Skip to Main Content

PALO ALTO, Calif. — For Thomas P. Yacoe, the word is “terrifying.”

Leah Hemberry describes it as “constant fear.”


For Michael Tausig Jr., the terror is “beyond description.”

Unlock this article by subscribing to STAT+ and enjoy your first 30 days free!

  • Not enough alternatives for pain medications. TENS unit works well and a different thought process. Accepting Natural herbs, changing life style and diet management for those overweight. Addicting, controlling behavior associated with narcotic use is gruesome. Does not differentiate between legal or illegal use….it’s all the same. Short course of narcotic use for trauma or illness acceptable. Otherwise we would be better off without it.

  • This is exactly what I’m going through. 62, Fe, disabled since I was 55. I have a Patra of issues. I am not an addict. I’m just Nana, and I care (or try) to take care if my 84 yr. old Mother. We need our meds. Period. Make ppl. have MRI’s, we are wiser than that! I have done the gammit, this is all I have or surgery (50/50) that it works. Already had 3 or 4 discs replaced in my neck. From cadavers. Then my right shoulder froze. Now it’s my L2,L3,L4,L5, S1 with a 7mm tear L3, L4. I wake up blessed, that I can shuffle to the bathroom. I can’t do alot of things I enjoyed. I take my doses same time, everyday. I do what my Dr. tells me. I still do PT at home, to stretch as well as I can. This is not fun! If we screen the patient’s with a little more screening I think it would help. First do no harm. The ppl. like me need this, until something better comes along. Thanks You for the vent, I feel better

  • additionally the fact that no opioid prescriptions comes with an out strategy, i.e. tapering off use once the pain is resolved, is a testament to how messed up this whole situation is. Living with pain is unacceptable. There is middle ground but that represents extra work for those prescribing them, who also, have many times, had extremely limited experience with intense pain and use of opioids.

  • I have had 8 back surgeries. I took myself off my pain medicine cause of all of this just to see if I could do it cause it’s getting so bad to get them. I am in so much pain that I can’t sleep,walk or think. I am going to get back to a pain dr. We should not be punished cause of stupid people that kills themselves cause they want to get high. There is a difference in getting high and having to have those meds to live. They do it the stupid way so we pay the price. I have been off mine for 3 mos but my primary care dr gave me my Norco. Sometimes I hurt so damn bad that if I don’t get something stronger I just don’t feel like living. Cause this isn’t living this is torture. Please please help us.

  • I believe Anna Lembke is a typical radical abstinence 12-Step industry ideologue and operative. Read her paper, “Sacrifice, stigma, and free-riding in Alcoholics Anonymous.” Scary stuff. She frequently cites Keith Humphreys, an old faithful 12-Step apologist who himself acknowledged in his contribution to the 2006 book, “Rethinking Substance Abuse: What the Science Shows and What We Should Do About It,” that there was not reliable evidence of 12-Step efficacy for coerced populations (almost everyone in rehab is coerced). A couple years ago in a New York Times article by Austin Frakt, “Alcoholics Anonymous and the Challenge of Evidence-Based Medicine, Humphreys denied the obvious : that 12-Step efficacy is largely an illusion of self-selection bias.

    I believe it is a fair interpretation of Lembke’s paper that she actually advocates the use of shame and stigma against persons who do not completely abstain from alcohol/drugs when they’re mandated to A.A. and other 12-Step ‘support groups.’ Read it for yourself if you disagree with my summary of Lembke’s paper. Keep in mind that government coercion into 12-Step/A.A. is actually unconstitutional since it is an inherently religious program: see Inouye v. Kemna; Hazle v. Crofoot; Warner v. Orange County Dept. of Probation; Kerr v. Farrey, among about 25 other cases.

    Lembke describes how newcomers to A.A./12-Step groups are *initially* told that simply having a will to quit using alcohol/drugs is all that is needed to participate. Then soon after initiation into the group, they are expected to completely abstain, with those who fail to meet the zero tolerance expectation being shamed and stigmatized by their peers as “free-riders” trying to avail themselves of the [alleged] benefits of support groups while not actually meeting the requirement of [radical] abstinence.

    Keep in mind many of these ant-opiate crusaders are deeply professionally, if not personally, dependent on 12-Step groups or the professional careers which that system creates. A.A./12-Step is essentially an extension of the Christian Temperance Movement (see Philip McGowan’s paper, “AA and the Redeployment of Temperance Literature”). A.A. is a variant of New Thought Christianity, which shares some similarities with Christian Science, for example, so a connection with the anti-vaxxer movement and 12-Step is not far-fetched (the latter often opposing certain ‘naughty’ medications, such as opiate pain killers and anti-anxiety benzos).

    The National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers (NAATP) is a rehab industry lobbying group that for years fought against the use of medications to treat opiate addiction. Since there is a considerably larger survival rate for addiction treatment patients who receive medications, including those using other forms of opiods as medication itself, versus cold-turkey 12-Step, the government finally started implementing incentives or requirements for the provisions of such medications in treatment programs as a condition of federal funding.

