My wife and daughter are chronic pain patients. On behalf of them and others like them, I have spent 22 years moderating social media support groups and analyzing medical literature so non-doctors can understand it. My degree is in engineering, not medicine, though I’ve learned a great deal about pain, pain relief, and health care in the United States.

In the 50+ Facebook groups I support, I hear from people in agony every week. To protect identities, here are some paraphrases from online posts:

  • My doctor forced me to taper down opioid therapy below a level that had for years given me relief from pain and good quality of life for years. Now I’m totally disabled and in constant pain.
  • My doctor’s practice says they will no longer prescribe opioids to anyone. But no other pain center in our area is taking new patients.
  • My doctor wants me to take Tylenol and learn to meditate.
  • I can’t take much more of this.

Doctors should have gotten the message by now that deserting patients is a violation of medical practice standards, not to mention human rights. But they haven’t. To the contrary, they’ve been hearing about other doctors who got raided by Drug Enforcement Agency swat teams, their patients terrorized, medical records seized, and practices ruined by announcements in local news media. Compounding such brutal tactics, chain pharmacies have compiled high prescriber lists, blacklisting “top prescribing” physicians and denying prescription pain medication to their patients.

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Much of the mess described by patients stems directly from the 2016 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain.” In it, the CDC urged practitioners to avoid increasing opioid doses for new patients above daily doses of 50 morphine milligram equivalents (MME). For patients maintained on doses above 90 MME, doctors were told to conduct and document risk and benefit reviews.

The CDC guideline became controversial almost immediately after it was published. Despite major criticism, it was widely interpreted by physicians, hospitals, insurance providers, state legislators, medical boards, and the DEA as a mandate for hard limits on prescribing opioids — even for so-called legacy patients for whom long-term or high-dose opioids had already proven safe and effective.

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Since the publication of the guideline, the American Medical Association, the American Association of Family Physicians, and other organizations have repudiated the science, logic, and conclusions of the CDC guideline and of the DEA’s witch hunt. But nobody in government is listening to medical professionals any more than they are listening to patients.

In November, 2018, the American Medical Association’s House of Delegates issued its groundbreaking Resolution 235. It reads in part:

“… no entity should use MME (morphine milligram equivalents) thresholds as anything more than guidance, and physicians should not be subject to professional discipline, loss of board certification, loss of clinical privileges, criminal prosecution, civil liability, or other penalties or practice limitations solely for prescribing opioids at a quantitative level above the MME thresholds found in the CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids.”

In April 2019, under fire from medical professionals across the country, the CDC advised against “misapplication” of the guideline. Writing in the New England Journal of Medicine, three authors of the guideline said it was never intended to become a mandated standard, even though more than 30 states had incorporated it into legislation in the three years since its publication. At about the same time, the FDA issued a safety warning against rapidly tapering individuals off opioids or suddenly stopping their administration, based on known harms to patients.

As many patient advocates said at the time, the CDC and FDA announcements were too little too late. Tens of thousands of patients had already been deserted by their doctors or forced to give up the pain medications that had allowed them to function.

Physicians have been stepping up their criticism of the CDC guideline and the DEA’s presence in their medical practices. Last month, the American Academy of Family Physicians and five other professional groups representing 560,000 physicians and students called on politicians to “end political interference in the delivery of evidence based medicine.” As they noted, “physicians should never face imprisonment or other penalties for providing necessary care. These laws force physicians to decide between their patients and facing criminal proceedings.”

On June 10, the AMA issued Board of Trustees Report 22 which, among other things, condemns the use of “high prescriber” lists by national pharmacy chains to blacklist high-prescribing physicians and prevent their patients from having pain prescriptions filled. Pharmacies aren’t the only ones using this tactic: Regional U.S. attorneys are also sending intimidating letters to “high prescribers,” warning them that their “prescribing practices may be contributing to the flow of prescription opioids into illegal markets and fueling dangerous addictions.” This claim, however, is not substantiated by medical evidence.

Against this background, there is an inconvenient fact that no one in government wants to hear: almost the entirety of the public narrative that shapes federal and state opioid policy is wrong. Using data published by the CDC itself, a colleague and I have shown that there is no relationship between state-by-state rates of opioid prescribing by doctors and overdose-related deaths from all sources of opioids, including legal or diverted prescriptions and illegal street drugs. In other words, there’s no cause and effect between prescribing rates and overdose deaths — and historical charting of the data reveal that hasn’t been the case in 20 years.

Opioid prescribing and opioid overdose deaths
Data from CDC Wonder

Even as rates of opioid prescribing dropped by 25% between 2011 and 2017, opioid overdose deaths continued to rise.

As opioid prescriptions decline, overdose deaths increase
Data from CDC Wonder

The central assumptions of government policy regulating medical opioids are directly contradicted by data on prescribing, mortality, and demographics. The implications are profound and obvious: regardless of the greed and misdirection of a few bad apple doctors, government restrictions on prescribing opioids to pain patients are based on mythology, not fact. And overreach by the DEA is destroying tens of thousands of patients’ lives for no good reason. I hear every day the stories of pain patients victimized by over-regulation. You can read some by scrolling through the comments on this STAT article, or this one.

Government policy for opioid pain relievers is now a vast tangle. Patients, families, and their doctors need somebody to cut this bureaucratic Gordian knot and end the madness. That somebody is Congress and the time is now — before governments lapse into even deeper paralysis during the 2020 election campaigns.

It is time for Congress to direct the CDC to withdraw its guideline for a ground-up rewrite by an agency like the NIH or FDA that actually knows what it is doing. Likewise, the Veterans Health Administration must be directed to withdraw its closely related “Opioid Safety Initiative.” Veterans tell me that medical practice standards embedded in the initiative are driving vets to suicide by denying them treatment with opioid pain relievers. Finally, the DEA must be told to stand down and stop persecuting doctors who are legitimately prescribing opioids to their patients with chronic pain for “over-prescribing,” something for which no agency has yet created an accepted definition.

There ought to be a law … and I volunteer to help write it. AMA Resolution 235 (described earlier) must become mandatory policy for all federal health care and law enforcement agencies: the CDC, FDA, NIH, DEA, VA, the National institute on Drug Abuse, and the Department of Justice, to name just a few. Then state-level drug regulators and law enforcement need to be informed of the policy change — pointedly.

It is time to end the madness!

Richard A. “Red” Lawhern, Ph.D., is a non-physician patient advocate, moderator of online patient communities, and co-founder and former director of research for The Alliance for Treatment of Intractable Pain.

  • For those who can help Red Lawhern, this is MY story.

    Please, remember we are real people. I am a writer, a mother and wife. 22 years ago I was diagnosed with RSD (CRPS) of my left foot & leg. I went through treatment after treatment, was tried on many medications. I know why RSD is called “The Suicide Disease.” One night about a month in, I found myself in the kitchen staring at my foot, holding a cleaver. The doctors said that amputation wouldn’t help, as the disease was in my body. But I was in so much pain that I was sure ridding myself of the foot would solve my problem. Thankfully, I couldn’t do it. Soon after, my doctor prescribed 2 prescriptions that actually worked! Nothing gets 100% rid of the ice/burn pain, but the med gave me my life back!

    I was able to return to work, see family, travel, even date again! I had tried other opioids but this one worked. I never expected to be on a medication for 22 years, but I’m thankful for it.

    2 years after the diagnosis, I got married. We traveled a lot, worked, and adopted a baby. My son knows that Mom has a bad foot, and that 22 years of limping has given me a very bad back. I now have Degenerative Disc Disease, Spondolytis and more. I walk often with my cane, but I can handle crutches if need be, and sometimes neither.

