loved to do and that was working on cars. It cost me a very successful business I founded 17 years prior.
    So, do I like the fact that I need pills to take the edge off my pain and to have to go to the doctor every month for a prescription. Hell No!
    Its my understanding that my pills on the street are worth $40 a piece. Even if they were worth $1,000 per pill, I would never sell them because without them I cannot function. In fact, the way it is, there are times I am bedridden for weeks.
    Who pays because of the bogus hyped up stories that get headlines? People like me who have an obvious chronic physical problem, because doctors are scared to help people like me.

  6. #6 |  Jack Dempsey | 

    I was thinking more of a standard rock hammer myself.

  7. #7 |  Dee | 

    I am sick of hearing people make light about prescription painkillers. What did they do hundreds of years ago when they had pain? They didn’t have pain killers then. Whatever they used was safe and natural. Doctors get you hooked, then try to cut you off. I lost my 36 year old son to painkillers. You don’t have to be someone irresponsible to become addicted. It happens in all walks of life. What they don’t have is help. Until you walk in someone’s shoes who has tried everything to save someone they loved, and couldn’t, don’t pass judgement on the victim. They didn’t want the pain..They didn’t want to become addicted. They didn’t want to die. All they wanted was help.

  8. #8 |  JimBob | 

    I’m fortunate enough that, when my sinuses begin to cause me serious problems (the pain can be excruciating), I can turn to an effective, well-tested, and well-understood decongestant whose side-effects are well-known and readily considered: pseudoephedrine. To supplement that, I can take ibuprofen. Usually, my sinus problems are allergy-related, so I can supplement with diphenhydramine or doxylamine (usually at night) to help keep things from becoming problematic again.

    This combination is almost always effective in stopping the agonizing pain.

    Each one of the drugs I mentioned is a “wonder drug”. They were considered as such when they came out, even if they’re old news today. They allow me to lead a (relatively) normal, pain-free life that I might not otherwise be able to lead. Miracles available over-the-counter.

    If it weren’t for the ready availability of these substances– and at pennies per dose, in most cases– I would spend a lot of my time feeling so utterly miserable that I would wonder if it’s worth it to go on.

    It’s already bad enough trying to get the pseudoephedrine that I need. And doxylamine is usually paired with dextromethorphan (DXM), so it’s sometimes a pain in the ass to buy. But I can still get them. And because of that, I can make it through pollen and mold seasons with maybe a day or two of missed work at the most.

    If the same relief for me relied on drugs that are now being so heavily regulated, I shudder to think of how miserable my life could be. If the only drugs that could stop my pain– and it is literally debilitating at times, so that I feel too sick to move– were illegal to obtain, I would feel no moral compunctions in breaking the law. And any man that stopped me would be my enemy, plain and simple.

    To stand between relief and a person in agony is unconscionable. A man or woman who is willing to tell another person to suffer through pain like that has no soul, no empathy, and no moral standing among reasonable men.

    Fuck the pain-pill crackdown. People need relief from the worst sorts of pain; only the most vile and disgusting sort of heartless bastard could deny them.

  9. #9 |  Resistance | 

    We’re all criminals in The Police States of America. Get used to it. It is the present. And it definitely is the future.

  10. #10 |  Cyto | 

    I heard this on the radio this afternoon here in “Pill Mill Central” south Florida:

    The number of Florida doctors appearing in the nationwide list of the “Top 100 Oxycodone Purchasing Physicians” dropped from 90 in 2010 to only 13 in 2011.

    It seems the crackdown on doctors is having the desired effect. They no longer handle schedule 1 drugs themselves here in Florida. They send you to a pharmacy instead of dispensing the drugs themselves. It helps centralize the reporting to the Feds, I suppose.

  11. #11 |  Cyto | 

    From the same article a DEA agent is quoted as saying:

    Families affected by the prescription drug epidemic across Florida and the nation should rest assured that our efforts, such as Operation Pill Nation, will continue.”

