Prescription for Abuse (2012)

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Prescription for Abuse: Washington Tries to get Serious

Responding to concerns about excessive prescribing of drugs, Washington state has new rules in effect. But will it make a difference in a trend that is claiming more lives nationally, including among the young.

JAN. 22, 2012
By Carol Smith

Dr. Rosemary Orr didn’t see it coming that day. It was the morning after Mother’s Day. She needed a ride to work, so her 24-year-old son Robin drove her. She was in a hurry to get to Children’s Hospital and Medical Center in Seattle, where she is a pediatric anesthesiologist. Otherwise, she says, she would have spent more time talking with him.

She’d been worried about his sleeping habits, his weight loss lately. She knew her smart, handsome son had struggled with addiction to OxyContin in the past. But he’d kicked it. He’d assured her of that. He’d looked her in the eye and said, ‘You don’t have to worry about me, Mom.”

No parent wants to believe her child is using. Not even one who is a doctor.

“I was stupid and desperate enough to believe that explanation,” Orr says now, five years later, over coffee a few miles from her work, where she takes care of the pain of others. Her own pain, she takes with her.

When she got home from work that day, Robin’s phone was ringing, but he wasn’t answering in his room downstairs. She knocked. And knocked again. She went around her house and peered in through his bedroom window.

Her son was on the floor, dead of an overdose.

Orr’s son is one of thousands of Americans, including a growing number of young people, who have died from prescription pain medications, powerful opiates that one emergency room doctor described as “just a fancy form of heroin.”

With a law that took effect this month, Washington state is making a bold attempt to reduce overdose deaths by launching the first-ever dosing limits for doctors and others who prescribe these medicines. The law has been heralded as one of the toughest in the nation, but loopholes and pitfalls in the system remain.

Prescription drug abuse is at epidemic levels throughout the state, and elsewhere in the country, despite lawmakers’ attempts to get a grip on it. Washington now has one of the highest death rates in the nation. Deaths from prescription drug overdoses in this state have skyrocketed nearly twenty-fold since the mid-1990s, and now outstrip those from traffic accidents.

In King County, deaths from prescription opiates exceed deaths from heroin, meth, and cocaine combined.

Washington has been one of the hardest hit states in the country, in part because of aggressive prescribing practices. That, coupled with lack of oversight of doctors who over-prescribe, has led to the spectacular run-up in the number of deaths from prescription overdoses.

Dr. Russell Carlisle, head of Swedish Medical Center’s Cherry Hill Emergency Department in Seattle, was shocked by the volume of painkillers doctors were prescribing in Washington when he first moved here from California in the mid-1990s.

Running between exam rooms during a recent busy afternoon in his ER, Carlisle recalled that California maintained tight control of pain medication, requiring triplicate documentation for opiate prescriptions at the time. But in Washington, emergency room doctors were routinely handing out prescriptions for 30 to 40 pills at a time, even to people with histories of drug habits.

Why? “Because then they wouldn’t come back,” he said.

But that efficiency turned deadly. “The higher deaths, and probably abuse, too, I believe has to do with higher supply or availability,” said Jennifer Sabel, an epidemiologist with the state Department of Health.

An InvestigateWest analysis of U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration data shows Washington ranked fourth highest nationally in per-capita prescribing of methadone in 2006 (the most recent year for which reliable data is available) and 11th for oxycodone — the two biggest killers.

Even more disturbing, more than half of all prescription drug-related deaths in the state occur in the state’s poorest and most vulnerable population — people on Medicaid, a population that is itself exploding in our recent economy. A 2009 federal study showed the age-adjusted risk of death from prescription opiates in Washington was nearly six times higher for Medicaid enrollees than those not on the program.

“Medicaid has about a death a day from prescription narcotics, and in the last two years, it’s continued to escalate,” said Dr. Jeff Thompson, medical director for Washington’s Medicaid program. Many of those deaths are among young people, he said, a trend that also has public health experts concerned.

New addicts are getting hooked at younger and younger ages, said Caleb Banta-Green, a research scientist at the University of Washington’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute.

“The largest group of people entering treatment for prescription abuse right now is made of young people between the ages of 18 and 24.”

The making of an epidemic

Washington’s emergence as a state with one of the highest rates of both opiate prescriptions and deaths was not, in hindsight, an accident.