    When my doctor told me in 2016 that he was tapering my pain medication, I thought he was joking. But he gave me a copy of a letter from my insurance company saying that they were going to follow the CDC “Guidelines”, a one-size-fits-all approach to Opioid Abuse written NOT by pain patients or even pain doctors. Nope, it was written in secret by anti-opiate crusaders and addiction specialists. Now they’re coming clean about the ridiculous “Guidelines” AFTER Insurance Companies and State Laws adopted them as rule.

    Cutting my painkillers was both ignorant and dangerous. The Pain Specialist was terrified, so I no longer respected this man who had a different idea every month. Even after hearing that I’d had a seizure on Parents Night at my son’s school, this doctor continued to cut my meds.

    Meanwhile I was dealing with the dreaded side effects and the return of the RSD pain. My Internist, bless her heart, took over my case. It didn’t take long before the Medical Board wrote her a letter. But she continued my pain meds and had me sign a contract. It was quite civil. I take urine tests when asked, and I’m happy to submit to pill counts.

    Our country has a drug problem but the CDC Guidelines and misinformed people blame seriously ill and injured people instead of the illegal drugs, especially counterfeit fentanyl and heroin laced with it. It makes no sense to ruin a Pain Patient’s life by blaming them for our country’s so-called Opioid Problem, while people abusing street drugs continue to abuse.

    There are very few pain patients who abuse their meds. We need them to live. Punishing us leads to suicide. I wouldn’t be taking my meds if they didn’t work! Something must be done. Insurance Companies are playing doctor by demanding their clients take no opioids, refusing to pay for the meds. People on Medicare are already fighting for their rights after the Agency adopted the most ignorant part of the ridiculous 2016 Guidelines stating that a patient may not take more than 90mme a day. We are not all the same, nor do we all feel the same type of pain.

    Those 2016 CDC Guidelines MUST be pulled. We need to protect patients from Doctors who worry they’ll lose their job if they don’t follow the 3 year old suggestions. Insurance Companies have become Doctors, denying coverage to patients needing more than 90mme, and Medical Boards are punishing caring doctors. It seems that no one knows WHOM is responsible. Is it the DEA, CDC, Insurance Companies?

    We need help now. Don’t let us lose more pain patients to suicide while people sit around trying to figure this all out. Listen to Red Lawhern- he already HAS great ideas. Honestly, it shouldn’t be taking so long!

    • Thank you Jennifer, my sentiments exactly! My pain meds were also cut by 2/3, in the State of Maine where I live, because Maine also followed these horrific CDC guidelines and then passed a draconian, knee jerk state law drastically restricting the doses of pain medication that any chronic pain patient could take. Ever since then I have been unable to bathe or shower, I suffer all day and night until I fall into a fitful exhausted sleep for only a few hours at a time, my blood pressure and blood sugar have both gone up, I don’t go out, I can’t socialize any more, and I can’t do anything but go from my bed to my recliner. I often can’t concentrate on much anything because my pain is so severe, and so I don’t pay my bills or fill out important paperwork, clean my house, or change my clothes, or do other important things. I just have a bare painful existence. It’s really no life at all, but since I believe that there are some members of our government who truly want to kill off all of the disabled chronic pain patients in America like myself, by having us commit suicide just to save money on Medicare or something, I decided to refuse to die or commit suicide, mostly just because their cruel, apparently deliberate, abuse, neglect and mistreatment makes me extremely furious! I don’t want these cruel fiends to win! How dare they take away the only pain relief we have, which is opioid pain relief, from tens millions of aging and suffering patients on zero evidence that any of this is necessary! Are we not adults? Don’t we even have ANY say as to our own medical treatment? And after trying EVERY SINGLE POSSIBLE alternative treatment other than opioids that have ALL completely failed to do anything to help me with my pain, and after taking my opioid pain meds only as prescribed for over 15 years, then why should patients who must live with serious chronic pain like myself be forced into suffering and suicide simply because of the behavior of other people? It makes zero sense and it is massively cruel and unjust! So therefore, I refuse to oblige these cruel thugs, even if I must suffer torture just to oppose them! They will have to just come and kill me off themselves if they all want me dead so much!

      And so, the State of Maine cruelly enacted these horrible guidelines into law and they did so all behind the backs of the chronic pain patients in Maine, all who had no idea whatsoever that any of this was even happening before it did happen, and I suppose that they did so sneakily so that we could not protest, and all despite reading pharmacology reports that these kind of one size fits no one policies are always wrong in regards to proper medical care, especially when using opioids, or even with any other medications, because each patient is an individual and needs individualized treatment, and even despite the fact that the FDA, and not the CDC has jurisdiction over all medications. There was false testimony given by some Maine doctors that might have swayed them, but they really needed to realize that there are always at least two sides to EVERY issue, and they only heard testimony from the anti-opioid side, and had deliberately decided to exclude and ignore everyone else who had any other point of view. I find it odd that so many legislatures all just bought the CDC’s entire false narrative without ever asking ANY pertinent questions about any of it’s validity, all likely because of the degree of fear, hysteria and panic over a phony manufactured “prescription opioid crisis” that was really a fentanyl and poly pharmacy overdose problem all along, and because of AK and PROP’s massive media campaign of hysteria, fear, lies, and disinformation. Or was it the plan all along that these state governments were also planning to make millions of dollars by suing drug companies and then forcing them to pay for addiction treatment as well? I wonder.

      And so exactly how did these legislators ever think that taking the opioid pain medications away from tens of thousands aging and suffering compliant medical patients in pain who truly needed these medications, would ever be able to accomplish anything at all to help to stop ANY opioid drug addicts or drug abusers from overdosing? None of it makes any sense at all if one actually looks at all of the available data logically, unless this was all due to the unfortunately all too common prejudice that us chronic pain patients actually WERE the very same opioid addicts who were the ones who were overdosing, even when this was absolutely NOT true! I can’t imagine exactly what they really were thinking, and it boggles my mind that they just didn’t see how idiotic the entire false narrative really was, especially had anyone even bothered to ever question it or to really think about it!

      And why did these legislators all just so easily accept all of Kolodney, PROP, and the CDC’s conclusions without question? No person or group is so perfect that all of their judgements are always completely above question, not even those of the CDC! And are so many of our elected representatives really such a bunch of crowd following lemmings, such that they are all so completely unable to think critically for themselves at all about any of America’s critical public policy issues, or are they all simply so much more concerned about themselves and their political careers and how things look, rather than how things really are? Didn’t they realize that there are more than twenty times as many people who suffer with chronic pain in America who use opioid medications safely to treat their pain then there are drug addicts and abusers, and that we mostly aging chronic pain patients actually vote, and that the drug addicts and abusers are not nearly as likely to vote? I will vote if I have to crawl on my hands and knees, or come back from the grave, but so far no candidate from any party will commit to helping us suffering chronic pain patients, all they care about or talk about are the 2-3 million opioid addicts and they ignore the 26 million chronic pain patients who need opioid medications to survive! It doesn’t make any sense!

