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.
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.
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