Have “We the People” Lost Our Voice?

Have “We the People” Lost Our Voice?

Steve Ariens

Steve Ariens

Those in the chronic pain community are having to live with rules established during our country’s Prohibitionist Period in the early 1900’s by Congress and our Judicial system.

The genesis of the current war on drugs was created by Congress in 1914 when it passed The Harrison Narcotic Act whose passage was motivated by bigotry and racism.  Around the same time our court system determined that the mental health disease, addiction was a crime when opiates were involved in the addiction.

So Congress created this “black market” for opiates and Marijuana and the judicial system made it illegal for physicians to treat addicts. Keep in mind this was before women had the right to vote, alcohol prohibition was years off, the FDA had only been around for several years. There was no insulin for diabetics, no penicillin and the polio vaccine was decades away. Our healthcare was still in a virtual “dark ages”.

And yet today, over a hundred years later, we are still having to deal with medical decisions made by a judicial system that declared those people with the mental health disease of addiction as criminals.

Recently, it was reported in Florida that the parents of a four y/o that had just been discharged from a Florida hospital after having a cancerous kidney removed, had THREE PHARMACIES refuse to fill pain medication for this child. Should those Pharmacists be charged with child abuse? I am sure that the parents would have been if they had refused to give their child the prescribed pain medication after his surgery.

There are an estimated 106 million chronic pain patients, plus a untold number of patients suffering from subjective diseases (depression, anxiety, ADD/ADHD, mental health ) and a untold number of healthcare professionals and DEA registrants (Pharmacies, drug wholesalers, prescribers, manufacturers) that are being instilled with fear of the DEA and having them showing up on their office doorstep one day – dressed in their full blown S.W.A.T. attire – scaring the crap out of patients and employees as they storm the premises.

The number has to exceed 150 million, there was only a total of 126 million votes in the last Presidential election and only 5 million votes separating the winner from the loser.

One has to ask the question, there are so many business organizations and professional association with some very deep pockets why they haven’t challenged the constitutionality of that 100 year old court ruling that a person suffering from the mental health disease of addiction, and their substance of choice is some opiate derived substance or Marijuana, is automatically considered a criminal.

Those people who are addicted to Nicotine, while have fewer and fewer places where they can light up, but  they are still able to purchase various Nicotine gum, patches, spray to accommodate their addiction and get their “fix” legally. Which the commercials for these products describe withdrawal as a “craving.”

Those people that are addicted to alcohol (alcoholics) are free to accommodate their addictive needs as they see fit as long as they are not drunk in public or drive while drunk. A bartender can be held responsible for serving a person too many drinks, but a clerk at a package liquor store has no such limitations or liabilities.

When is the last time you have seen a S.W.A.T. storm a legally licensed gambling establishment, yet we all are aware that there are probably a certain number of gambling addicts within the building ?

Has the fear of the DEA and our judicial system become so great that no one , even some multi-billion dollar corporations, will not take up the legal challenge of the constitutionality of a 100 year old court ruling , maybe the constitutionality of the Harrison Narcotic Act itself.

As citizens of the USA, we are guaranteed the right to the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness. That raises a couple of important questions:

  1. Is the determination by our judicial system that non-violent, victimless addicts are criminals a violation of our personal rights?
  2. Is the interference by the DEA, judicial system and elected politicians to a person’s access to optimized pain management a violation of our personal rights?

I don’t think the answers to that question are what they should be.

Do you?

Steve Ariens is a retired pharmacist, who is married to a chronic pain patient, blogs on these issues. Steve also is National Public Relations Director for The Pharmacy Alliance.

 

 

 

 

There are 18 comments for this article
  1. LouisVA at 4:55 pm

    Access to pain care should be a human right. Pain is tantamount to torture which is illegal under the US Constitution.

  2. BL at 4:35 pm

    ABC Evening News, Sept. 2, 2015 a story about a dr.on trial because some of.her patients that she prescribed pain meds to werent responsible and.d died.due.to overdose. Three pharmacists testified. Where are the chronic pain patients that want.laws.changed ?

  3. Dennis at 7:01 am

    In 1914 — the year of the Harrison Act — the media reported that “lower-class Negroes” hopped up on cocaine were bullet-proof. Yup, keep on shootin’ and they jes’ keep on comin’.

    You can always tell when you’re being lied to when the media — perhaps in collusion with authorities and experts — deliberately abuse the English language. There is no opioid “epidemic.” An epidemic is the widespread outbreak of a contagious disease — it has nothing to do with drugs. But epidemic is an effective scare word, and that’s what the government wants — they want us to be scared. The DEA has lost the drug war, so they need to justify their existence.