      And all of this mess also happened because of course most Americans are already extremely prejudiced against opioids and against the disabled, and against chronic pain patients anyway, especially those who take prescribed opioid pain meds. This is all mostly just fear and ignorance, and which the predatory CDC panel, that was made up of the group of extreme anti-opioid fanatics like Kolodney and PROP, simply all took full advantage of. This entire issue IS all really a lot about predjudice, scapegoating, and the blame and shame game, as well as the greed of AK and PROP, where pain patients and their doctors were blamed, tried and convicted by the media, a media that was egged on by Kolodney and PROP, and who punished innocent doctors and pain patients pfor overdose crimes they did not commit without ever being given any opportunity whatsoever to defend themselves. This has been, and still is a mad, unjust, insane, mass hysterical witch hunt and public lynching event, and all of the 26 million of America’s chronic pain patients who require opioids, their doctors and the drug companies that manufacture these medical opioids are the supposed witches who have all already been convicted in advance in our absence, and without ever having received any trial, and without ever being allowed ANY opportunity whatsoever to even attempt to defend ourselves, because we were all completely ignored and kept out of any committees and public discussions concernimg this overdose crisis. We were then all forced to suffer serious, massively unjust and cruel personal punishments over the past three years, and those cruel punishments and human rights abuses still continue with no end in site, for crimes that we did NOT even commit, even to this very minute. Hundreds of innocent chronic pain patients, including many veterans, have committed suicide due to severe under treated pain, and several medically unstable pain patients have died of heart attacks, all because they were ripped off of all of their high dose opioids all at once and without a taper. Thousands of pain patients have turned to street heroin, and untold numbers have likely overdosed on fentanyl laced heroin while just simply seeking pain relief, and not drug abuse, and tens of millions of chronic pain patients are even being denied any adequate medical care and have all been abandoned by all medical providers who all are just too frightened to care for them, leaving millions of chronically ill elderly patients to spend the entire rest of their lives bed or chair bound and unable to enjoy any quality of life whatsoever while their criminally evil mendacious self serving persecutors and Inquisitors from the DEA, CDC, PROP, and others rake in millions!

      It is truly outrageous patient abuse on a massive scale that dwarfs any so called opioid overdose crisis! Thank God that Human Rights Watch and the AMA finally did something after all these years! But will anything ever truly change? Will any of us who are still alive and who are still suffering ever get our proper doses of opioid pain meds back? How much longer do we have to wait and endure this torture? Can any of the terrible damage that has been done even be undone, now at this late date? Every day that passes another pain patient commits a needless suicide, another untreated opioid addict or pain patient looking only for pain relief overdoses, and more families bury their loved ones. The massive lack of any proper governmental action towards taking any of the truly necessary steps to provide more access to drug treatment, to provide safe injection sites, or to enact better harm reduction measures that would actually help America to solve these complex problems has caused even more deaths of opioid addicts and abusers, and now even many more patients in pain have also died as well, all because they tried to solve this poly substance overdose crisis mostly just by taking away the proper pain care from millions of non abusing chronic pain patients and focused only on blaming patients, doctors, and drug companies, rather than on getting the proper addiction treatment to those who truly needed it. And by taking away proper pain care from millions of patients who need opioids and who use them responsibly, these policies have killed many more innocent people who otherwise would not have died, and this has only enriched the drug dealers and the heroin and fentanyl cartels.

      The massive draconian steps that were taken to deprive tens of millions of aging baby boomers who are suffering from serious chronic pain and even cancer pain that have caused hundreds of suicides, and the torture and death of millions of other patients has done NOTHNG whatsoever to prevent, treat, or stop any opioid drug abuse, or any opioid overdoses in any way or in any amount whatsoever, because no problem can ever be solved by creating public policies without having ALL of the pertinent facts laid on the table beforehand, and these policies were all only based upon one sided, extremely biased, and self serving false narratives that would not otherwise have stood up to scrutiny had all the facts been laid out for everyone to evaluate from both sides of the issue. It was all very wrong and it was also a serious red flag warning when the perspectives of chronic pain patients and their doctors, and the pain specialist doctors with pro opioid perspectives were all deliberatly excluded from the table of discussion, and when opioid policies were written without any input from chronic pain patients or their doctors even being allowed, and without even considering any of the needs of these tens of millions of patients, and without any of their consent. This is what can happen when both sides of each issue are not discussed from all perspectives. This should not ever be forgotten in the future!

      Anyway, for three years these so called guidelines were weaponized, made into draconian state and federal laws and were used to torture millions of innocent pain patients such that the very Marquis de Sade would have been very pleased, and some chronic pain patients have died outright directly, and at least six hundred have committed suicide directly due to these horrible inhumane and unethical laws and public policies, and all of our protests and screams for help and calls for sanity and rational discussions were all completely ignored during all of these years! And so just where were all of these members of the CDC when all of this terrible inhumane suffering and dying of chronic pain patients was and still is happening? Were they all living somewhere under a rock with their ignorant, biased and prejudiced heads in the sand? Why didn’t the CDC ever bother to speak up if their guideline was all being so misapplied by State and federal governments? Where have they all been, up on the moon?! Now, the CDC says that they never intended for any of this to happen! I truly find that extremely hard to believe! They, PROP, AK, and all the rest have all completely failed to take ANY real responsibility for any of the extremely cruel, unethical, and inhumane crimes that they have all willfully and deliberatly committed upon millions of vulnerable, innocent medical patients who cannot defend themselves very well because they are all so ill and are in so much pain, and these CDC members have all just simply stood by silently for these entire past three years while these millions of patients were seriously harmed and while hundreds of the compassionate doctors who had done their utmost to try to provide proper medical pain care for these medically complex and seriously ill and suffering patients, have often even been drummed out of the entire medical profession and criminalized by the hundreds, just for providing good medical care!

      Kolodney just made $500,000 for being an expert witness in his first anti-opioid lawsuit. And this is just the first one, out of 2,000 other planned lawsuits against drug companies who have done nothing else wrong other than to manufacture legal opioid pain medications and be a for profit company! Then, while these for profit drug companies are all being demonized for being for profit capitalists, these very same politicians will then scream about creeping socialism in regards to single payer health care, when it is really our out of control capitalism that is the much bigger problem. Don’t they realize that we cannot always have things both ways? And are we not a proudly capitalistic country? So then what else should we expect from any for profit capitalistic company except that they make a profit? Persecuting opioid drug companies for making a profit, just because they make legal opioid drugs used in medical care, and that are opioid drugs that every single doctor on earth all know that these opioid medications can be addictive for some people, is all truly and completely idiotic, especially when their foremost persecutor, Andrew Kolodney is making millions for HIMSELF off of the massively cruel suffering and death that HE has personally caused by his own much more monstrous deliberate lies and false narrative! He has caused much more harm, and to many MORE millions of Americans with chronic, cancer, and severe pain than the only three million opioid addicts that he treats! And his behavior is especially egregious because Kolodney is invested in pushing his own brand of opioid medication, Suboxone, on all of his opioid addicted patients at $300 per month, when the generic opioids that chronic pain patients usually take is only about $10-$30 per month! So who is really profiteering off of addictive opioid drugs here?

      Kolodney is obviously a self serving, mendacious, hypocrite who is much more unethical than any of the opioid drug manufacturers that he is paid to falsely testify against! This entire mess is absolutely monstrous! In fact the much greater scandal isn’t any prescription opioid crisis at all, it is the DELIBERATELY MANUFACTURED FALSE prescription opioid crisis that has been used by design to make billions of dollars in profits off of the massive suffering and death of millions of opioid addicts AND the deliberate torture and death deliberatly caused to happen to tens of millions of seriously ill chronic pain patients and that is now even harming suffering cancer patients by even depriving them of proper pain relief, and all were used as pawns in this devious, but extremely profitable game of making large sums of money off of the deliberate suffering and death caused to other people by using massive weaponized media lies, misinformation, and a deliberatly manufactured and entirely false narrative created solely just to achieve these same money making ends! This is a Pulitzer Prize worthy scandal for any ambitious journalist or writer much more skilled than I am to write up. Therefore, if anyone wants to take this on, I have all of the goods to back up everything that I say. I have all the evidence and all the facts I need. I’m just not much of a good writer, but this false opioid crisis scandal truly makes Russiagate and Watergate look like nothing, or like tiny bathtub battles played out by toddlers with their toy boats!