    You’ll note that he uses the “epidemic” buzzwords to comfort “affected families” without a hint of irony. Bonus bragging about actions taken against employees and office workers at pharmacies and doctor’s offices too.

    Although they seem to have no concern whatsoever that someone might be caught up in this dragnet despite having no “illicit purposes” in mind, what really gets me is the fact that nobody involved at any level seems to have the slightest question that taking a drug for non-medical purposes is a reprehensible act that must be prevented using state power.

    Even Balko feels compelled to acknowledge “It’s also clear that there are some rogue doctors and “pill mills” who unscrupulously hand out prescriptions….” in his article.

  12. #12 |  JOR | 

    The entirety of the problem with ‘abuse’ of opiates (and drugs in general) is the stigma attached to it. The idea that people are somehow obligated to suffer whatever pain or ‘consequences’ life throws at them without making a fuss or trying to alleviate it in any way (so they don’t make us uncomfortable or have it easier than we or our ancestors may have) is the real root of this evil.

    So what if someone does want to get doped up? Drugs are not and have never been my thing, but this is a shitty world, filled with assholes who want to throw harmless people into brutal rape camps; I don’t blame someone for wanting to escape from that in whatever way seems most convenient.

    It’s nobody’s damned business.

  13. #13 |  DavidST | 

    What are the economic implications of this I wonder? This is something I think about a lot now with politics. What drugs are they really going after? Who is doing the going and who is funding it? Is it the prison-security complex looking for more prisoners? Could it just be busy-bodies, no money involved? That doesn’t seem likely to me these days.

  14. #14 |  albatross | 

    How much does the ability to get pain medicine when you need it vary by race and social class?

  15. #15 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 

    Albatross,

    This is anecdotal, but every in case I have read about (that I recall) of somebody having trouble of high dose prescriptions of pain killers, the patient pictured was white. I suspect that to the degree that this means anything, it means that non-whites with chronic pain are simply presumed to be angling for opiates.

  16. #16 |  rg | 

    I have to tell you that i live in florida and I am a legit pain patient…It really sucks. I have had resududial neuropathy in my eye ( optic nerve) from the shingles . I had the shingles in the optic nerve 21 years ago I also recently lost my job & have to pay for cobra( that is a huge amount) I used to go to my primary care doctor and she would manage the pain with pain killers with a cost of $20 for a 1 time yearly visit. I would have a 90 day supply with 3 refills to use if I needed them. The total cost was 30 for a 90 day supply. Now because of the new laws I am requires to go to a specialists $50 a visit & they can not write for more than a 30 day supply so the doctors visits alone are $600 and then I have to pay the copay EACH month totalling $180. That is UBSERD & I CAN NOT AFFORD IT. Thisis an outrage…..to go from a cost of $140 a year to $780 are they kidding….Over a 5 times increase that is obserd…I can not even afford my living expenses on unemployment ( and i receive the max here in florida…believe it or not Iaccording to the state $275 a week is too much to qualify for additionaly assistance…as I previous stated this does not even pay for my living expenses. I wish I could find a lawyer to sue the state over this ( maybe a class action ) I DO NOT have soft tissue pain that can not be proven…I am NOT pill seaking but I ahve A PROVEN issue 7 now I have to make the choice to eat , pay my utilities of be able to function on a daily basis..Maybe you should do a story on the real pain patients that are suffering…

  17. #17 |  el coronado | 

    As a libertarian, and someone with at least one ounce of common sense, I hate FDR with the white-hot intensity of a thousand suns. Eviscerator of the Constitution. Promulgator of the soon-to-collapse National Ponzi Scheme. Economic bonehead DeLuxe – Harding’s depression lasted 18 months, and he got out of it by doing nothing. FDR’s methods weren’t as successful: he nationalized vast swaths of the economy, and after 8 frickin’ YEARS of this, unemployment was still 15% or so – and when I bother to curse his foul name, I fervently hope he’s on his knees in hell, servicing all the people whose misery he made worse with his shit-for-brains policies. And all the American servicemen who he got killed in the War he wanted so desperately in order to end the Depression.

