The Government’s War on Pain Doctors

The Government’s War on Pain Doctors

Editor’s Note: Linda Cheek is a family practice and alternative medicine physician in southwest Virginia. Cheek’s practice has been raided twice by federal and state agents. She has pleaded guilty to one count of insurance fraud, a charge she believes was linked to her treatment of patients for chronic pain. Her license to practice medicine is currently suspended. American News Report welcomes all points of view about pain management.

Throughout the United States there is a furor being raised about the prescription drug abuse problem. The cause of the problem has been overwhelmingly focused at doctor’s offices, pointing the finger at “bad” doctors that prescribe opiates, even though they are legitimately treating patients with pain. Another guilty party in this scenario is the medicine itself, the opiate. This is like blaming the banker and the gold back in 1870 for Jesse James’s robberies. Let me explain.

The current model for blame is based on the medical model of addiction which states that:

  •   Most people who use opiates become addicted.
  •   The addiction is caused by exposure to the drug.

This puts the blame on the opiate, and therefore doctors, even good ones, become targets in the “War on Drugs” spearheaded by President Nixon in 1971. However, the facts should prove otherwise. With the dearth of appropriate pain management training in medical schools and the knowledge that if they prescribe, the government will come after them, fewer doctors are prescribing opiates today. One-third of the American population has pain, either acute or chronic. Half of those are untreated because of the inability to find a physician willing to prescribe. And yet prescription drug abuse has tripled.

History has shown that opiates do not cause addiction. In the 1800’s, opium and morphine were legal medicines, used more frequently than they are now. But by the end of the century, addiction had declined to less than 1% of the population. Even then, doctors were able to distinguish between medical use and a harmful addiction.

I am a Felon for Treating Pain

Today, however, anyone who uses pain medicine is considered to be a “drug seeker” or “addict.” We have undeservedly labeled pain patients and the doctors that treat them. As an alternative medicine specialist and family practitioner, I could justify patient’s pain, and I could help the patient fix the cause. I became the only physician in the area willing to treat pain. Southwest Virginia is a targeted area by the government for drug abuse, which led to a raid on my office. I accepted a plea agreement of one count of Medicare/Medicaid fraud. I am a felon for being overpaid $65 and helping my patients heal from disease through alternatives, which saved the government millions of dollars.

The fact that I didn’t charge insurance for acupuncture or prolotherapy, knowing they weren’t covered, wasn’t considered. The government, unable to find anything medically wrong with my pain management, stated that my nutritional recommendations and counseling sessions were “not medically necessary” and therefore fraud. Does that justify a two-year investigation, four years probation and making me a felon? Spend a million dollars over $65 and ruin a person’s life? That just shows the extent the government is willing to go to in their war against doctors, even good ones.

I am currently without a license because of collusion between the U.S. Attorney’s office, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Virginia Board of Medicine in a second investigation. In 2009, while waiting for my DEA certificate, a retired physician helped me by treating the pain patients. The DEA should have reinstated my certificate in 6 weeks. Three months later, no word. So I wrote the DEA telling them our arrangement and asked them for guidance if it wasn’t okay. I did the same thing with the Board of Medicine. Neither replied to my letter, but 18 months later, my office was raided again. At the Board of Medicine inquiry, the doctor actually writing the prescriptions was excused. I had my license suspended for a year. The only law they could come up with that we broke was that we were engaged in a “deceitful practice.”

Even though I did everything right in pain management, the DEA refused to give me a DEA certificate because it was “against public interest”. Because of their action, several patients have died, and many have turned to disability. I kept people alive and working. Now patients have to go to emergency rooms or the street for treatment. How can that be in the public interest?

The Real Cause of Drug Addiction

In June 2011, the Global Commission on Drug Policy released a critical report declaring “the global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world.” And yet our government sends more money to the Justice Department to attack more doctors, missing the real cause of drug addiction, and actually adding to it.

The real cause of drug addiction is anxiety, toxicity and despair. The drugs create a feeling of well-being, thereby relieving the anxiety and despair, even for a short while. Homeopathy, a form of alternative medicine, can explain why people become addicted and can even predict who is at risk. People with degenerating diseases or chronic pain disorders are potential drug addicts. But that shouldn’t mean that they can’t get treatment for their pain. I demonstrated that cleansing, in conjunction with treatment, helped prevent drug addiction. Lack of pain relief causes more anxiety, more toxicity and more despair, leading to addiction. So the attacks on doctors and pain patients is creating more addiction than it is preventing.

Another effect of the Justice Department’s war on appropriate pain management is that you now have criminal elements running the medical clinics and pharmacies. Obviously, where there is a demand, someone will fill the void. And since legitimate doctors are being prevented from doing their job, the door is open for the drug pushers to take over.

Linda Cheek is a family practice and alternative medicine doctor in Virginia. She believes she is being targeted by federal and state investigators for her treatment of pain patients.

Editor’s Note: While she is currently not allowed to practice medicine, Linda Cheek spends her time as a lecturer and advocate for pain management. She has also written a novel, “Target: Pain Doc” — the story of a small town doctor attacked by the government for pain management. Her book is available through amazon.com and at lindacheekmd.com.