      Thank you to everyone who comments here! Keep on fighting for justice and for proper pain care, and never give up. God truly is on OUR side, and so am I! I love all of you guys, no matter what happens! Truth and brotherly and sisterly love is the only way! May God bless you all!

  • Mr. Red Lawhern is on point with his commentary. The chronic pain community is suffering daily due to the misguided CDC guidelines – taken as law (also DEA enforcement going way overboard). There are people suffering needlessly because of threats being made on physican’s who prescribe opiates for their patient’s who need them. This is counter-intuitive as well as being an inhumane. What happened to Hippocratic Oath? Do NO harm? Our doctor’s are being threatened for treating their patient’s with the knowledge they’ve acquired through years of training and medical school. How on earth does this help anyone? Chronic pain patient’s are not the problem in this country. Narcotic’s have been used for thousands of years. If these drugs were addictive we’d have a true crisis. Personally, I have had to take narcotics since age eleven. Autoimmune disorders can occur in anyone predisposed… It’s not a choice anyone would purposely make. #endthemadness Let us live the best life possible.

  • I don’t think help will come soon enough. I still carry a letter from my surgeon stating that not getting the higher level of opoids will greatly affect my health and quality of life. It’s from 2018, prior to him being forced to taper his patients and send us to pain management or lose his surgical privileges.
    Now this is a reality. The climic doesn’t care. Now he wants to change my script a fourth time to suboxone and back injections that leave me helpless.
    I really love my daughter and grandsons and every one days sucide is selfish, but they don’t libe in my body. They sleep while I cry the night away. My 4 year old brings me an ice pack when I can’t get out of bed and doesn’t understand why I can’t take him to the park like last year. He has even been to the doctors with me and innocently told them, “I don’t want my Naff to hurt.”
    I try to explain, but his comment is, “That’s stupid,” and I agree.
    If the CDCs number were right my large family of 9 grandchildren, their spouses and children, at least 3 to 4 would be ADDICTS! From knee surgery to cancer, to organ transplants, and I am the only one in chronic pain.
    I survived cancer, 16 surgeries before I was 18. 4 additional ones. A total hysterectomy at 22 fron scar tissue.
    I live in SC and the nearest specialist is in Texas. My OBGYN now refuses to even examine me due to shearing pain.
    Opoids kept me moving which kepy the scar tissue soft. Now without them I live in my bed. I am single, so I am totally alone 90% of the time.
    My savings is almost gone, paying others to do the simple things I can no longer do.
    Horrific that I have to pay someone to now help me bath.
    WHAT KIND OF LIFE IS THIS?
    I want to live, but my daughter lives 2 hours away. They come get me every 3 or 4 months, but hell, the in between time is a nightmare.
    I have hung in there praying that the government will come to their senses, but I really don’t think they will. And I don’t think I’ll make it to 58!
    I just want to see my last grandson born healthy ad my daughter is having her tubes tied.
    Please pray for me to last till the end of this month and make it home.
    If this suboxone doesn’t help, I keep a loaded 38 with hollow points at the foot of my bed. I won’t leave a mess for my daughter to deal with, I’ll go to the car!

  • I am one of those patients who has had my life and ability to just about everything since my meds have been decreased multiple times. I suffer from RSD and have been under the care of pain management for 20+years. I’ve been at the mercy of my present PM doctor and must submit to useless and harmful injections. I actually fell and made my hip pain worse because the injection caused my leg to completely collapse and eventhough my walker was inches away when my leg collapsed there was no time to grab it to stop the fall. I’ve never abused my meds and don’t drink alcohol. Now I finally have an opportunity to try medical marijuana but my doctor’s group isn’t allowed to prescribe and will cut me off if I do go to the only doctor’s group that do prescribe it but they don’t prescribe opioids. I just want to live again, take a walk, clean my house and have a life that consists of more than sitting in my recliner and only driving to doctor appointments.
    I was able to garden, attend church and travel before my meds were reduced. Being diagnosed with RSD has not even been acknowledged it or offered a change of the same narcotic I’ve been taking for over 8 years.
    I pray that someone will stop the madness and give us whatever dosage or combination of medication so we who suffer won’t die of heart disease or something else caused by our inability to function and have a life again. I understand that no pill can take away all of the pain but a therapeutic level allows us enough relief to be active. I’m 56 and a widow and I live alone.
    Thank you for your article and concern about this terrible situation.

  • WTF! They need to put hard limits on the length of these comments. I’m interested in everybody’s input, not having to read a whole book on one persons thoughts! Geez.

    • I have been on Pain Management for 18+ years & last January 2019 I had my pain meds stopped & I almost died from it. I ended up having seizures & spent 2 weeks hospitalized to recover. I then had to go to a pain management clinic & was given injections in my spine & low dose Percocet. Ever 30-35 days I must go to the PMC(Pain Management Clinic) just to get a 25 day refill. If my next appointment at the PMC is 30+ days, I must spread my meds thin which screws me up more. In Nov. 2019 I didn’t have enough meds so I took a 5 yr old pain med I had in my cupboard to make sure I had some sort of relief the till my next appt. I didn’t realize take an old med violated the rules. Well, I was drug tested in Nov. 2919 & 2 weeks ago was called by the doctor & told I am an addict & my pains meds have been pulled. Oh, I also have to go to drug counciling. I AM NOT AN ADDICT. Now I am marked for life as an addict. I never abused pain meds because I needed them to manage my pain so I could live & move somewhat normal.
      We must do something about this. People who are pain management patients are not the problem. Doctors took oaths to “First do no harm”. What is happening to us is doing us harm! Thank you for what you are doing. (I have scoliosis & have had 3 major back surgeries & am pending another surgery) Well must all band together & help to fix this injustice. I feel terrible for what I did but I am no addict & being labeled as one is very upsetting. I am getting to old for shaming. Richard A. “Red” Lawhern, Ph.D. is a bright light to help those of us who depend on opioids to live a semi normal life. Thank you “RED”!

  • Thank you once again Mr. Lawson for staunchly standing up for those of us among the millions of vulnerable, innocent chronic pain patients who are forced to suffer from serious pain caused by our incurable, painful medical conditions, and who are now suffering and dying even more so because of all of the cruel, insane, and misbegotten public policies that have taken away our access to the adequate doses of the prescription opioid medications that were the only effective treatments that have ever helped treat our serious chronic pain.

    As you know, these terrible laws and policies are all based upon a massive number of extremely biased lies, and on fear, ignorance, greed, and prejudice, and the entirely false narrative that was deliberatly put out in the media everywhere by PROP and by Andrew Kolodney, PhD, an addiction psychologist from Brandeis who is NOT a medical doctor and who cannot even prescribe any medications to any patients, and who has zero education or experience with treating ANY medical patient for any medical pain condition at all! His group of anti-opioid fanatics called PROP are not advocating for any “responsible opioid prescribing,” far from it! Instead this group is puritanically lobbying that there be no prescribing of any opioids at all to any medical patients at all, as a supposed way to stop the occurrence of opioid addiction, as if all opioid addiction were ONLY caused by the mere exposure to only medically prescribed opioid pain medications! This group appears to be totally ignorant that anyone could ever first come into contact with any illegal street opioid drugs, as being a possible cause of any opioid addiction, as if all opioid addiction can ONLY begin with a prescription! This is mad! Perhaps they may also falsely believe it is just God’s will that some patients must suffer, like those millions of us with chronic pain, I don’t know. However, they are a group entirely made up of some of the world’s most extreme anti-opioid fanatics, and so then why should THEIR extreme views be allowed to dictate ALL medical pain care for ALL patients in America, especially when none of them have anywhere near the proper education or experience to do so?