    Now that NAATP, Betty Ford Center, and other 12-Step-based providers and interest groups have lost the political battle to suppress adoption of certain medications for opiate addiction, and with loosening government restrictions on marijuana, many rehabs and drug testing companies (such as owned by former Drug Czar Robert DuPont and ex-DEA head Peter Bensinger) are looking for new ways to sneak in zero-tolerance policies as a pretext for railroading people into rehab or long-term drug testing, including crackdowns on opiate pain killer medications. It’s harder for rehabs to “trap” users of opiates if they can’t determine by drug tests if they’re prescribed legally or illegally. Hazelden started targeting “high functioning addicts” a few years ago; in other words, people who lead successful lives yet use drugs who are an untapped market for exploitation, as they’ve been more difficult to coerce into treatment via the criminal justice system, which is the single-largest source of referrals for most addiction treatment. Hazelden’s medical director, Marvin Seppala, was himself a patient at Hazelden at age 17 (as he described on NPR’s Diane Rehm Show). He has also claimed that some pain can be managed by acupuncture. If I’m not mistaken, acupuncture is basically a sham or placebo.

    The U.S. addiction treatment INDUSTRY is estimated to involve around $35 billion per year (I believe that statistic is from SAMHSA), estimated to grow to around $42 billion in several years. The vast majority of U.S. addiction treatment programs are 12-Step-based; the stat often cited of 80% is likely conservative.

    I recently read that the opiate medication industry was a several billion dollar industry. I don’t remember the exact estimate, but if I recall correctly, it was only about 2/3 the size of the addiction treatment industry. In other words, the 12-Step industrial complex, which is also a major financial and political components of the ‘War on Drugs,’ is actually LARGER than the opiate market component of ‘Big Pharma’ (though someone else can do a better job of fact-checking stats for the pharmacological opiate industry than me).

    Drug Czar Michael Botticelli is a known A.A. member who even opposes the legalization of marijuana under the pretext that it could endanger the “recoveries” of ‘recovering addicts.’ This should give you an indication of just how powerful, lucrative, and deeply embedded the New Christian Temperance Movement, aka 12-Step, is throughout government.

    Anna Lembke being cited as an ‘expert’ is another example. It’s not surprising for me to read that she demonstrates more loyalty to the 12-Step industry her career depends on than compassion for people in extreme pain.

    • Thank you so much for taking the time to type out your informational & succinct synopsis of things that I have also read Re: 12-step/Big Pharma/War on Drugs, etc. Only when people become more aware of how the system is potentially “rigged” against them, will there be sufficient outcry to at least attempt to remedy some of these issues. Calling attention to potential conflicts of interest will hopefully serve as a call to action.

  • I live with chronic pain. Without pain Medication my quality of life would be zero. I have had physical therapy, pain shots and a hip replacement . There seems to be a increase in the use herion has no one thought that some may be in such pain. they feel it’s there only choice. Due to new regulations they no longer abe to have access to legal pain management. I am fearfully everytime I go to get my prescription, never knowing if a new law may take my only means of living a daily life away. Please there are edlery, cancer patients and people living with arthritis that they depend on the medication to walk, spend time with their children.We have to help the doctors. they need to be able to give treatment. Without fear of the long arm.of the government.

  • jesus.stop lumping relatively mild drugs like 5mg percocets with Oxycontin and heroin…it makes those that need an occasional pill to sleep or get through the day..say 3-5 pills a month feel guilty..feel like they are junkies..there is a huge leap from the 5mg percocet/vicodin crowd who takes maybe a pill a week
    to the abusers of high potency pain killers and heroin…It does a disservice to
    people who don’t abuse…who use them sporadically .. there has to be some big pharma thing coming out that is pushing this whole opioid argument and suddenly lumping heroin users and people who take a pain killer a few times a month in the same basket

    • You definitely shouldn’t be made to feel like a junkie. Neither should someone uses them daily though. It’s not an indicator of abuse either. Plenty of people take opioids daily for years and continue to experience improved quality of life without encountering significant side effects or displaying signs of substance abuse.

  • I’ve been taking oxycodone since 2000 I had Polio when I was young I cannot walk real good maybe 30-40 feet tops workout watch a lots of pain my legs are no good I live in pain every night and day I take Oxycodone 10 325 they are taking away my pain pills I do not know what to do please help I cannot live in this much pain please someone help before it’s too late I don’t know what I’m going to do I have asked the doctor to cut my legs off they refuse to do that also I am 63 years old I am not a drug addict that is the first thing a doctor think of people like me are drug addicts no one that has a much pain as I do can live with it you have zero quality of life can’t walk can’t sleep I cannot live in this kind of pain I want to cut them off myself don’t have enough guts to do so I am 63 years old quad By-Pass all my heart I cannot stand the pain someone help me before it’s too late God Bless America 580-370-0328 identity oxycodone 8 years I know there’s drug addicts the world I’m not one of them everyone need pain pills are not druggies

    • I am 90 years old. My lower back is shot, car wreck injured my neck, arthritis has taken its toll on my body. A doctor explained he needed to cut his pain prescription down. He felt they may make me (this is a quote) goo-goo headed. I explained that I am 90 and without them I wont be around the pain is to much
      He cut my dose in 1/2, 5/325 then only 2 pr day. I had to find a doctor that understood some people have to have medication just to get out of bed. I dont have much time left and I want to enjoy my family, that means I have to have treatment that is opioid. Please dont take my life. Just had to give my point. all you hear is how bad pain pills are…..

    • Donald,

      I’m so sorry you are having to deal with this. It’s not fair that patients like us are forced to pay the consequences for mistakes others make. I can’t promise anything, but I’d like to at least try to help you find someone who can help you get some relief. If you look me up on Facebook, you’ll see a blonde haired girl with a pink bandana on her head. That’s me.

  • Don’t judge chronic pain unless you have experienced it yourself. Severe pain destroys your life. It’s no wonder people suicide when they loose hope for improvement.

Comments are closed.