Treating patients as drug-seekers, and doctors as drug dealers; the DEA

26Mar06

I’ve only had this blog up and running for a couple of weeks now, but there are times when I already get frustrated trying to think up something to write about on a given day. I’ll go take a look at the day’s health news hoping some sort of inspiration will strike, but this past week it felt as though most of the week all I was finding was story after story about prescription drug abuse. I mean, we all understand, don’t we by now? I mean, don’t we? What’s odd is that we rarely hear about illicit drug abuse anymore. It seems that way to me at least. It feels very odd to me. I think it really skews our perceptions as to what’s actually happening out there :/

The ratio of drug abuse stories to health(y) news was so unbalanced the other day that I remarked to friends that I might just write about that instead of a “real” subject, but that is the real subject, isn’t it really? When I really think about it, it isn’t only the DEA coming down hard on the Doctors that’s causing them to refuse to treat patients’ chronic pain needs–it’s also what these Doctors themselves perceive, and if they also read all of these stories about rx drug abuse, well, the math tells me they get suspicious. Add that suspicion to the sorts of things they are taught and is it really any wonder that the emergency room is a migraineur’s worst nightmare? (and the Doctors think they dislike us.)

Sadly after contemplating all of that, I came across several fellow patients this weekend with horrible ER stories void of pain relief and full of feelings of being treated like drug-seekers even though they are not.

It’s not just patients who are treated as nefarious criminals these days though.

Treating Doctors as Drug Dealers

The Drug Enforcement Administration’s War On Prescription Painkillers

This is an excellent piece I found just as I was about to go to bed on Saturday night. This piece is about 30 pages long, and looks at why things have become so ridiculous with the DEA and pain meds. It delves into everything from why there aren’t more pain specialists to begin with, to just how the DEA’s focus from “the war on drugs” morphed into the war against legitimate pain medication (and subsequently against chronic pain patients and doctors).

In 1999, the DEA came under heavy criticism from Congress on the grounds that no “measurable proof” existed to show that it had reduced the country’s illegal drug supply […] The DEA now needed to find a new front for the war on drugs on which it could produce tangible, measurable results.

The Controlled Substances Act empowered the DEA to regulate all pharmaceutical drugs. […] In 2001, the DEA had already announced a major new antidrug campaign, the OxyContin Action Plan

This is apparently after much prompting from the Justice Department, with claims that the prescription drug ‘problem’ in the United States was equal to that of Cocaine. The OxyContin propaganda campaign that followed was incredibly successful as you’ll see in the piece. The author points out that theft is actually a major source of diversion of opioids, and not patients, yet the DEA and even the makers of OxyContin dispute this and continue to insist that Doctors and patients are the main source of diversion of these drugs and so, the investigations continue.

The DEA has also set up a hotline to report doctors whom patients suspect of over-prescribing, an odd move that further complicates the doctor-patient relationship

I never really considered the informant angle before, but now the paranoia and reluctance of some Doctors makes far more sense. It’s hard to believe things have gotten this bad. 😦 Please do take the time to read this piece. It’s long, but well worth it if pain impacts your life or the life of someone you love. And if you disagree with what’s happening, please write to your representatives.

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