    The other day, I had to sign an absolutely fraudulent drug contract (sign it or get no medical assistance — that’s the deal with the Devil). It stated that there is an enormous risk of addiction if narcotics are prescribed to treat chronic pain, so don’t expect any.

    Well, aside from the fact that “narcotic” is an outdated word (it’s now used primarily by cops), according to the CDC, a person over age 30 with no history of substance abuse has a 1% chance of becoming addicted to prescription pain meds. People over 30 who do have a substance abuse history? Well, their chances of addiction skyrocket all the way up to 2% or 3%. Statistically insignificant.

    Long story short, the medical community — under duress or otherwise — is ignoring its own science. This is as bad as it gets.

    In 2013, about 16,600 Americans died from opioid overdoses (only half of which involved just opioids; the other half also involved combinations of benzodiazepines and/or alcohol). However, last year, alcohol and tobacco killed over 500,000 Americans. If we were losing American lives at that rate in a war zone, we wouldn’t think twice about nuking our opponent back to the Stone Age.

    In 2010, the NIH’s Biotech lab studied 28,000 opioid addicts. Fully 78% of them had never had a legitimate prescription for opioids. If you belong to that 78%, I don’t care whether you’re a CEO or a banker or a politician or somebody “important” — you’re a junkie. Don’t kid yourself.

    Government ignorance about drugs is blatant — for example, both marijuana and heroin are classified as Schedule I drugs, despite the fact that nobody ever died from a pot overdose.

    But Americans seem to have a pathological need to have something to fear, to hate, or to be against. It all boils down to bad politics. As H.L. Mencken said, “The aim of practical politics is to keep the populace constantly alarmed (and therefore clamorous to be lead to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”

  4. Adrienne at 4:39 am

    It seems many of the readers lost the point of the article.

    1) Addiction is a disease of the mind which is no different than any other OCD diagnosed individual in which the DEA disregards, as well as doctors, the fact that there are underlying rains for the disused to be present. For example: workaholics, anorexics, over eaters, those that exercise to the nth degree, smokers, or individuals that have numerous plastic surgeries. They all have underlying mental issues that cause the OCD.

    2) The definition of addiction has been clearly defined and an effect, not a cause, of said underlying issues which can be successfully treated. The fact that addicts lack coping skills is one of the numerous reasons for addiction.

    3) the DEA and doctors alike treat those individuals as drug seekers, as well as those with chronic pain that have no history of addiction. No one deserves to be in pain, but rather address the addiction issues and treating the underlying caused for, we are all punished and told that we must live in pain.

    The fact is that 95% of the world population is either addicted or Co dependent, which btw, is also a reason that docs refuse pain management due to the fear of “tripping the addiction switch” they see as genetic. The other 5% is just outright liars. Think about this, if you have an alcoholic in your family anywhere, including great uncles or nieces. …you’re Co dependent, this is true for any type of addiction which everyone is addicted to something.

    Now the question that was posed, is it fair to treat addicts differently and force them to suffer? Or is the government focusing on the wrong issues at hand while reinforcing addiction in other areas? Instead of regulating something that in the end will cause more of an underground uprising in illicit drug use by telling chronic pain patients “you can’t have”, maybe they should focus more on getting people help to resolve underlying issues.

    As a 39 y/o female with severe DDD and facet joint degeneration (no L4 or 5 facet joints) that had been deemed, by one of toughest states in the union, as disabled due to chronic pain which I have no personal history of addiction (in fact I’m such a light weight that half a mixed drink is all that I can handle), I had to fight tooth and nail for 3 years to get some relief. And since the DEA only allows scripts to be written for up to 180 narcotic pills per month, they had to up my mg….um, really? I was seen as a drug seeker even with hard evidence of floating vertebra.

    In my mind, the government should not be telling me what I can or can’t take nor should they stick there nose into my medical history and honestly, it’s my God given right to abuse if I choose to do so.

  5. CindiH.,RN at 6:15 pm

    @Terri,
    Thank You for the Empathy and Compassion that came forth. The Health Care System has forgotten why they were established. Every individual deserves to recieve medical care, without any bias of who they are. Allowing a Patient to Suffer because the Goverment has Intimidated and Scared MD’s from treating the needs of their patients. Not Medicating a Person who is in Pain is Ludicrious. Addiction comes in many forms.