In 1995, Purdue Pharma introduced OxyContin along with an aggressive marketing campaign pitching the drug as a salvation for chronic pain. The next year, Washington’s medical profession did an about-face in its approach to pain management. The state’s Medical Quality Assurance Commission issued new liberalized guidelines addressing the under-treatment of chronic pain. By 1999, they had been codified into law.

The 1999 law specified, “No disciplinary action will be taken against a practitioner based solely on the quantity and/or frequency of opiates prescribed.”

The relaxation of the rules resulted in a run-up in prescriptions. “Since the law changed, the average daily doses in morphine equivalents have gone through the roof,” said Dr. Gary Franklin, medical director for the state’s Department of Labor & Industries. In 1998, the average daily dose was 80 mg. By 2002, it had nearly doubled to 140 mg.

The same trend was going on around the country. In 1997, prescription opiate sales amounted to 96 mg per person in the United States. By 10 years later, they had mushroomed to 698 mg per person, Franklin said. “That’s enough for every American to take 5 mg of Vicodin every four hours for three weeks.” In 2010, the levels increased still further, enough to medicate every adult around the clock for a month.

Franklin was among the first to notice an alarming corollary effect: the drugs used to kill pain were also killing people.

“Workers were coming in for low back sprains, and dying,” he said. Franklin and his colleagues published the first paper in the country to link worker deaths to prescription drugs in 2005. But when he presented his findings at medical meetings, he faced backlash from the profession and the drug industry.

Many in the profession had fought long and hard to get access to these drugs for better pain management of chronic pain patients, Franklin said. “They didn’t want to hear it might be killing them.”

In May, 2007, Purdue Pharma sent Franklin a three-page letter blaming deaths on patient abuse and disputing Franklin’s contention the drugs were being overprescribed. A day after he received the letter, Purdue executives pleaded guilty to misleading the public about the addiction potential of OxyContin, and agreed to pay a $600 million fine.

"Preferred drug"

As the deaths and hospitalizations continued to mount, an even more unsettling trend emerged — the disproportionate escalation of deaths among the state’s Medicaid population.

Looking back, the rise in the death rates of Medicaid patients tracks along with the state’s cost-saving decision to move many of its poorest residents to the cheapest, most potent pain reliever available: Methadone.

In 2003, the state agency that administers Medicaid made methadone the “preferred drug” for long-acting opiates on its formulary, the list of drugs Medicaid covers. Because methadone is so much cheaper than oxycodone or other types of pain pills, the move drove down costs considerably, said Thompson. A few years ago, the agency was spending $20 million annually on pain meds for Medicaid patients. Now it spends about $12 million, he said.

But as costs came down, deaths went up. And many patients are still on high doses of painkillers. Medicaid has between 3,000 and 4,000 patients in Washington who are already over the new legal threshold of 120 mg a day, he said. About 700 of them are over 1,000 mg a day, and a few people are on up to 10,000 mg a day.

Studies have shown the risk of death increases up to nine-fold at 100 mg a day.

“You have to be careful with methadone because it accumulates in the body,” Thompson said.

A fix in the works

A few years ago, Rep. James Moeller of Vancouver, who is a drug-abuse counselor by trade, noticed a strange thing happening in his practice. More people were coming to him addicted to legal drugs than illegal ones.

“People would be sitting in my office, wondering how they got there,” he said. “Often it had started with a minor injury.”

Franklin of the state’s Department of Labor & Industries, and University of Washington pain expert Dr. Alex Cahana were seeing the same trends. Even more unsettling, they were seeing more people dying from addiction to these drugs. Together, the three began a battle to set rules around prescribing pain meds. Their efforts culminated in the passage in 2010 of RCW 2876, which repealed the old rules and put into effect strict new rules for pain medications. The rules, which don’t apply to patients suffering acute pain from injury or surgery, or to those with cancer pain or in end-of-life care, went into effect Jan.2.

The new rules specify that when a patient exceeds a dosing threshold of 120 mg per day of morphine-equivalents (a standard measure of narcotic strength), the patient must be evaluated by a certified pain management specialist. The law also contains requirements for pain evaluation, and continuing education for providers.

Dr. David Tauben, a clinical associate professor and director of medical education in pain management at the University of Washington, said the new law will give doctors better tools to treat pain, which is among the most difficult conditions physicians see.

