60 Minutes Continues its Concentration on Pain Meds as a Problem

60 Minutes Continues its Concentration on Pain Meds as a Problem

60 Minutes continued its indirect assault on pain medication in a segment aired Sunday.

It featured Michael Botticelli, the so-called federal drug czar (director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy), who is himself, an admitted “12-stepper”.

Addiction…or disorder as he likes to call it…is an isolating event in the lives of people who need. He calls the 12-step meeting of Alcoholic Anonymous “miraculous”.

“We need to reduce the magnitude of opioid prescription,” said Botticelli, who also argued against the legalization of marijuana. “One in nine people who use marijuana become addicted to it,” he added.

Botticelli, and notably 60 Minutes correspondent Scott Pelley, didn’t talk about the pain medication issue (except from the point of view of addiction). No mention was made of chronic pain sufferers.

Here’s how some of the dialogue went:

  • 60 Minutes Correspondent: Scott Pelley: “What do you say to those who argue, and there are many, that if you lock down the southern border, you solve the drug problem?”
  • Michael Botticelli: “I think it’s overly simplistic to say that any one single strategy is going to really change the focus and change the trajectory of drug use. We know one of the drivers of heroin has been the misuse of pain medication. If we’re going todeal with heroin and heroin use in the United States, we really have to focus on reducing the magnitude of the prescription drug use issue.”

60 Minutes did a story in October that spoke to the connection between opioid pain medication and the increase in use (misuses) of heroin, particularly in Ohio.

It spawned a number of follow-up stories and responses from National Pain Report readers about the difficulty that the nation’s oldest news magazine was having in connecting the distinction between the responsible use of pain medication and those who misuse it.

As the Centers for Disease Control have reopened their public comment opportunity for people on new opioid guidelines, and pain sufferers continue to make the case that more sensibility needs to be ingrained in how we view the role of opioids in helping pain sufferers navigate their lives, it’s interesting that 60 Minutes – the nation’s best and most respected news magazine, continues to miss the big story…which is how narcotic pain medication can help many pain patients.

Thoughts?

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Authored by: Geoff Sims

There are 21 comments for this article
  1. Paul McCoy at 9:05 am

    ANGELA: This country is so corrupt it will never give up its love of money. They will always provide pain pills because it is to profitable. The country does recognize a problem. So they will legalize Cannibas (which is smart to do) and the constant focus will shift once again. You will have to keep looking for relief but it will come.

  2. I.Hollis at 9:02 am

    It seems that these federal agencies are incapable of dealing with the real problem of illegal drugs coming through our borders and had to create a boogie man in it’s place…doctors and prescription medicine, so they look like they are addressing the problem. Get rid of the heroin. Yes, treat the addicts , but stop lumping that together with innocent people who aren’t causing any crimes, have real pain and don’t abuse their medications. Patients are becoming more and more stigmatized and now are being denied medications, because of the illegal drug problem.

  3. Angela at 5:46 pm

    Reading this frightens me so much. I’ve already seriously considered suicide because of pain, and then got prescribed a pain medication that took it from a daily 10 to a 7, still awful, but not to a point of thinking daily of how I was going to take myself out. Reading what 60 Minutes reported, without even considering what severely, chronically pained people go through, and knowing how much more difficult it continues to get to obtain medications, and knowing that new specialists, pharmacies, anyone–have, and and will give me a suspicious look bc I take a narcotic, wondering if I’m an addict, or assuming I am…but my big fear is that some day, people who don’t know what pain, severe, chronic, for years, really feels like, will make the decision for me—that I can no longer take them, bc it’s somehow better for the country–well, the country might just have to deal with a lot of people like me–finding enough cemetery spots.

