By Richard A Lawhern, Ph.D.
As elsewhere published on the National Pain Report, the Drug Enforcement Agency is trying to “pull a fast one” on the American public. DEA has proposed rule changes which will allow them to force reductions on production of opioid pain relievers for any scheduled drug which they believe to be “diverted.” They seem utterly uncaring that quotas have already been reduced for the past five years without noticeable positive effect. Overdose-related deaths continue to skyrocket due to street drugs. Like its predecessor in the 1980s, that drug war has already been lost.
DEA is compounding their nonsense by shortening the public comment period to a mere two weeks. But it’s not working.
Word is getting out on social media and in pain community publications like National Pain Report [“DEA Comment Period on Opioid Quotas Ends May 4th]. The controversy is also being picked up by mainstream media such as STAT News [“DEA plan to stem supply of prescription drugs draws skepticism”]
The DEA docket on controlled substance quotas is receiving significant numbers of comments (over 650 in the first week). Some entries are phrased as patient stories of pain and disability compounded by doctor desertion and pharmacy refusals to fill legitimate prescriptions.
While these stories are heart-rending, they only partly respond to what DEA is doing. For those of us who haven’t yet filed comments, the “message” needs to be more focused. They want to roll back production allowances on any scheduled drugs that they believe to be diverted to abusers. But they haven’t offered details on how they propose to determine diversion.
We need to be telling affected pain patients, their care givers and their doctors that our message should be more specific:
- DEA has no reliable way to determine whether or how much any controlled substance is diverted to non-medical use.
- Hospitals are experiencing shortages of scheduled drugs and patients are being endangered because of past unjustified restrictions on production. The DEA is at fault. Restrictions on medical supply are ineffective and unjustified.
- Even the National Institutes on Drug Abuse acknowledge that actively managed pain patients are almost never involved in opioid overdose-related death. In the few cases where they are, it may be as a consequence of under-treatment of pain and depression, forcing the patient to seek relief in street markets.
- DEA has already damaged or destroyed countless lives by creating a hostile regulatory environment, driving doctors out of pain practice and forcing the discharge or coerced tapering of patients into agony.
- DEA proposed rule making on production quotas should be withdrawn. It is entirely based on misunderstandings of addiction, counter-productive and inhumane.
To enter your own comments, start here:
Richard “Red” Lawhern Ph.D. is Co-Founder and Corresponding Secretary of the Alliance for the Treatment of Intractable Pain