Historically, doctors haven’t understood the limitations of using opiates to treat pain, he said. “They thought, if some is good, more is better, and when more stops working, give even more.” That thinking followed a shift in the medical culture during the late 1990s toward more aggressive treatment of chronic pain. And it’s one reason there are so many people on high doses of pain meds right now.

The trouble is, the pain medications themselves can worsen the problem, contributing to heightened sensitivity to pain, a condition called “opioid-induced hyperalgesia.” As a result, many people find it difficult to taper off the medications. Others unwittingly get addicted after taking narcotic medication for long periods of time.

The law will help better educate doctors about what does work for pain management, Tauben said. “We’re trying to fix the mess the pain community inadvertently created.”

Not everyone is happy with the tightened statute, however. The pharmaceutical industry has opposed the law. Some drug companies have mounted campaigns fronted by patient advocacy groups or policy centers.

The University of Wisconsin’s Pain & Policies Group, one of the most influential policy advisors in the nation, for example, was recently revealed to have failed to disclose its funding relationships with drug-makers.

In Washington, the American Pain Foundation, which bills itself as an independent nonprofit, but receives the bulk of its funding from Endo, the makers of generic OxyContin, has mounted a sophisticated media campaign critical of the pain-management laws and claiming pain patients are suffering unnecessarily.

Some in the medical community also say it unfairly penalizes legitimate pain patients, and doctors who prescribe for them.

Dr. James Rotchford of Port Townsend has been critical of the new law. Rotchford, who lost both his Drug Enforcement Administration registration and his Medicaid contract after the DEA raided his Port Townsend offices in 2010, said the real problem is inadequate pain management and addiction treatment for those who are already on the drugs.

“The law is on the other end of it,” he said. “The problem starts before they get to 120 mg (a day.) We’re not doing anything to prevent the problem.”

"The biggest pushers"

There’s plenty of blame to go around for what caused the epidemic — aggressive marketing of opiates by drug companies, nonexistent tracking of overprescribing, lack of insurance coverage for alternative treatments for pain, and demand by patients for quick fixes, to name a few.

Ending the epidemic will require attention to all these issues, but also a fundamental change in the way the medical culture deals with pain.

The pain that Rosemary Orr felt when found her son dead of an overdose sparked an effort to protect patients: She helped start P.R.O.P., Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing, which is dedicated to promoting cautious, safe and responsible prescribing practices.

Orr is haunted by a quote from her son: “Mom, you have to see — doctors are the biggest drug pushers in the country.”

She wants to change that.

“Teenagers are given oversupplies of Vicodin for things like wisdom teeth extractions. Surgical patients get more pills than they need when they leave the hospital. People take them all because they figure, 'Gee, if a doctor prescribed it, it must be safe,' " she said. “Before they know it, they’re addicted.”

She points out, too, that this is an American problem.

“The U.S. is responsible for about 90 percent of the world’s prescribing of Vicodin,” she said.

In Britain, where she grew up, she recalls breaking her leg in three places when she was 14 years old. ‘My father was a doctor,” she said. “He gave me an aspirin.”

Americans are notorious for their pill-popping. Addiction is minimized and glamorized by shows, such as House, featuring a doctor who pops Vicodin like Chiclets. There are consequences to that, said Orr, whose son is never far from her thoughts. She writes: “Sometimes, I feel his presence and sense that he is encouraging me to tell others what I now know so that perhaps one life will be saved.”

Part II: New Law Holds Promise, but Concerns Linger |

A note about this project: This story is part of an ongoing collaboration between KCTS 9 and InvestigateWest, an independent nonprofit newsroom covering the Pacific Northwest. The KCTS 9 documentary airs at 9:00 p.m. Jan. 30.

About the Film

About the Film

KCTS 9 and InvestigateWest report on the alarming increase in prescription-drug abuse in Washington state, looking at doctors who overprescribe, the lack of regulation or treatment options, and how this epidemic is affecting teenagers, seniors and middle-class families.

About the Filmmaker

About Ethan Morris

Ethan Morris is the Executive Producer of Public Affairs at KCTS where he oversees local broadcasts including weekly programs, specials, town halls and investigations. Before coming to KCTS, he was the Senior News Producer at KOMO-TV in Seattle and a special commentator for ABC’s World News Now on Northwest news stories and issues. He has won three Emmy Awards, three regional Edward R. Murrow Awards, and the National Edward R. Murrow for coverage of the 2001 Nisqually Earthquake.