  6. Patti at 5:21 pm

    See how it’s done? Put out a bunch of unproven data, anecdotal stories, and at least half the population will accept them as truth and join the charge. Put out some solid facts and numbers and no one wants to hear it, or take the time, or I don’t even know. Time and time again, this method has been used successfully to get one sector of a population to join in the attack on the other. We would all be wise to remember Martin Niemöller’s words: “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Socialist.” I’m sure I don’t have to write the whole quote; we all know it. We should take it to heart and try to stick together. Because while it might be popular right now to punish people in pain for relying on medication made specifically to help them push past their disability and function – pile on for the good of all, because some people abuse drugs! – the next group that someone decides to scapegoat, to declare war on so people think their government is working to keep them “safe,” could include YOU. Don’t be the last man standing, with no one to defend you because you didn’t bother to defend anyone else.

  7. BL at 4:17 pm

    Someone who is an addict, isn’t arrested just for being an addict. But they are arrested if they are caught with an illegal substance in their possession. If you dont agree with laws there is a process to change the laws.
    Please post the link to the creditable stats that say few addicts commit crimes.

  8. Stephen M at 12:32 pm

    BL, possession is a crime. You don’t have to hurt anyone to go to jail. People have gotten LIFE SENTENCES for nonviolent cannabis offences. Sometimes, 2 joints, sometimes a single tray of brownies. Did you read about the kid who use cannabis oil (which caused the offense to be treated like ecstasy & related offences in Texas) and then they weighted the batter, not even the light finished product (lighter because of water loss during baking) and definitely not just the cannabis oil. They counted the milk, eggs, flour, chocolate, etcetera as cannabis.

    Very few addicts commit crimes. Opioids (C2) and cannabis (C1) aren’t like methamphetamine (C2) and cocaine (C2).

    Also, without prohibition, prices would plummet and stop finding organized crime. People could afford their habits without resorting to crime (like cigarettes).

    Please do your own research, don’t simply trust the reefer (and opioid) madness. Find clinical trials and published studies to backup the accusations that you’ve written. DARE and the DEA lie.

  9. Stephen M at 12:15 pm

    I’ve wondering the very same things as this author. I have no life, or liberty, without opioids, and I certainly can’t pursue happiness.

    I really want to replace my oral medications with 2mg per day intrathecal morphine with an implanted pump to get superior relief and less side effects. Unfortunately, these drug laws make pain treatment nearly impossible. Pain doctors don’t write prescriptions anymore and PCPs can’t manage pumps.

    While I don’t condone it, I can certainly understand why so many pain patients chose death over the half alive state of being that we’re in without opioids or other effective pain treatment. If anyone is having feelings like that, please seek help. There’s always hope. The pendulum will swing back to sanity and away from opioiphobia.

    Does anyone know who might take up a constitutional challenge? Should we be petitioning the ACLU? AMA? Chronic pain associations? How do we help this fight along?

  10. Sandy at 11:31 am

    Dear BL re: “Drug addicts commit violent crimes. They may not start out that way, but without treatment, they will.”

    Don’t blame the drugs BL, blame how the system treats addicts. [Of course someone who would kill for a drug would kill for any other reason. Most addicts are not violent, not even eventually…those who kill get they get life in prison for murder at minimum]

    However, you know why drug addicts commit crimes? Rarely violent crimes but usually theft? To pay for their habit. Look, I get it – you hear stories of an addict doing this or that and it seems like it is all of them.

    Take a look at how other countries who actually treat an addict – even if that means providing the drug of choice to them with a PLAN for long term; by putting them into contact with health professionals it is the safest way to deal w/addicts. The black market is what makes *some* addicts dangerous. [Australia – where I hold dual citizenship w/US – so familiar with how their system works, Holland and other EU nations like Spain treat heroin addicts w/clean drugs, clean needles with great success and **reduced crime – want the stats? I’ll provide them.**]

    The US adds double the pain to the addict too [another thing that MUST go to court and be challenge as it is NOT equal protection under the law].

    Once a **non-violent drug felon** is released from jail. No matter how long they remain clean and crime free? If they lose a job [that is if they can get one] and need state aid [even if they had children 10yrs after being clean] which is paid for by the federal government and administered within the states. Over half the states refuse aid to anyone with a past felony drug record. No food or medical or college assistance. What happens do you reckon to those who face these extra obstacles? Do you think they continue on being great members of society or do they end up back in jail? [consider that no other felons have such restrictions in the US. Only drug felons. Why? Isn’t the molester of babies and children worse? Isn’t the rapist worse? Isn’t the guy who negligently killed his kid worse?] The list of nice felons Lol provided?

    They get all the help a single mom would receive working for minimum wage could receive. Follow what I mean by ‘unequal protection under the law?’ to single out a demographic isn’t legal yet some how we let this one slip through and has it been challenged in the highest court yet? No. It wouldn’t stand but addicts do not have resources or many advocates to help them fight this discrimination. And it IS discrimination.