  4. Lynda Louisa Avallone at 4:41 pm

    This is a sore topic for many people. As I help advocate for people like me in excruciating pain, I hear a wide range of treatment and pain management care. I have patient who absolutely hate going to their doctor every month because they’re treated like drug addicts. As soon as they make that first call the first thing we often hear is ” Our doctors do not prescribe opioids. ” . That’s fine with many of us. Just control this excruciating pain. Then once they put you under a microscope and decide to allow you to make you the appointment to speak with pain management, it’s constant drug testing and pill counting and you better make sure you have every single pill in those bottles because they will drop you. Then blacklist you making it hard to find another local doctor. Then, if you don’t like a doctor, you’re afraid to switch because then you’re accused of doctor shopping.
    Don’t get me started on pharmacies. The looks. The whispers. The stares. The judgement. When you use the same pharmacy month after month you’d think they’d make sure they’d have your medication each month. Month after month they don’t. If you call to see if they have it before you send a family member/friend to get it or if you’re blessed to still be able to drive to get it. You’re labeled a seeker. Most pharmacies now have instructions to say they’re unable to give out that information. That annoys the heck out of me because I’ve been going to the same pharmacy for all of my medications for 20 yrs. They should know me by name and do not and I’ve been with pain management for 5 yrs. I decided to switch and my new pharmacy is wonderful. They know me by name and unlike the other pharmacy, they allow me to educate and advocate. I finally get respect.
    What person in their right mind would subject themselves to all of that if they didn’t have to. If all of us wanted to we could get illegal drugs even opioids. For many of us marijuana would work better but it’s illegal. I wish all states would make medicinal marijuana legal. You would have less drug influenced drivers. More productive employees. More pain patients in less pain. Not to mention all the other benefits.
    I’ve been fortunate to have a wonderful pain management doctor from day one. I have the rarest and more aggressive form of RSD/CRPS. From injury to diagnoses it was three weeks. It spread to full body including some organs, within eight months. My doctor doesn’t make trustworthy patients take drug tests and allows us to come every three months and that’s only because the law requires it. It saves us a lot of money. He’s also very open with me since I’ve become an advocate and have a support group. He’s very frustrated over new legislation and step-therapy. His opinion mirrors mine. Get rid of the doctors who over prescribe and who don’t follow the rules. Take their license away if it comes to it but if a doctor is good and doing right, leave them alone. Let them do their job. Let their patients have the medication and treatment they need.
    I also think that they can put a “Pain Management ” Department together. A group of other pain management doctors that inspect all the clinics. Inspect the patient charts. Talk to the patients. Then if the doctor is following the law then do what I said above and leave them alone.
    Our doctors work very hard to become doctors. Pain management doctors even harder because most are anesthesiologists. They know more about what their patients need than some pencil pusher or law maker. Medicine shouldn’t be controlled by the government anymore than the Supreme Court by doctors.

  5. Linda F. Nolan at 4:05 pm

    I can only see more tragedy ensuing if chronic pain patients are denied opiates for pain control. One item missing in all this talk about “addiction” is that in addiction, there is a psychological element. That is missing in the chronic pain patient. If denied adequate pain control I can see street drugs being used, of course without medical supervision, creating more burden on our already overtaxed health system, and making criminals out of sick people. I sincerely ask you to consider chronic pain patients, and their quality of life, before making decisions this extreme. We have multiple issues to live with daily, the struggles are severe and all consuming. With proper medical supervision using opiate painkillers we have a better chance of making it through our day. Unfortunately, I can also see the ultimate tradgedy of suicide in this picture, intense pain over long periods of time will take a toll.
    I ask again, that you reconsider your opinion and take time to talk to us and our doctors, I think you would be heartily surprised at who you are talking too, and that we are indeed an intelligent, law abiding group, through no fault of our own, have painful diseases.

  6. Bill halper at 11:14 am

    One in nine people who use marijuana get addicted? One in nine…the percentage then would be 9%! I really do not believe that marijuana as a drug has addictive properties. I could be wrong, but I have never heard nor seen anyone who is addicted to a joint! I can see it now, someone on the streets begging for a joint as he foams at the mouth, shaking, profuse sweating, and all the other residuals of an addict. Because this gentleman has had an addiction problem, does that mean that now every drug, marijuana included should be banned because of his issues? I think it’s time that these officials take time out from publishing propaganda, and do some research, non-biased research on some of these medications. Does he want to remove all opiates, oxycodones too because of a small number of people (12 million people have an addiction problem out of a population of over 325 million people so I read in one of the reports which I can’t remember right now…the percentage is about 3% to 4% of the population) who are dumb enough to use these drugs for their jollies, and those like us who have chronic pain, fibromyalgia, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and so much more must suffer? I wonder if he can remember back when he was a human what pain would feel like, and what empathy felt like. What would he do if one of his children came down with a chronic pain disease? Let the child suffer, exercise, eat healthy, and pray that death will come sooner than later? Let these people who are obviously uninformed as to what chronic pain is walk in our shoes even for one hour, let them experience the excruciating pain without any medication to take. Let’s watch as they must take disability because they can no longer work, the pain is so bad which affect’s their thinking, their entire being! We need people, empathetic, understanding people who have knowledge of what pain is to make whatever rulings needed so that we don’t have to worry about if our medications will be taken away! I am floored that CDC never took into account those with chronic pain. Who are their masters now like the politicians with their masters!