About the Reporter

About Carol Smith

Carol Smith is editor and co-founder of InvestigateWest, a regional nonprofit journalism studio focused on the environment, public health and government integrity. A long-time print reporter, she was nominated for a 2010 Emmy award for her work on healthcare workers who handle chemotherapy. She won the 2009 Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism for her work on mental illness, and was a 2006 finalist for the PEN Literary awards. In addition, her investigative work has been honored by the Blethen Awards, and she was co-finalist for Harvard University’s Goldsmith Prize in Investigative Journalism.

Featured in the Film

  • Dr. Rosemary Orr
  • Caleb Banta Green
  • Gina Grappone
  • Dr. Russell Carlisle
  • Gil Kerlikowske
Dr. Rosemary Orr
Dr. Rosemary Orr

Dr. Rosemary Orr lost her son, Robin, to an overdose of OxyContin and cocaine in 2005. After his death, she helped create P.R.O.P., Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing, which is dedicated to promoting cautious, safe and responsible opioid prescribing practices

Caleb Banta Green
Caleb Banta Green

Caleb Banta Green is an epidemiologist with the University of Washington’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute. His research has tracked a surge in prescription drug abuse and overdoses in Washington during the last 10 years, and a corresponding increase in heroin use.

Gina Grappone
Gina Grappone

Gina Grappone is the Executive Director of SAMA, the Science and Management of Addictions, dedicated to eradicating substance abuse of all kinds among youth. SAMA offers treatment and support for young people and their families dealing with the disease of addiction.

Dr. Russell Carlisle
Dr. Russell Carlisle

Dr. Russell Carlisle is the Medical Director of the Emergency Department for Swedish Medical Center’s Cherry Hill campus, where he implemented the “Oxy-Free ED” program, which tries to reduce the amount of opioids prescribed by emergency room physicians. The program has spread to six other Swedish campuses, and 50 hospitals across the country.

Gil Kerlikowske
Gil Kerlikowske

Gil Kerlikowske is the Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, who calls prescription drug abuse the fastest growing drug problem in the nation and an epidemic.


  • Sean Riley
  • Rayne Pearson
  • Deborah Long
  • Matt Brooks
  • Rose Dennis
  • Maria Downing
Sean Riley

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Sean Riley is a former police officer who became addicted to prescription drugs. He lost his job after he was arrested on drug charges. Following drug rehabilitation therapy, Sean founded Safe Call Now, a crisis line for public safety workers like police, firefighters and corrections officers struggling with substance abuse. The Washington-based program is now helping public safety workers nationwide.

Rayne Pearson

Can't watch the above video? Watch it on YouTube

Rayne Pearson became addicted to prescription opioids after her doctor prescribed Vicodin for her following the birth of her first child. Now in recovery, and a successful practicing attorney, Rayne tells how stereotypes of the “back-alley drug addict” are just plain wrong, and harmful to those who need help.

Deborah Long

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Deborah Long started using prescription opioids after an on-the-job injury, and ended up drug seeking at local emergency rooms. Deborah says getting drugs from ERs and doctors was all too easy. She is now in recovery and a student at Olympic College earning a degree in Human Services.

Matt Brooks

Can't watch the above video? Watch it on YouTube

Matt Brooks describes how his addiction to prescription opioids turned into a heroin addiction after drugs like OxyContin became too expensive. Matt says too many people don’t understand that prescription opioids and heroin have the exact same effect on the brain. Matt is now in recovery and is a student and musician.

Rose Dennis

Can't watch the above video? Watch it on YouTube

Rose Dennis shares how her son became addicted to opioids at the age of 13 after he was diagnosed with leukemia and required and opiate drip for treatment. She is now on the Board of SAMA, the Science and Management of Addictions, and wants doctors to understand the powerful nature of prescription opioids on adolescents.

Maria Downing

Can't watch the above video? Watch it on YouTube

Maria Downing lost her son to an overdose after his life-long struggle with opioids and other drugs. Maria says her son always thought he had control of his addiction, but was never able to stop using. She is now on the Family Action Council of SAMA, working to educate youth about addiction.


University of Washington Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute
Established in 1973, ADAI conducts vital and comprehensive substance use abuse research which is made available to health and social service professionals, policy makers, and the public. The Institute’s mission is to improve the understanding of, and reduce the harm caused by alcohol and drug abuse. This interactive map includes data on a county-by-county basis and important links to treatment services.