    My point above about crime and drugs in other nations that treats it 100% different than the US is one that refutes your claim of violence. Also dirty drugs have unknown effects on people.
    Clean drugs [Amphetamine and Cocaine are Schedule II meds with medical value too] do not have so many unknown effects. *Most* effects are known [not all as each person is different; still they are in contact with health professionals and not street dealers!]

    Bonus these drugs are cheaper to provide through public health initiatives than jail [and they wouldn’t have to steal!]

    Public health wise we save a lot too because less communicable diseases are spread throughout the community even to non-addicts. Just takes one time. Some addicts are professional people who can maintain a great front. Example? How about Philip Seymour Hoffman? Would you have figured that Oscar winner as an addict? Many artists are…doctors, lawyers, judges, politicians not one are immune to addiction.

    [60k per year per prisoner in taxes average – nationally. They don’t put more than 12k towards prisoners either….so that’s pure profit which is another obstacle and one reason the nation has such a high prison population. Strong lobbies for the prison industrial complex ensures nothing changes – because why? They’re making a bundle and now they do Foster care! ]

    **edit for clarity, I hope; didn’t seem to post. Not sure why as it is very relevant to the topic at hand. RE: taking it to court. Pain patients already pay for the abuses of addicts whether or not the patient has ever abused. It is not equal protection under the law. That clause? Is very important as it has been invoked lately a great deal just for the LGBT community.

  11. TOPDOG1 at 7:10 pm

    Yes! They have no voice but instead they have become subjugated working stock to support a massive corporate police state. The sheeple have no voice, but “OH” can they ever bleat.

  12. Pharmacist Steve at 11:57 am

    BL… unless Wikipedia is wrong..
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harrison_Narcotics_Tax_Act .. I guess that you are too busy with meeting your corporate metrics than reading the links within the article…

    The act appears to be concerned about the marketing of opiates. However a clause applying to doctors allowed distribution “in the course of his professional practice only.” This clause was interpreted after 1917 to mean that a doctor could not prescribe opiates to an addict, since addiction was not considered a disease. A number of doctors were arrested and some were imprisoned. The medical profession quickly learned not to supply opiates to addicts. In United States v. Doremus, 249 U.S. 86 (1919), the Supreme Court ruled that the Harrison Act was constitutional, and in Webb v. United States, 249 U.S. 96, 99 (1919) that physicians could not prescribe narcotics solely for maintenance.[13]
    You are right that prescribers can treat addicts..if they go thru a special certification process, granting them a special DEA number and are limited to treating 100 pts at any given time.
    We have addicts whose substance of choice is Nicotine, Alcohol and gambling to name a few.. We have people that rob stores for MONEY.. maybe we should go to a cashless society.. just debit/credit cards… wouldn’t that eliminate stores being robbed for CASH ? Is it better to have a functioning addict.. like all those addicted to Nicotine are and many alcoholic are .. as well as many other addictions.
    There is a certain portion of our society that still believes that we can legislate morality and stop certain human behaviors via prohibition. Unfortunately, it would seem that there is a majority within our legislatures and judicial system with that mindset.

  13. BL at 9:25 pm

    Being a drug addict is not a crime. If a drug addict engages in illegal activity to get their drug or the have in their possession illegal drugs, then their actions may bring about their arrest.

    drs can and do treat drug addicts every day.But, it is nit in the best interest of the patient or society for a dr to continue to give substances to a patient that they are addicted to psychologically without a plan to get the patient off of that substance.

    Drug addicts commit violent crimes. They may not start out that way, but without treatment, they will.

    Steve, how would you feel if your wife was killed for a few dollars so the addict could get drugs ? What if this person had committed numerous other crimes that weren’t serious enough to keep them in jail ? How would you feel then ? Have you lost any close personal friends that were pharmacists that were killed when a drug.addict robbed the store they were working at ?

    Drug addicts don’t care about anything.but.getting high. Due to that they don’t think like those that aren’t addicts do. Drug addicts are locked up to protect the innocent.