    Some members of PROP have lied about their massive conflicts of interest, and they have repeatedly refused to accept the authority of the FDA in regards to all medications, including all opioid pain medications, because only the FDA, and not the CDC has this authority under federal law. This biased CDC panel used deliberatly falsified and exaggerated data, committed fraud, violated several other federal laws, and made their so called guideline in secret, refusing to allow for ANY public input or comment from pain patients. They also deliberately excluded ANY medical doctor experts in pain care from being on this CDC panel, or from having any input into it. So why did they do this, and what were they all so afraid of? Was it that they were afraid of hearing the truth? I think so.

    These members of PROP decided in advance to deliberatly single out innocent chronic pain patients and to take away their access to opioid pain medications in their guideline by falsely stating that opioids don’t work for treating any chronic pain, despite their having absolutely no evidence whatsoever to back up this false conclusion. Some PROP members have even gone so far lately as to create a year long phony, and extremely biased so called “scientific research study,” one that appears to have been deliberately reverse engineered in advance to somehow “prove” that Tylenol actually works better long term for treating all chronic pain than do any opioids, because medical research of this kind lasting over a twelve month period is sorely lacking, and because they wanted to “prove” that no chronic pain patients ever need to take any opioids at all because they are extremely biased and prejudiced against chronic pain patients for some reason. They have even widely touted this research study online by (falsely) stating that “the definitive evidence is finally out and that Tylenol, not opioids works best for all chronic pain,” even though this research is premature at best, and will require further study long before it is ever considered to be anywhere near definitive! It is also well known that fake so called scientific research studies can be created and made to look good even though the entire process was reverse engineered to come to a predetermined conclusion, and unfortunatly our entire medical scientific database is full of this kind of deliberately falsified trash research, causing harm to many patients. And so, all medical practitioners need to beware when interpreting any medical research. It also boggles my mind that any chronic pain patient would ever commit suicide from their under treated severe pain after having their opioid pain meds all taken away from them if it were really true that all that they had had to do was to take two Tylenol! Gee, how come no one ever told them! Duh!

    And perhaps much of this apparent inappropriate and unethical behavior being committed by the members of PROP was all because they had already decided to be involved in lawsuits intended to be filed against Purdue pharma, the maker of OxyContin, which is a highly abused new opioid drug that was marketed mostly to chronic pain and cancer patients. This entire project by these members of PROP was perhaps done all so that Kolodney and perhaps others in this PROP group could then make millions of dollars as paid expert witnesses working for the same law firms who were planning to sue these drug companies, law firms that they had ALREADY contracted with for this express purpose even BEFORE this CDC guideline was even written!

    In addition Kolodney has stock in the drug company that makes Suboxone, an addiction treatment opioid antagonist drug that he widely uses in his practice at his Phoenix House rehab centers. Therefore, if Kolodney could then say that the between 18 and 26 million chronic pain patients in America who use opioids, and who say that they need opioids to treat their medical pain, are all really just a bunch of opioid addicts, a false statement that he has now made publicly multiple times, and if he can convince policy makers that chronic pain patients who use opioids to treat their pain are all just a bunch of opioid addicts and all they really need is Tylenol, then he can greatly expand the number of potential users of Suboxone from just those one percent of the population in America who do suffer from true opioid addiction, which is about one percent of the population or between 2 and 3 million people, to now include as many as 26 million more people who suffer from chronic pain, and then on top of that he can make even more money by getting all of these pain patients to go into his for profit opioid addiction treatment centers! After all, pain patients in general are older, have more money and have much better health insurance than do opioid addicts! Kolodney also got Congress to allocate 6 billion dollars more for opioid drug treatment, monies that he will certainly financially benefit from, as now even more opioid addicts can utilize his very same for profit Phoenix House opioid drug treatment centers!

    Then, Kolodney dared to lie by stating on the written CDC guideline that he actually had ZERO conflicts of interest, and then he goes on and dares to falsely accuse all pain patient advocates who ever oppose any of his extreme ideas, of all being in the pockets of the opioid drug companies, and of not really being interested in caring for the welfare of these patients! This is all vile hypocrisy! Kolodney is now getting exhorbitant expert witness fees for his extremely biased anti-opioid opinions, ones that he is daring to swear to perhaps by even lying under oath to receive as much as $500,000 per trial in the upcoming 2,000 lawsuits that have been filed against all of the prescription opioid drug manufacturers! They way things are going, it seems that Kolodney stands to make tens of millions of dollars for himself while both the millions of patients in pain and all of the opioid addicts in America both will now suffer and die from his misbegotten policies and his copious, extremely biased lies! I will bet that you can just guess exactly how most of those 26 million chronic pain patients, including myself, who have all had their opioid pain medications severely reduced or taken away by Kolodney, PROP, and the CDC all feel about THIS man!

    And all of this greed is based only upon these lies and the entirely self serving false narrative that Kolodney and PROP have deliberately created, one that is only based on extremely biased and prejudicial statistics taken out of context and upon the falsified data that they used to create a deliberately manufactured false conclusion by falsely saying that the so called “opioid overdose crisis” was all only caused by greedy drug companies who lied to ignorant or unscrupulous doctors about the addiction potential of their products, just to sell more drugs and to make more money, causing these “naive” doctors to then “overprescribe” these opioids to their patients, and leading to a nonexistent increase in opioid addiction rates and to the subsequent real overdoses. This idea is ridiculous to anyone who understands the real facts. First of all, all medical doctors are aware that all opioid medications can be addictive for SOME but not all patients. There are no doctors who do not know this fact! And Purdue Pharma NEVER said that OxyContin was NOT addictive at all for some people, only that a careful Cochran review of the literature had reported that for carefully screened chronic pain patients that the addiction rate was very low, like around 1 percent, and this fact has actually stood up to the test of time in a great many other medical research studies from all around the world, even though the CDC deliberatly omitted all of this research, and even if Kolodney disagrees with it. The real problem with OxyContin wasn’t really it’s addictive potential for chronic pain patients to use it as directed to treat pain, but it’s addictive, abuse and overdose potential for those drug abusers who chose to misuse it. Drug abusers, who are not likely to be given any prescriptions for any opioids, but who could get them on the black market, the dark web, or from pill mills or from other places rather than from legitimate doctors, found out that they could crush and snort OxyContin and then they would get the entire twelve hours worth of opioid medication all at once, giving them a huge rush of euphoria, something that no real chronic pain patient would ever want to do or ever think to do either. And because of this problem Perdue reformulated OxyContin so that it could no longer be crushed, but then drug abusers just boiled it and injected it instead. Yet this is not a problem caused by the appropriate medical use of any opioid medication at all, but is entirely a problem caused by the deliberate misuse of these opioids for non medical purposes. So then why should innocent pain patients and their legitimate doctors be the ones who are being forced to pay because of other people’s misuse of drugs? It just doesn’t make any sense. We don’t punish all responsible car owners and take away all of their cars because some other people drink and drive irresponsibly and then kill people. So why are we doing this? Kolodney, PROP, and the CDC Panel continue to spin this entirely false narrative of evil greedy drug companies and ignorant naive doctors causing an opioid crisis by “overprescribing” despite the fact that even the CDC’s OWN data actually proves something completely different, that America is really experiencing an illicit poly drug overdose and illicit fentanyl overdose problem, and not one caused mainly by any prescriptions written by any legitimate doctors for the proper pain care of any of their legitimately ill chronic pain patients! Drug abuse and addiction problems are also mainly a problem of the young, so that most opioid and other drug addicts and abusers are under forty, whereas most chronically ill patients with severe chronic pain are over fifty years of age and above, and this group of patients are NOT prone to developing drug abuse and addiction unless they had already experienced drug abuse or addiction during their younger years, and yet these seriously ill medical patients who take opioids for real physical pain and not for drug abuse purposes were the ONLY ones targeted to have THEIR appropriate opioid pain medications taken away from THEM, as if this could ever do anything whatsoever to stop a much younger, much healthier population of people from ever becoming opioid addicts in the first place, or that by doing this it could somehow ever stop other peoole’s opioid or poly drug abuse or overdose problems!