  7. Patrick Wilson at 11:04 am

    I use a myriad of drugs to try and relieve my pain ( over 50 pills a day ,max doses of pain killers ) and Ketamine every 2 weeks . It helps a lot at times and other times I am still in agony . Without these drugs my life would be unbearable , it is only with the help of the pain clinic that I am able to function at all . My quality of life is greatly improved thanks to these drugs . I hate my body and get very depressed with only the love of my family and friends keeping me going . Why doesn’t 60 minuites interview people at the pain clinics to see what good the various medications are doing for us , watching nonsense like 60 mins only demonise’s prescription medications and there users .

  8. Judie Bruno at 10:37 am

    Dear 60 Minuets: This is now your second report on Drug Abuse in America and with each one, you have never once mentioned the problems and need of those Americans, civilians and veterans, who have already given so much for our country and their need for pain medication to help with their chronic pain and quality of life.

    Mr Botticelli and his backswords thinking that the rate of heroin use has gone up over the last year because of abuse of narcotic medication when the truth is, the rate has gone up since the governments new policy to remove narcotic medication and those who do and will continue to abuse drugs are now turning to heroin because they can no longer get narcotic drugs and they are now supporting the drug cartels who will provide whatever anyone wants. Did this country learn nothing from prohibition?

    In states where medical marijuana is now legal, Veterans and civilians are being refused their pain medications because of this use and cutting or removing pain medication is again, turning more and more to using marijuana as they have no other help with their pain needs.

    Mothers are now not able to care for their children and are afraid of losing them when they were able to do so with the help of pain medications, bread winners are not able to work and support their families and those who have chronic pain are now not able to care for themselves without the pain medications they need. Who is going to be responsible for their care when they can no longer care for themselves?

    I have filed a complaint under the American’s with Disability Act as chronic pain is a disability and to be punished and tortured because of the actions of those who do and will continue to abuse drugs, is discrimination.

    Please look at all aspects of this problem and at least recognize that good Americans are now not able to receive the pain medications they need because of those who will continue to abuse drugs.

    Thank you.

    Judie Bruno

  9. Kim Miller at 10:32 am

    Write to 60 minutes AGAIN! It can’t hurt and they may get the message, you never know. I think emphasis on the fact they are missing the bigger story (pain patients being left to suffer due to no fault of their own) should be a key point to make when writing them.

    Last time, their was a finite comment period, so don’t wait too long! Timing with the CDC guidelines comment process is interesting. But, I feel this is important since the public only sees “OPIOIDS=HEROIN”. Chronic pain patients? You mean there’s a reason to have these drugs?