  14. trudy myers at 7:22 pm

    THIS IS THE BEST POST i have seen in a while-I TOTALLY AGREE !!!! sorry my caps off-Im in pain with NO MEDICATION-SOUND FAMILIAR?????
    REDICULOUS

  15. Patti at 12:28 pm

    Thanks for the post, Steve. I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating that the number of people that die from overdose to prescription drugs – this, according to the CDC – is just over 16,000 a year. Too many, of course, but compared to other causes, like those you mentioned, as well as automobile accidents and gun- related deaths, this is by far the smallest cause of death in America. So we have to ask, why this big police state push? I’ve witnessed an 80-year woman being reduced to tears trying to fill a prescription for pain medication because of all the hoops the pharmacy are now required to make people jump through. It occurs to me, the more and more I look into this, that the weakest and most unlikely sector of the population is being targeted. I mean, imagine if the very real concern over the spike in deaths by shooting – expected to reach 33,000 by year’s end – were to be addressed? There would be a huge pushback such as the nation’s 4,500 ATF are wholly unequipped to handle.

    In support of the 2014 National Drug Control Strategy (Strategy), the President requested $25.4 billion in Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 to reduce drug use and its consequences in the United States. This represents an increase of $0.2 billion (0.6%) over the enacted FY 2014 level of $25.2 billion. Another consequence of illegal drug use, the Bureau of Prisons ($3,362.2 million), the U.S. Marshals Service ($543.0 million), and the Federal Judiciary ($594.6 million) conduct activities associated with the incarceration and/or monitoring of drug‐related offender. The least amount of money is designed for addiction treatment, most of which goes to “screening.” See the White House Budget, National Drug Control Budget:
    https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/ondcp/about-content/fy_2015_budget_highlights_-_final.pdf

    The ATF – which we know as the policing/regulatory agency for Guns, Alcohol and Tobacco, but which is also responsible for monitoring bombs and other explosives, arson, as well as trafficking of all of the above, employs less than 5,000 agents and has an annual budget of around $1.2 billion. https://edit.justice.gov/sites/default/files/jmd/pages/attachments/2015/02/02/26._bureau_of_alcohol_tobacco_firearms_and_explosives_atf.pdf

    Still not ready to declare the War on Drugs as lost, and instead focus more resources toward rehabilitation and recovery than imprisonment, it seems we are now to double down and persecute those whose dignity and quality of live has been restored to them by the very drugs now being withheld – drugs designed for the sole purpose of combating the disability, and all that comes with it, resulting from a host of injuries and medical conditions that leave their sufferers in a state of constant pain.

    Well done.

    Sadly, the many compassionate doctors who resent this intrusion into their ability to treat their patients are threatened with anti-trust laws when attempting to band together and advocate on behalf of their patients. The pain advocacy groups of the past that I used to follow have been disbanded, their websites closed down. We are on our own, folks.

    I personally believe the targets of this latest push are going to prove to be a bit more difficult to put down than expected. We are, after all, the people who have worked diligently over decades – two and three jobs, if necessary – to support our families. We have endured hardship before. Perhaps our most driving force, however, is to see that the world inherited by our children and grandchildren is better for our efforts. Our bodies may be weakened, but our will is strong, and we will not go gently. Keep denying, or making it difficult to obtain, pain medication for children with cancer (for example), and see if we don’t use our last breath to sound an almighty roar that the whole world will hear!

  16. Terri Lewis PhD at 10:17 am

    There are two important issues here:
    First, patients have been engineered out of the doctor patient relationship by regulation, insurance rules, and monetization practices. Patients have been turned into commodities. Their income values change depending on their financial status, their insurance status, and their history of illness and injury. Patients are assigned an ‘opportunity factor’ that directly correlates with reimbursement rates for necessary services. Once that opportunity factor is exhausted, the patient has no value and gets no attention – which is the status that patients find themselves dealing with far too frequently.
    Second, Fear is a powerful weapon, focused at commodicized patients like a laser beam. The fear of reprisal is real. Their limited access to care can be wholly barred, delayed, destroyed by this care system.
    It is really easy to buy into the notion that people who have chronic illness generate no value back to the system – when you are perceived to have no value, you have no face, and your voice is ignored. The problem is that patients buy into this as reduction of self worth is installed by our broken system.
    We can change this. We must change this. It is causing great harm not just to individuals but to communities and health care as a whole. The key is improved patient education, identification of what’s not working, and holding folks accountable at every level of the system. The most powerful tool we have is our voice. There is everything to lose if we don’t use it.

  17. Sandy A Sullivan. at 8:34 am

    Well done Steve going to pass this along to some lawyers. Takes one case + one lawyer/team and money to continue appeals to higher courts.

    The DEA needs to figure out another way to do their audits. The way in which these ‘audits’ needs to change.

    Something else to consider – when the DEA sweeps up all these tablets and more are not made that year for the ‘quota’ and they DEA does take these tablets from wholesalers. What happens to them when no charges are filed?

    As a legal advocate there are so many issues that concern me with the way in which the DEA is allowed to operate in this country.