    These policies really make no sense at all if one actually looks at the entire issue logically, and is armed with all of the REAL facts in the case! And since Kolodney only treats opioid addicts, who are made up entirely of the very same one percent who DO have the genetic tendency to become opioid addicts, as well as who also suffer from trauma caused by child abuse and other issues, then he must often hear the narrative that these opioid addicts had once had a serious medical injury or a painful dental problem and then took a opioid pain pill and that this felt so good to them that it eventually led to their addiction problem. This is obviously because the one percent of people who are genetically prone to having this reaction to medical opioids, are the very same opioid addicts that Kolodney treats, but they are a very special and select population, they are not representative of all of the people in America! Opioid addiction is not an equal opportunity killer, any more than alcoholism is, as Native Americans are almost universally prone to alcoholism whereas Jews very rarely become alcoholics. This is because of a strong genetic susceptibility, one that Kolodney, if he is truly an addiction expert at all, MUST be aware of! It boggles my mind just how ignorant that Kolodney appears to be as far as addiction medicine is concerned. It forces me to believe that he is either deliberatly lying or that he is just blinded by his bias, his prejudice, or perhaps even his greed. Either way he obviously should not be allowed to dictate America’s entire public policy regarding the medical pain care of all suffering pain patients, as this is NOT even his area of supposed expertise, and he really ought to know better! It’s like a GP trying to do brain surgery, and no proper ethical doctor would ever even try it!

    There IS one percent of our population who are genetically prone to opioid addiction because they will get feeling extremely good, like Superman, whenever they take an opioid medication, and which then leads them to crave to take more. And because of the small percentage of those who are affected by this genetic tendency, the per capita percentage of opioid addicts has not risen in over 100 years, ever since records have been kept, even during this so called opioid crisis, because it’s not the NUMBER of ADDICTS that has increased, but the NUMBER of OVERDOSES that have increased, and these overdoses were mostly due to poly pharmacy and fentanyl all along, and the CDC deliberatly chose to ignore this, causing widespread harm and death to go on unnoticed! However, between 98 and 99 percent of the rest of us are NOT genetically prone to opioid addiction, as we will only initially become nauseated and feel dizzy when taking a prescription opioid as needed to treat our physical pain, and this is NOT a pleasant experience that we will ever want to repeat, as we only take our opioid pain medication as needed to relieve our temporary moderate to severe pain, and then we will have to go and lie down until we feel better. And many people cannot even tolerate taking opioid pain medication at all because of these same unpleasant side effects, including sometimes severe constipation! The vast majority of people will then stop taking these opioid pain pills when they no longer have so much pain and don’t need them and they will then wean themselves off of them as they recover, and they will NEVER desire to ever use these opioids again for any non medical reasons. The real truth is that opioid pain medications are not really all that appealing to most people at all! How does anyone suppose that all of those unused opioid pain pills ever get to be in so many American people’s medicine cabinets otherwise? Because if all of those prescription opioid pain pills were all so highly addictive, and were all so enjoyable to take, then why would so many Americans who once had a prescription for them ever go and leave any of these opioid pain pills just sitting around forgotten in their medicine cabinets for so long unused, because if they had all became addicted to them then there would obviously be none left over at all! They would have taken them all and gone on to get more, if they were all so very pleasurable or addictive to take, just as cookies and ice cream never lasts for very long in my house. And otherwise, if every person in America who were ever prescribed an opioid pain killer would then always go on to develop a true opioid addiction, and if opioid addiction really is such an equal opportunity addictor, then America would now have at least 250 million opioid addicts instead of the usual one percent, or about 3 million opioid addicts out of a population of 320 million Americans, a per capita percentage of opioid addicts that hasn’t changed in the entire 100 years of recorded medical history! So obviously the entire hysterical, over the top premise that all prescription opioid pain medications are all so equal opportunity addictive and will addict everyone and anyone who ever takes any of them after five days, causing everyone who takes them to overdose on them, and the entire narrative put out by the CDC just cannot be even remotely true for all but a small subset of genetically vulnerable people, who are about 1% of the population! So do we take away proper medical care and pain treatment from 99 percent of all Americans over concerns about 1 percent of the population? I say that that is insane! Do we throw diabetics under the bus and take away their insulin because we are worried about people with hypertension? Of course not! Do we limit diabetics to 10 units of insulin per day because a few diabetics got depressed and overdosed themselves on their insulin? Imagine trying to treat hypertension or any other chronic disease by arbitrarily limiting the number of milligrams of their medication that could be taken. Patients would die! And now pain patients ARE dying, and they are also suffering needlessly by the millions because it doesn’t help opioid addicts or abusers any to take opioid pain medications away from those patients who truly need them and who are using them properly. It ought to be obvious to everyone that we cannot solve the inappropriate and illegitimate use of opioids by taking away the appropriate and legitimate use of opioids to treat medical pain! What are we all thinking!

    Yet this entirely false narrative, one stating that evil, “greedy” drug companies and “overprescribing” doctors were deliberatly getting patients “hooked” on opioids, or “heroin pills,” as Kolodney calls any opioid pain medicine, and was what caused an “opioid overdose crisis,” was exactly what was deliberately touted over and over again on every single media outlet in America in overblown and sensationalistic, biased, one sided stories by using a public relations firm that was hired by PROP for this very purpose, and also to predjudice the minds of the very jury pools that would be used during the lawsuits and trials that Kolodney and PROP were already planning to become involved with, and that they all planned to profit from for many years, long before they ever wrote this so called CDC guideline!

    This terrible false “guideline,” is all entirely based on prejudice, fear, and lies and has now been made into ever more draconian laws in over 30 states and in the federal government affecting VA care. The result of creating this so called guideline is that it has taken away adequate pain care from tens of millions of vulnerable, hurting, defenseless, poor, aging, disabled Americans and even our wounded returning veterans, causing them all massive suffering and death. And this was all put into place by very well meaning, but unwitting, and scientifically uneducated legislators and politicians who were all overly concerned about a widely touted so called prescription opioid overdose crisis that did not and does not really exist, all the while completely ignoring the very real poly pharmacy, fentanyl, and suicide crisis and the lack of treatment for these problems that does really exist. This has only made a bad situation much worse because a problem that started out affecting about 3 million Americans has now become a much greater problem that affects the same 3 million Americans AND that now affects another 26 million American pain patients who suffer from serious pain and who truly need their opioid pain medications and now cannot get them!

    And the more that Kolodney, PROP, and the CDC could brainwash and taint the jury pool with media sensationalism, misinformation, fear, predjudice and lies the bigger that the financial settlements would be in these upcoming lawsuits against deep pocketed opioid drug companies, and especially Purdue, the maker of OxyContin that was marketed mostly to chronic pain patients, the very same ones targeted by Kolodney, PROP, and the CDC Panel! Hmmm, I wonder why? Can you guess? I can!