  10. Kathy Cooper at 9:37 am

    Here we go again. Another 60 Minutes episode continuing the popular narrative. 60 Minutes used to have integrity and do real “Journalism” not anymore. Now it is mostly Entertainment news and fluff. At least the dog was cute. I suppose if he had another view, he would not have gotten any exposure in the Mainstream Media. Graduating from a 12 Step program hardly makes one and expert on anything. They have to denounce anything that might lead them back to their addiction. Many 12 steppers believe the are morally superior to people who are not addicted. Hey if it works for them.
    This Story is just another example of how the Media has distorted information, into easily assimilated, misdirection. He never mentioned Chronic Pain Patients, and the Marijuana Addiction Statistics absurd.
    Unfortunately the public is being misled by these propaganda type “News Stories”. Our Society won’t benefit from this, only certain Industries which stand to make a lot of money. They have been criminalizing large segment of the population, and violating our basic Civil Rights because of a “Drug War”. The result of years of non Scientific nonsense. Industries have been built around an alleged “enemy”. The response to the “Drug Epidemic” has done more damage than the drugs themselves. The amount of money generated by making these substances illegal has undermined any realistic enforcement. Blaming Chronic Pain patients for the availability of Heroin is not useful.
    The deliberate failure to mention legitimate legitimate Chronic Pain patients, is another misdirection, a lie by omission. This leads to more ignorance, and hate directed towards people with genuine pain concerns. It should be a national Disgrace, these Policies based on Corporate Profits, ignorance, apathy, and misinformation.
    One way of looking at it is “Who Benefits”? The Insurance Companies, They don’t want to pay out for people who live in pain after surviving an accident or a long term Health condition. Big Pharma has a lot to gain, there has been a movement to change Chronic Pain into a Mental Health issue, and pushing these newly Patented, expensive, and useless Medications. The side effects, and lack of pain control by these new drugs, would restrict chronic pain patients lives further. Law enforcement has been sensationalizing the Drug War, because they get more funding, and they can violate peoples Civil Rights.
    I used to be one of those people who thought we would overcome ignorance, and have a better world. I though that Science would prevail over superstition, I was naive. This is a much bigger issue than just Chronic Pain patients. It is an attack on our core values as human beings. We have a System, where every new sensationalistic “Enemy” becomes a target for hatred. A Country where even compassion has been re-programmed, and has become a narrative or a chance for narcissistic self promotion, or profit. People no
    longer ask questions they just repeat a prepared narrative from someone they feel is an “Authority”. The Policy Makers are insulated from reality, and are presented a limited version of “Facts”, usually provided by lobbyists and industry insiders.
    I have been dealing with chronic pain for about 20 years. I have tried everything, exercise, diet, Chiropractors, denial. I never even considered opiates at the beginning, I thought they were for weak people. I was one of those people who could tough it out. I thought I was stronger than pain. I tried every possible alternative. I have had countless Steroid Injections, which have caused more damage to my spine. I have had 2 back Surgeries, which helped, but did not stop the pain. I thought this would be temporary, that i would get back to a normal Life. I have experienced the same downward spiral of other chronic pain patients. I used to be a vital and outgoing person, no more. I made a fool of myself trying to return to work. I guess I am one of the lucky ones to survive. So many people in my age group have ended their lives. I am just stubborn, or holding out some hope that things might improve. I try not to think about what could have been. If only my spinal condition could have been diagnosed initially, but the numerous Doctors I saw were all concerned that the back pain could have been “Addiction.” I barely took OTC medications. They were more concerned with Addiction than permanent nerve damage and a lifetime of chronic pain from an undiagnosed spinal injury. I try to look at the big picture. I know that there are people who are in much worse situations than I am, people who have died from Cancer and other painful health conditions, who were also denied a diagnosis of the pain or pain medications. This should be an “Epidemic” but it is not. They are dying so they can’t speak up. They are told they “might get addicted.” So many of the people affected by this misguided Policy are shamed, and ignored.
    I am not as articulate as I used to be. Sitting at the computer and typing aggravates my back, and there is nerve damage in my left arm, from a disc in my neck. I feel that this experience has made me a stronger and more compassionate person. I have been exposed to the seamy underbelly of poverty and hopelessness, while still keeping a sense of humor. I get tired of hearing “what are you gonna do” as a response to the corruption, nonsense, and hate in the World.

  11. Mark Ibsen at 8:46 am

    We are supposed to be intelligent humans.
    Ha!
    This issue is sooo complex.
    As an interested
    Then committed physician, it took a whole to drill down through the bs.

    I read the IOM report on pain in America and I was shocked but not surprised. Shocking that various government agencies do not communicate or play well together.

    Then I read Judy Formans book
    ANation in Pain.
    And my own deepening experience with treating patients in withdrawal as they were summarily dropped from opiates.
    Must were able to wean to more natural, safe treatments.
    2,000 off opiates, on Cannabis.
    About 150 could not wean.
    They deteriorated.
    Lost function.
    I put them back on opiates and they went back to work, got their lives back.

    Opiates are miraculous, and/or a scourge. Kinda like everything else we prescribe. (Think prednisone)
    We need a functioning physician patient relationship in order the create empowering alliances with our patients.
    Get law enforcement, DEA CDC FDA out of pain management.
    Think how many would dieof heart attacks if all these agencies scrutinized cardiologists.

  12. Mary Ellen at 8:22 am

    We have No Freedom of Movement in America! I am in Florida to help my Dad, who was 88 years old, recouperate from surgery. Due to unforeseen circumstances he died. I am treated like a criminal even with my doctor faxing volumes of pages to a referred pain doc. I have to go back to Alaska to see my doctor to be able to get out of bed to attend to my Dad’s last things. 60 minutes disgusts me. Please boycot their sponsors.

  13. Danny Elliott at 7:59 am

    Here is a comment I just sent to “60 Minutes”:
    Your program continues to misconstrue and completely ignore the positive aspects that narcotic medication has on millions of chronic, severe pain sufferers who, by the way, DO NOT “abuse” these life-saving medications. By life-saving, I mean that without these pain meds, an unimaginable number of chronic pain sufferers would choose death (suicide) over having to try to live with an affliction that makes a normal, active life impossible.