Science and Management of Addictions (SAMA)
Dedicated to eliminating the disease of substance addiction in youth, SAMA helps young people and families by providing drug and alcohol assessments, treatment planning, referrals, outpatient treatment services, parent groups, and other resources. Call to schedule an assessment or parent intake session.
Phone: 206-328-1719

Safe Call Now
A crisis referral line for police, firefighters, corrections officers and other public safety workers and their families who are dealing with substance use issues. Phone lines are staffed 24-hours by professionals who understand the unique demands of public safety work. All calls are confidential.
Phone: 206-459-3020

Addictions Treatment Center, VA Puget Sound Health Care System
The Addictions Treatment Center provides treatment for veterans experiencing difficulties with drug or alcohol use. The program treats substance use in conjunction with other issues such as PTSD and depressive disorders. Call to schedule an evaluation.
Phone: 206-764-2081

Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing (PROP)
PROP provides information and educational materials for doctors, health care providers, and the public. The organization’s mission is to reduce deaths resulting from the prescribing of opioids, and to promote cautious, safe and responsible prescribing practices.

UW Medicine Division of Pain Medicine
Provides inpatient and outpatient services at five area hospitals for diagnosing pain from injury, surgery and disease, and preventing pain from becoming a disabling disease. Doctors pursue precision diagnosis, target specific treatments, and address prevention, patient education, and lifestyle changes in conjunction with medical therapies.

UW Pain Medicine Provider Toolkit
A valuable educational resource for doctors and providers about safe opioid prescribing practices. Includes an Opioid Dose Calculator, pain management guidelines, and information about the Prescription Monitoring Program and the ED Information Exchange.

Prescription Monitoring Program
Information for pharmacists, dispensaries and physicians about the new Prescription Monitoring Program, including how to register and compliance requirements.
Link: PMP Fact Sheet (PDF file)

Opioid Prescribing Guidelines (WA ED Opioid Abuse Work Group)
Recommendations for doctors, emergency departments, and other providers on the prescribing of opioids for non-cancer pain. Guidelines developed by the Washington Emergency Department Opioid Abuse Work Group sponsored by the state Department of Health.
Link: (PDF file)

CME: Opioid Dosing Guidelines
A Continuing Medical Education tool for physicians, pharmacists and others in the health care community who prescribe opioids or are involved in the management of chronic non-cancer pain.

WA Dept. Labor & Industries Medical Treatment Guidelines
Guidelines from L&I for the outpatient prescription of oral opioids for injured workers with non-cancer pain.
Link: (PDF file)

CDC Vital Signs: Prescription Painkiller Overdoses, November 2011

Office of National Drug Control Policy
The 2011 Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Plan which includes strategies for education, monitoring, proper medication disposal and enforcement.


What I like about this film is that mothers who lost their children have joined the organization to promote awareness regarding substance abuse among youth. They are the best example of how it feels to lose someone they love. Well, PROP is not an organization that stops or eliminate the use of prescription drugs it promotes the safe and responsible opioid prescribing practices.

This show is misnamed. It is not about opiates that have been prescribed. It is about opiates that have been diverted. Dr. Orr's loss is a horrible one. No parent should have to go through such a horrible loss. However, Dr. Orr admits that her son's drugs that he took were not prescribed to him. In addition, it is unlikely that any licensed physician would prescribe such a med by telling the patient to crush the med up and inject it. The fact is that Dr. Orr's son died from diverted drugs, not drugs that were prescribed to him. It is not prescription drug abuse. It is diversion.....and that includes people sharing their meds with friends and family. I do not mean to dismiss Dr. Orr's grief but I view it as being misdirected. Furthermore, her grief is being used as fuel to promote the increasing political regulatory hysteria against legitimate chronic pain patients and legitimate chronic pain management providers. I am fully aware of personal loss and what it does to one's life. My father murdered my mother and then committed suicide. Yet I fully painfully accept and know that only my father's finger was on the trigger. I did not go after the gun company. I did not go after the company that made the bullets. I faced the cold brute fact as it was. Dr. Orr's son had his hand on the needle of diverted, not prescribed drugs. The problem is diversion. And yes diversion needs to be countered as much as possible.....lockboxes, good custodial care of meds, etc.


