Richard A. (“Red”) Lawhern, Ph.D.
Two weeks ago, the National Pain Report published my suggestions to chronic pain patients for making themselves heard in public media and letters to their legislators [Link]. Today I wish to follow those suggestions with something both more important and more difficult for people in pain. I ask that you write the first of what must become several letters to your US Senators and Representative. Don’t just think about it. DO it. If pain patients are not to be denied even the marginal level of care they now receive, they MUST make themselves heard by government officials who will otherwise almost certainly ride roughshod over them in the next 18 months.
Seventeen separate pieces of legislation are now making their way through Congress and the Senate to “solve” the “epidemic” of opioid drug deaths in the US. One of the potentially most sweeping is a resolution to fund an interagency task force to “…Review, Modify, and Update Best Practices for Pain Management and Prescribing Pain Medication…” If done right, such an initiative might bring better balance between real concerns for street drug overdose deaths, versus those of chronic pain patients facing withdrawal of the only medications that help them manage daily life. Done wrong, such standards will condemn millions of people to agony and despair.
The House version of this task force legislation has already passed and the Senate version is pending. To find your legislators and to know what to say to them, you will need to visit a few websites:
- House Committee Report on HR 4641 in the current session of Congress:
- “Contacting The Congress” – a list of online gateways for sending letters of concern.
- Also helpful: sign up with https://www.congress.org to track your legislators’ votes by email.
- “Opioid Addiction Is a Huge Problem, but Pain Prescriptions Are Not the Cause” – An important blog in Scientific American which debunks the false narrative on opioid prescriptions as a source of addictions to street drugs.
So what might you write? Here is a possible example:
Dear Congressman [name]
I want to express my ongoing concern and alarm over legislation now making its way through the House and Senate to establish an Inter Agency Task Force to “…Review, Modify, and Update Best Practices for Pain Management and Prescribing Pain Medication…”.
As reported in HR 4641, it appears that membership of the Task Force is being stacked against chronic pain patients who have for years relied upon prescription opioid medications to create the minimal quality of life that we have. We already know that the March 2016 CDC restrictive “guidelines” on opiate prescriptions in chronic pain are driving doctors out of pain management practice and patients into agony and despair. If the CDC approach is expanded by the Task Force, many more among the 100 Million chronic pain patients in the US will be thrown to the wolves.
To understand just how wrong-headed much of the current hysteria over opioid overdose deaths is, please have one of your staff read ““Opioid Addiction Is a Huge Problem, but Pain Prescriptions Are Not the Cause” – An important blog in Scientific American [https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/mind-guest-blog/opioid-addiction-is-a-huge-problem-but-pain-prescriptions-are-not-the-cause/] Then let me know your views concerning the REAL causes of wide spread drug abuse. I want to know how you will support the concerns of 100 chronic pain patients in this matter.
[Your name and address]
Just one letter won’t do this job. The Senate and House must see tens of thousands of letters at the very least, or they will ignore you outright. They DO NOT CARE if you are in pain. They care only about getting reelected. Your voice needs to be heard repeatedly, both by your legislators and in public meetings (webinars) of the Task Force itself.
The staff at the National Pain Report can help the membership by alerting us to key events as the Task Force process unfolds. I very much hope they will agree to take on this task.
Richard A. Lawhern is a medical non-professional who has supported chronic face pain patients for 20 years as an author, webmaster, and Internet site moderator. He is also a frequent critic of psychosomatic medicine and mainstream psychiatry as misapplied to chronic pain patients.