    Your continuous assertion that pain medication leads to heroin abuse leaves out the common sense deduction that abusers of drugs will abuse what they can find and afford. Not once have I seen a 60 Minutes segment deal with people who suffer tremendous pain and the relief they get from their medications. Why?!

    I was electrocuted over 24 years ago. I suffer from severe head pain (don’t EVER use the phrase head “ache” around me!) as well as several other damaged brain-related problems. I’ve been diagnosed with PTSD and research conducted by the University of Chicago as well as by Dr. Michael Morse at the University of San Diego prove that my suffering is a direct result of my electrical injury. If I hadn’t found my pain management doctor 13 years ago, I was reaching the point of choosing death as an escape from the everyday experience of terrible, debilitating pain.

    I would think that such a respected television news program as “60 Minutes” would choose to show the other side of the war on narcotic medications. I guess that doesn’t fit the narrative you’ve chosen to present. What a shame.

  14. leejcaroll at 7:53 am

    I immediately tweeted to them most with cp dont ger addicted. they need to stop taking out “war on drugs” on those with CP and another one I no longer recall. If you tweet go to @60minutes (As you write that it should come up to verify that the address)

  15. dave rosen at 7:41 am

    wow. first of all, i dont believe thos man is a 12 stepper. they call it ANNONOMYS for a reason and he should know its not to be advertised.
    Also the books says if you need medication, you take it, make sure you are supervised.
    Heroin Has been used in the main stream for over a century.
    pain pills, not so much. They are not a gatway drug to heroin. a person drawn to heroin will use it and usually 2 things happen right away. youre addicted or you die. there is no recommended dose. Opioids inthe form of pain relievers if taken as directed do 1 thing, relieve you of most of your pain. you dont get high
    and you dont go looking for heroin.
    ive been on pain pills for a decade and never seeked out Heroin. If you tale away my pain medication, i cant guarantee what would happen.
    At this point we been to make sure THE CDC GUIDELINES DO NOT HAPPEN. As i said before. They dont care about us. I never tbought i would say thos but Trump, who hates drugs, would legalize them. He is the only one smart enough to know the war on drugs has been over for years, we lost. He is the only one that will swe what a waste of money our govt spent on this and FIRE THEM ALL.

  16. Carole Porter at 7:22 am

    Love “60 minutes” but the content of this program left out a very large portion of the arguement regarding opioid pain medication.
    Currently in this nation we have millions of patients who suffer daily pain with fibromyalgia, MS, spinal stenosis and a MYRIAD of other maladies and ONLY with the little bit of relief offered by pain meds can we function to even complete ADLs.
    This is a very involved debate and I cannot delineate it in this limited space.
    Without these pain meds, we are reduced to an existence that often makes suicide the only option- I know of what I speak. I, for one, am able to stop the pain meds at will – without debilitating withdrawal, and I have never experienced the “high” that I hear about.
    To leave out this population is a GROSS and inaccurate portrayal of this issue.

  17. Angie Clark at 7:17 am

    Let them take my pain on for a day then they would be crying a whole new tune.

  18. Annette Merkley at 7:09 am

    I live in fear that this type of biased coverage will make it even harder for my daughter to get the pain medication that she needs to function on a day to day basis. CRPS has already devastated her life with constant excruciating pain and obtaining the only medications that help her is already a difficult process. That in itself is a constant worry to a mother but now having the CDC step in with even more prescribing regulations of opioid pain meds will almost certainly make it even harder for her to get the needed medication and cause more stress for this family!

  19. Kerry at 7:07 am

    Like a lot of people I have an illness that makes me as sick as the pain is severe. I want to do more but I can’t except watch the only thing that really makes my life possible and to get out of bed and significantly reduces my suffering. I feel like we are fighting Goliath and are on the eve of loosing! Unless you have this, it’s a rare person who can understand how desperate we are to get this threat behind us! Is there any famous credible person who can fight this fire with fire? Where are they? This irresponsible reporting is not just causing us to loose opioids but to loose credibility with friends and family after they watch these shows also. Many are our spouses and adult children. Many are the ones we need to help us get the basics like food and get to the Drs.

  20. Joanne at 7:05 am

    Has anyone from the CP community contacted 60 minutes to request a segment on how pain meds are essential for this community?

  21. Paul McCoy at 6:52 am

    60 minutes and other media outlets always look for the easy scapegoat. For that matter, so does alot of our government entities. The worse comments seem to come from a reformed addict.