    This entire so called prescription opioid overdose crisis was never simply just about prescription opioid drug abuse and addiction, the average person who overdosed and who still overdoses, dies because of using six or more different drugs, both legal and illegal, as well as alcohol, and often in lethal combinations, whereas if only prescription opioids alone had been used in the majority of cases these people would NOT have even died. It’s not really as easy as one may think to die of only a prescription opioid overdose. It is not considered to be a very lethal form of committing suicide, for instance. The CDC also failed to consider that about 20 percent of drug overdoses, including opioid overdoses are actually deliberate suicides. It is often very hard to tell because all suicides don’t leave notes, and many drug abusers are despondent and don’t really care at the time that they are drinking or drugging whether they live or die, and family members don’t want to speak ill of the dead or tell examiners if their loved one was depressed or suicidal, and many don’t know, and it cannot easily be determined. Also lately how many new overdoses are from pain patients committing suicide from under treated pain, or from being depressed due to their disability and having to live in pain with loss of function and no hope of cure and little hope of pain relief? The data collected by our federal government concerning drug abuse, data that is truly needed to tease apart the many complex causes of drug addiction and drug abuse, the drugs used, or most of the other complex variables and factors involved in the difficult problem of drug abuse, drug addiction, versus the proper medical use of opioids, and also to differentiate unintentional overdoses from intentional suicides, is not nearly as reliable as it truly needs to be. Forensics data collection and tabulation varies too much between states and is not very reliable. Therefore, we truly need to improve this for the future. However, the data did not and does not, as Red Lawson says above, point to opioid prescriptions being the real CAUSE of this opioid or poly drug abuse overdose problem. This overdose crisis does involve opioids, but NOT mostly opioids prescribed to legitimate patients by legitimate doctors for real medical pain! The main culprit was and still is is illicit street fentanyl, a drug that the CDC deliberatly listed as being a prescription opioid when it was not, and perhaps they did so just to inflate the number of so called prescription overdose deaths. When the numbers are corrected, there are only half as many prescription opioid overdose deaths as the CDC first said, and an even smaller number were overdoses that took place by the person to whom the opioids were prescribed. And how many of those were suicide attempts, because chronic pain patients have double or triple the rate of suicide as other people? We just don’t know. So, it was mainly this street fentanyl that was causing the real rise in opioid related drug overdoses, because this street fentanyl is sold on the street in unknown dosages and with unknown contents by drug dealers, and this fentanyl can be 50 times more potent than heroin or 150 times more potent than morphine! No wonder that people were and are still overdosing! Patients, drug abusers and addicts are MUCH LESS likely to overdose when they are using certified real prescription opioids rather than street opioids because prescription opioids are of a reliable standard known dosage and content. Addicts and abusers who only want to get high and who don’t want to die or to overdose can simply just use their normal dosage of prescription opioids and stay fairly safe from overdosing as long as they do not combine them with other drugs or alcohol. That is why prescription opioids are preferred by addicts and abusers because they are safer and more reliable. Street opioids, even pills bought on the street that are called prescription opioids may or may not be the real thing, and could actually be made out of fentanyl powder pressed into pills instead. This is another big way that street opioids can kill. It is well known that certified prescription opioids are twenty times SAFER for both patients and drug addicts and abusers to use than street opioids. Therefore, severely cutting off the supply of much safer prescription opioids in 2016, without simultaneously providing the needed drug abuse treatment resources, then forced drug abusers and addicts to use twenty times more UNSAFE street opioids like heroin, except that that heroin was now laced with fifty times more powerful street fentanyl! No wonder that after enacting these government policies severely restricting access to safer prescription opioids, that even more addicts and abusers then died! It would have been much safer to continue to allow drug abusers and pain patients both to continue to uses these safer prescription opioids and just to focus more on getting addicts and abusers into proper drug treatment, rather than to take away the safer opioids and send people to heroin and fentanyl street drug dealers where more would obviously die! I thought that these government officials were addiction experts, or is this just about greed and corruption?

    And these very same horrible public policies have also caused patients with severe pain to be ripped off of their stable regimens of the opioid analgesics that had worked fairly well for them for many years, even for twenty or more years, now leaving them to suffer increased pain and even withdrawal, often both at the same time and often even without ANY taper at all because of their terrified doctors. We do not even treat drug addicts that badly at the methadone clinics. Addicts always get a taper, but not these suffering pain patients. I know of two deaths of men who had cardiac conditions and who were paralyzed disabled men who suffered severe pain from their serious incurable medical conditions and who were ripped off of all of their high dose prescription opioid medications all at once by their doctor and just sent home, and who both died of heart attacks caused by the severe stress of having to undergo opioid withdrawal without any taper and who also had a recurrence of their severe pain both at the same time, and who died at home in their beds in severe pain, dying of heart attacks and unable to even call anyone for help! This is outrageous medical malpractice and perhaps it is even negligent homicide! Their doctor was so terrified of the DEA, and by opiophobia, and the fear of addiction, or FOA, and fear of a possible opioid overdose, and of possibly losing his medical license and going to jail that he actually killed two of his pain patients! Tens of millions of chronic pain patients from our aging baby boomer population, who are now suffering from chronic incurable medical conditions have now been forcibly tapered to lower ineffective doses, or taken off of all of their opioid pain medications, all supposedly just to keep them safe from opioid overdoses and addiction, even though they had all been taking these drugs safely for many years with only constipation as a side effect, and even though they had followed their pain contracts to the tee, they were drug tested and had always passed, they only used one doctor and one pharmacy, and they had NEVER overdosed, and had never sold or had ever given any of their drugs to anyone and always kept them locked up. Their doctors all knew that these patients were reliable, compliant adults, over fifty years old who needed their pain medication, but they had no choice but to take their meds away because of the State and federal laws made because of this horrible 2016 CDC guideline, and because of the very real fear of DEA overreach, where even Dr. Forrest Tennant, the world’s most renowned expert on chronic pain was himself investigated and prosecuted for so called “overprescribing” by the DEA, who know NOTHING at all about proper medical pain care and who are not medical doctors themselves.

    The DEA operate by using Gestappo like tactics, such as by using armed raids of his office and by the confiscation of all of his property and bank accounts, and by even making it extremely difficult for him to hire a proper attorney as a tactic to try to force him to just plead guilty because they had frozen all of his bank accounts. These kind of tactics, those that were designed to only be used on drug kingpins, and were not ever designed to be used on any doctors, are wholly inappropriate leftovers from our failed War on Drugs and are not appropriate methods to ever use on any medical doctor at all! Just an investigation, a lawsuit, or a prosecution of this kind can bankrupt even an innocent doctor, as even though Tennant’s case was dropped for lack of evidence, this was so traumatic to him that he has finally left the practice of medicine, leaving all of his high dose seriously ill patients with nowhere to turn. Thousands of doctors have been prosecuted in this way, mostly pain specialists, because the DEA cannot differentiate between legitimate pain specialist doctors and pill mill doctors. This is because the DEA entirely lacks the training to do so, and so the regulation of the practice of medicine in each state must be returned once and for all to the State Boards of Medicine who can oversee medical practice, discipline providers, and refer any appropriate cases to the State Attorney Generals if needs be, and not the DEA. The DEA needs to stick to focusing only on interdicting illegal drugs instead. This kind of police state overreach has also caused hundreds of badly needed pain specialist doctors to entirely leave the practice of pain care, or to even give up medicine altogether. Few new pain specialists are now going into this important specialty practice because it is just too dangerous to do so, leaving the very most vunerable patients who suffer from the most extreme kinds of pain to have nowhere to turn, and making getting an appointment with a pain specialist almost impossible. Millions of patients suffering from severe chronic pain are now being denied any medical care at all because medical practices are all mostly refusing to care for them out of fear. This is illegal discrimination and patient abandonment, but doctors fear the DEA even more. Unlike many opioid addicts who often refuse treatment, pain patients truly want proper medical care but can’t get it, and there is insufficient and very poor quality of care for both pain patients AND opioid addicts in America today because far too much money is being wasted on law enforcement not on patient care. It is as if caring about anyone other than only looking out for one’s self only, has become a very serious crime in America today!