The views, opinions and positions expressed in the commentary by Linda Cheek are hers alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of American News Report, Microcast Media Group or any of its employees, directors, owners, contractors or affiliate organizations. American News Report makes no representations as to the accuracy, completeness, currentness, suitability, or validity of any information in this commentary, and is not responsible or liable for any errors, omissions, or delays (intentional or not) in this information; or any losses, injuries, and or damages arising from its display, publication, dissemination, interpretation or use.

Opposing views, opinions and positions about this commentary are welcomed and may be submitted to American News Report for consideration for publication by American News Report and or Microcast Media Group. Publication or lack of publication of opposing views, opinions and/or positions does not imply, suggest or expressly reflect an endorsement or disapproval of the originating commentary on the part of American News Report or Microcast Media Group.

There are 8 comments for this article
  1. Unhinged at 9:25 pm

    Linda, my heartbreaks for you, and for the patients that you obviously cared about and treated. I am so glad you are sharing your story, and have written a book about the injustice that was done to you.

    Michelle, I have NO clue where your ideas came from, but they are terribly inaccurate, judgmental, and naive. I have a pain condition that cannot be cured. It is a rare, genetic, connective tissue disorder, that causes the production of faulty collagen, called Ehlers-danlos syndrome (EDS). The result is devastatingly painful and disabling. I suffer from dislocations of multiple joints including my pelvis, spine, both shoulders, foot bones, sacroiliac joints, jaw, wrist, hips (just to name a few). There is no cure, and treatment is based on managing symptoms….the worst of which is both acute and chronic pain. Without the proper, legal, legitimate use of opioid therapy, people like me would not be able to function, and live. Opioids do not make my pain worse, I am not a “drug addict”, I do not get “high” from them, I do not constantly need “more”, and I do not suffer from intolerable side effects. Opioids do not MASK my pain, or prevent the “underlying cause” not to be found. We know the cause (genetic collagen mutation), and the treament for many of us IS longterm opioid therapy. When you have intractable pain, opioids ARE worth any risks, because the pain is severe and simply intolerable. There are many chronic pain conditions that do not “signal” an underlying problem….the underlying problem IS pain.

    Less and less doctors are treated patients with chronic pain conditions, because of fear that what happened to Linda (Dr. Cheek), will happen to them! The state of pain care in this country is a disgrace. Too many patients are suffering from serious, untreated pain. Before you generalize that doctors who prescribe opioids are BAD doctors, or that all people shouldn’t take opioids, just be grateful that you are not suffering from severe, intractable pain, without a compassionate doctor who will help you. Here’s to YOUR health!

  2. Michelle Stansbury at 11:16 pm

    treating anyone with opiates with long term cronic pain will only mask the pain for a short time then leave that person later feeling worse then before they took the medications to begin with. The highs and lows of taking the medications also not worth the short term benefits of pain control, beause you need to take more and more of the opiate medications to get the same effect. The side affect of taking opiates long term is always more and more pain, so why in the world would any doctor knowingly give someone pain medications for pain that will later make the pain worse then it was before. weather its real or all in the head. because Doctors dont want to help them they want a quick fix, instead of treating the pain they cover it up, instead of finding the root of the pain they give a quick fix knowing they will come back latter for more, and this time they will be in more pain suffer even more then before they walked into the office. Opiates are deadly and should not be givin to anyone pain or no pain its not working and is making people addicts and doctors just want the money so they continue giving out more and more perscriptions knowing they will need more later. in larger ammounts only this time they are addicted.

  3. david at 12:27 pm

    Im all for preventing and curing pain- opioids arent used for that purpose- opioid use is a suboptimal strategy for treating pain-and for where i sit its continued use reflects the moral and mental laziness of a profesion that not only doesnt care much about people in pain- but isnt trying hard to help people with chronic conditions. We have capitalistic medicine in the U,S- not humanistic medicine. Doctors despite their constant bragging about progress and knowledge hav failed to do anything about the rising prevalence of pain. They refuse to have education in pain care- saying that they should decide what education they should have-and they clearly dont want any education in pain care. Unless the public speaks out energetic- our lazy doctors will continue to mistreat, misdiagnose pain- the costs for pain in The U.S. will exceed a Trillion dollars before the end of the decade-and so i say its right to speak out about a profession that costs more then they are wortj and are more responsible for opioid abuse then any other segment of society-but who cares anyway if the problems continue?

  4. autoimmunepain at 9:48 am

    The DEA should investigate when red flags fly. But board certified Pain Physicians (peers) are likely the only ones who can really determine if an individual doctor is knowingly and intentionally distributing drugs vs. prescribing relief to a complex pain patient. Law enforcement and prosecution would benefit from appropriate review and counsel from medical Pain Societies.

    No simple, blanket answer here folks.

    Just facts. Pill Mills are dangerous. There are bad docs and bad patients. The law is doing a good job of weeding out parts of the problem. Some may be wrongly caught up in the mix (both doc and patients), and if so, let’s hope that they find appropriate legal recourse.

    For those who are simply caught. Send them away. They are a root cause. And, they are why people who really suffer will continue to be labelled addicts and have a harder time getting relief going forward.