    Yet even I have to admit he did something right – IIRC, it was the *very first thing* he did once in office: He signed the law that made Prohibition just a bad memory. He rectified a situation that was making all Americans criminals by attempting to legislate human behavior. Sadly, he failed to consider what all his anti-booze Warrior Heroes, led by the cursed Anslinger, would do with themselves now that folks could legally enjoy an Adult Beverage again. He coulda made ‘em sewer inspectors; he coulda made ‘em paper clip auditors, but no…He left them – and their “Law Enforcement Apparatus” – intact, and allowed them to go looking for something to do with their time and yearly Federal Budgetary Largesse. (Which, being a statist Democrat, he couldn’t bring himself to zero out of the budget.)

    So here we are today, paying 14%+ in SS/Ponzi taxes when FDR started us out with 2% (limited to the first $200, I believe), and a draconian, heavily-militarized Drug War Military-Industrial-Law Enforcement-Private Prisons-Complex that would make Mussolini sick with envy. Thanks so much, Franklin! Have a good time there in Hell, m’kay??

    Ah, well. Not to worry, right? Obama’s our *friend*! HE’LL put things to rights in NO time. He just hain’t got to it yet, is all.

  18. #18 |  rg | 

    I have to tell you that I live in Florida and I am a legit pain patient…It really sucks. I have had neuropathy in my eye ( optic nerve) from the shingles . It feel like someone is stabbing you in the puple and then twisting the knife it becomes incompasitating you can not walk, drive or move the pain medications make it somewhat bearable. I had the shingles in the optic nerve 21 years ago ( this have been managed since then) I also recently lost my job & have to pay for cobra(that is a huge amount) I used to go to my primary care doctor the doctor would manage the pain with pain killers and additional meds with a cost of $20 for a 1 time yearly visit. I would have a 90 day supply with 3 refills to use if I needed them. The total cost was $30 for a 90 day supply. Now because of the new laws I am requires to go to a specialists $50 a visit & they can not write for more than a 30 day supply ( and I have to go back each month to a specialists) so the doctors visits alone are $600 and then I have to pay the copay EACH month totalling $180. ( the additional medications I still can get for the 90 day supply and 3 refills) That is UNBELIEVEABLE & I CAN NOT AFFORD IT. This an outrage…..to go from a cost of $140 a year to $780 is the state kidding? I know know that Governer Scott is a scum in the medical industry & made billions off of all of us with his Medicaid & medicare schams but this is one step too far….Over a 5 times increase that is obserd…I can not even afford my living expenses on unemployment ( and i receive the max here in florida…believe it or not according to the state $275 a week is too much to qualify for additionaly assistance…as I previous stated this does not even pay for my living expenses. I wish I could find a lawyer to sue the state over this ( maybe a class action ) I DO NOT have soft tissue pain that can not be proven…I am NOT pill seaking but I have A PROVEN issue & now I have to make the choice to eat , pay my utilities of be able to function on a daily basis..Maybe you should do a story on the real pain patients that are suffering…

  19. #19 |  Jason S. | 

    Dee –

    They mostly suffered in crippling pain. Society prior to the advent of modern medical technology wasn’t an arcadian wonderland. It was brutal.

    Those who think that one needs to have underlying mental health problems or some character fault to become addicted to opiates through routine use are unfortunately mistaken, but the risks here are not worth abandoning the benefits that pain management gives us.

  20. #20 |  el coronado | 

    OK, Agitators –

    I read RG’s post (#18) and was going to write something along the lines of “Maybe it’s time to get outta Fla., bud.” But where should he go? I’m a chronic pain guy myself – hence the irritated screed above; it’s a sore subject w/ me – living in NV, and it ain’t much better here. And it’s getting worse by the week.

    Does anyone know of a state that’s *not* actively declaring war on its residents in pain?

  21. #21 |  CapnMidori | 

    Dee,

    Hundreds of years ago they died before they hit 50 and if they had a condition that led to chronic pain (like a horrible accident) they probably didn’t survive. Welcome to the future.

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