    This crisis will continue to get worse until the CDC rewrites and corrects their horrible guideline, and the terrible and misguided State and federal laws are repealed, and the DEA is told to back off or else it is disbanded and the failed War on Drugs is finally ended, and until laws are passed restoring the rights of doctors to be free to practice medicine and to treat pain appropriately, with opioids if indicated, and in adequate doses without any fears of undue prosecution or loss of medical license. Opiophobia must end and America must return to sanity and compassionate medical care for ALL patients in pain or otherwise. There must be access for both pain patients AND opioid addicts and abusers to proper treatment for either addiction and abuse on the one hand, or pain treatment with adequate modalities including opioids on the other hand. And the fear and predjudice must be overcome with the truthful knowledge, that some patients who suffer from severe chronic pain CAN be safely managed on opioids for long periods of time and CAN function well or better on them then they will off of them and they CAN do so without ever overdosing or becoming opioid addicted. The difference between addiction and dependence must be understood, and all of the biases and prejudices overcome. I hope that this time comes very soon, before any more people have to die needless deaths due to this fear and ignorance! And I pray that America will finally join the rest of the civilized world and finally provide single payer, non profit health care for all Americans that includes medical care, mental health and addiction treatment, and dental care and that we stop criminalizing and incarcerating people for their medical and mental health problems, and stop criminalizing and persecuting the doctors, nurses and caregivers who care for them.

    • Susan, you said “even though Tennant’s case was dropped for lack of evidence, this was so traumatic to him that he has finally left the practice of medicine, leaving all of his high dose seriously ill patients with nowhere to turn.”

      This is not exactly true. I am a former Tennant patient and his practice was taken over by Dr. Margaret Aranda at the last minute. Granted, my doses of OxyContin are gone but she currently has me on high-dose oxycodone and I’m feeling pretty good these days. I am in agreement with you on other topics you discussed in your comment.

  • I too suffer from failed spinal fusion surgery- 16 years ago. The pain doesn’t end. I don’t think the public realizes that people live with daily pain as we do, I never did, until I was one of them. To think that we “choose to live this way” are somehow “drug seekers” or “abusers” is a sick joke. Most of us have been through all forms of NSAIDs, PT, TENS, acupuncture, chiropractic, bio-feedback, injections, rejections (I feel like Alice’s Restaurant) to rid our bodies of pain. The ONLY real relief for me is from opioid medications prescribed by a doctor. I don’t appreciate MCS telling my doctor or myself what medication amount works for me. How do they know? A blanket 90mme is supposed to keep one safe? I’ve been prescribed opioids for 16 years, the same dosage for 13 of them. I know how my body reacts to this medication better than anyone, even my doctor. I know what what works. To take that away from me, to make me live in horrible pain where all I can do is sit or lie in bed is like putting me in jail for a crime that I didn’t commit plus adding torture. We treat our pets much better than this. The CDC policies that have lead to this are unconstitutional and discriminatory. The MCS morphine equivalent rules are against US ADA laws which state that those with disabilities are not to be discriminated against.

    Enough. Deal with drug addiction as the medical issue that it is. Use other countries for examples as to what works. (Portugal, Netherlands, Switzerland) Stop confusing chronic pain patients with drug addicts. They are 2 different peoples. We are seeking pain relief, addicts are seeking a “euphoria”. We have consistent dosages, they need ever-increasing dosages. The “War on Doctors” needs to stop. They did not cause the opioid OD problem. It is and was street drugs. Look at the CDC’s own statistics that Red Lawhern has made easily available. If you are looking for a windfall from Big Pharma by trying to prove that long-term opioids don’t work for chronic pain, I’m here to state that they most definitely DO work. If this is a way to get rich on the backs of the chronic pain community you lawyers and politicians are shameful. Addicts choose to abuse opioids. You cannot blame a manufacturer who is trying to help those in pain for what a drug abuser does. Personal responsibility rather than trying to lay blame at someone else’s expense. In this case it’s chronic pain patients paying the price and you have that on your hands.

    • Alice Carroll, I tip my hat to you for your convincing and sincere commentary. You have spoken for my late wife, whose thoughts and experiences are eerily similar to your own. Over the past decade-plus, you and she have truly been “sisters in suffering” though unknown to each other.

      Moreover she would agree that to trigger anxiety caused by the opioid “crisis” (the CDC fiasco) on top of the pain of innocent patients, many elderly— considering that chronic pain is partially relieved after each prescribed dosage — is a shameful national tragedy. No matter how well-intentioned, it is a form of bureaucratically imposed torture.

      The message that needs to be stated by the CDC and their fellow alarmists is this: “We were wrong to pronounce or even insinuate that opioid medications are a problem irrespecrtive of how responsibly they are justified, prescribed by qualified medical professionals, and distributed by licensed pharmacies. Therefore, after thoughtful review, we rescind our earlier reporting.”

  • We need government to get out of Healthcare! No doctor should face prosecution from law enforcement who knows nothing about medicine or helping pain patients to live productive lives with Opioids. This demonization of legal prescription opioids has to stop! It’s Big Government’s attempt to get big money from the Opioid manufacturers, and replace the tobacco settlement money that has run out. Same playbook. OPIOIDS DO NOT ADDICT PAIN PATIENTS UNLESS THEY ARE GIVEN FOR THE WRONG KIND OF PAIN SUCH AS BACK PAIN WHICH IS INFLAMMATORY! There are some types of back pain which involve nerves and that’s the ONLY thing that helps with that. EVERYONE IS JUST A STEP AWAY FROM HAVING AN ACCIDENT, CANCER, SURGERY, ETC. YOU WILL NOT BELIEVE THE AGONY UNTIL YOU GO THROUGH IT!!! DEMAND YOUR GOVERNMENT TO GIVE OPIOIDS BACK TO PAIN PATIENTS!!!

    • You are one hundred percent correct, this issue WILL effect every one of us, at some point in our lives. I’m an RN. I’ve also got severe neck and lumbar issues. My husband was recently in the hospital and his roommate was around 80. He had just had hip surgery and his surgeon was trying to get him off whatever narcotic shot and switched to tramadol. For a hip surgery. He actually begged the nurse to just kill him. Of course, she explained she was not able to do that. Who is the government, to leave people in pain? What ever happened to quality of the one life we have? So so sad. And, no us chronic pain patients aren’t going to go find heroin or pills on the street. We’re just going to stop the pain.

  • Thank you for fighting for us, Red Lawhern!!! For anyone who want to join the fight, come join us on the Don’t Punish Pain Rally’s National FB page! We ARE fighting back!

  • Thank you for fighting for us, Red Lawhern!!! For anyone who want to join the fight, come join us on the Don’t Punish Pain Rally’s National FB page!

    • They cut the medication without Solution. What now? Isn’t this form of torture? Since then, emergency visits are skyrocket and people are turning to streets trying to find pain Relief. Please let the doctors do their job and manage their patients pain be a human being. Do you see the side effects are worse?

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