    Shame on them.

  5. claygooding at 5:52 am

    David,,,blaming doctors for the abuse of opiates is wrong because no matter what punishment governments can inflict on it’s citizens they will never stop people from seeking euphoria,,,China kills thousands yearly and have been doing it for decades and will continue doing so for the rest of time I guess.

    And now I suppose Americans need to have a second opinion from the DEA and politicians when we really need pain relief,,,what a world.

  6. Karen at 3:11 am

    Linda – we would welcome you with open arms in Canada to practice here amongst the hundreds of members of our foundation who have lived each day for many years with Fibromyalgia, Myalgic Encephalomyelitis ( Chronic Fatigue) Osteoarthritis & many other chronic illnesess & health issues.
    We are in British Columbia, very close to Vancouver & the surrounding communities. The foundation has weekly support groups where you could speak to many people.
    I have had severe FM & ME/CFS since 1986, plus OA, Hypothyroidism, Type 2 Diabetes & a few other areas of health concern.
    We are planning on building a village where people with these illnessess can live comfortably & have access to an extensive, fully integrated, alternative & complimentary, multi modality health care practicioners clinic that will be built on site.
    Keep up the good fight!!
    Cheerio,
    Karen

  7. david at 7:39 am

    Medicines longstanding moral and mental laziness toward people in pain is responsible for the opioid problems we have now. Doctors refuse to have education in pain care and on average know all of three medicines for pain- how many have leanrned dry needling? How about low level laser? Few of course, as doctors who often brag about how much they know, know and care little when it comes to pain. They remain frozen in the ice of their own indifference. They neither have a vision nor a plan for lowering the prevalence of painful conditions- theyd rather people in pain “to eat cake”- consume opioids- instead of obtain the help of a sincere professional who care about alleviating suffering

  8. Malcolm Kyle at 12:58 am

    Some simple facts:

    * Colombia, Peru, Mexico or Afghanistan with their coca leaves, marijuana buds or poppy sap are not igniting temptation in the minds of our weak, innocent citizens. These countries are duly responding to the enormous demand that comes from within our own borders. Invading or destroying these countries, thus creating more hate, violence, instability, injustice and corruption, will not fix our problem.

    * A rather large majority of people will always feel the need to use drugs such as heroin, opium, nicotine, amphetamines, alcohol, sugar, or caffeine.

    * The massive majority of adults who use drugs do so recreationally – getting high at the weekend then up for work on a Monday morning.

    * Apart from the huge percentage of people addicted to both sugar and caffeine, a small minority of adults (5%) will always experience the use of other drugs as problematic. – approx. 3% are dependent on alcohol, and 1.5% dependent on other drugs.

    * Just as it was impossible to prevent alcohol from being produced and used in the U.S. in the 1920s, so too, it is equally impossible to prevent any of the aforementioned drugs from being produced, distributed and widely used by those who desire to do so.

    * Prohibition kills more people and ruins more lives than the drugs it prohibits.

    * Due to Prohibition (historically proven to be an utter failure at every level), the availability of most of these mood-altering drugs has become so universal and unfettered that in any city of the civilized world, any one of us would be able to procure practically any drug we wish within an hour.

    * Throughout history, the prohibition of any mind-altering substance has always exploded usage rates, overcrowded jails, fueled organized crime, created rampant corruption of law-enforcement – even whole governments, while inducing an incalculable amount of suffering and death.

    * The involvement of the CIA in running Heroin from Vietnam, Southeast Asia and Afghanistan and Cocaine from Central America has been well documented by the 1989 Kerry Committee report, academic researchers Alfred McCoy and Peter Dale Scott, and the late journalist Gary Webb.

    * It’s not even possible to keep drugs out of prisons, but prohibitionists wish to waste trillions of dollars in an utterly futile attempt to keep them off our streets.

    * The United States jails a larger percentage of it’s own citizens than any other country in the world, including those run by the worst totalitarian regimes, yet it has far higher use/addiction rates than most other countries.

    * Prohibition is the “Goose that laid the golden egg” and the lifeblood of terrorists as well as drug cartels. Both the Taliban and the terrorists of al Qaeda derive their main income from the prohibition-inflated value of the opium poppy. An estimated 44 % of the heroin produced in Afghanistan, with an estimated annual destination value of US $ 27 Billion, transits through Pakistan. Prohibition has essentially destroyed Pakistan’s legal economy and social fabric. – We may be about to witness the planet’s first civil war in a nation with nuclear capabilities. – Kindly Google: ‘A GLOBAL OVERVIEW OF NARCOTICS-FUNDED TERRORIST GROUPS’ Only those opposed, or willing to ignore these facts, want things the way they are.

    * The future depends on whether or not enough of us are willing to take a long look at the tragic results of prohibition. If we continue to skirt the primary issue while refusing to address the root problem then we can expect no other result than a worsening of the current dire situation. – Good intentions, wishful thinking and pseudoscience are no match for the immutable realities of human nature.

    * The urge to save humanity is almost always a false-face for the urge to rule it. – H. L. Mencken (1880-1956) American editor, essayist and philologist.