Dr. Blackburn:

This is a supply problem, plain and simple. The United States, with but 3% of the world's population, consumes 80% of it's opioids. If the supply were more appropriately prescribed the opportunity for overdose - whether diverted or prescribed - would be substantially diminished.

To suggest that diversion alone is the cause of the problem is disingenuous. As you know, unintentional opioid overdoses are also occurring amongst patients who obtained their medication from a prescribing physician as well. (1,2) Of note, the factors for unintentional overdose deaths include, but are not limited to, the dose prescribed.

1. Risk of Adverse Health Outcomes with Increasing Duration and Regularity of Opioid Therapy
Leonard J. Paulozzi, MD, Kun Zhang, PhD, Christopher M. Jones, PharmD and Karin A. Mack, PhD. JABFM May-June 2014.



I do not deal in statistics. I deal with individuals. In addition, statistics are being incorrectly misapplied to individuals.

RE: This is a supply problem, plain and simple.

ANS: It is such simpleton thinking that justifies such actions as the DEA making opiate supplies less available at the end of the year by manufacturing restrictions that leaves many valid patients without adequate access at that time. Such dragnet mentality is akin to a sheriff in a small town noticing that all criminals have red hair and then arresting all redheads, even the innocent ones, in order to reduce crime.

RE: The United States, with but 3% of the world's population, consumes 80% of it's opioids. If the supply were more appropriately prescribed the opportunity for overdose - whether diverted or prescribed - would be substantially diminished.

ANS: See above. Also, much the same can be said about antibiotics as much of the world does not even have access to half way decent medical care.

RE: To suggest that diversion alone is the cause of the problem is disingenuous. As you know, unintentional opioid overdoses are also occurring amongst patients who obtained their medication from a prescribing physician as well.

ANS: No, diversion alone is not the sole 100% problem. However, it is the vast majority of the problem. Furthermore, when an individual takes opiates that are not prescribed to them but are given to them by either friends or family it is still diversion. Whether a diverting friend/family member or a drug pusher gives/sells/barters the opiate to an individual in neither case did a pain management provider prescribe it to that individual. Also, when a patient does not take their opiates as prescribed and ignores the parameters discussed with them (such as not drinking alcohol), etc. it is not the fault of the prescribing provider especially when that patient denies such non compliance. No drug is perfect. Even Tylenol if taken incorrectly can kill someone. These opiates are not benign meds but are serious ones that at times are a necessary evil for those who are confronted with a choice of living life with chronic pain of such intensity that it significantly interferes with their ability to function or taking a medicine that can reduce the pain level to a point whereby it does not significantly interfere with their ability to function. It often does boil down to a variation of an age old function or not to function. And please further note that those who are so immobile due to being unable to function are further plagued by increased morbidity and mortality due to pulmonary emboli, cardiac deconditioning, skin decubiti with sepsis as well as social decline. Life is often not perfect. Often one is faced with choices neither of which are perfect but essentially are the choice of the lessor of two evils. History is replete with what happens when pain management is not available; injured war veterans with intractable, significant, chronic pain often turned to suicide and/or alcohol to deal with such choices.

Furthermore, there is a very distinct difference between recreational drug users and legitimate chronic pain patients but unfortunately political regulatory hysteria often seems incapable of recognizing the difference.

In an ideal world there would be no chronic pain. There would be no wars, no survivors of military injuries with horrible chronic pain, no horrible motor vehicle accidents with multiple trauma survivors with chronic pain, no cancer patients with chronic pain, no cancer survivors with chronic pain due to chemotherapy. But it is not an ideal world, is it?


My own opinion regarding this issue is that Holland has the best model for the "war on drugs". Holland spends far less that the U.S. does and has better outcomes. The Dutch government has had the maturity and wisdom to realize that this problem is not going away but simply has to be managed.

Furthermore, I strongly suspect that much of the effort directed towards this issue would be far more productive if it were put into better mental health access and better child protection services.


Clarification: On a percent GDP basis, Holland spends far less than the U.S. does on the "War on Drugs".


CORRECTION: In addition, statistics are being incorrectly misapplied to individuals.

SHOULD BE: In addition, statistics are being incorrectly applied to individuals.


Thank you for tbringing this issue to the attention of the people in Washington state. I too, lost my daughter at age 26 to a physician who over prescribed xanaxfor a middle ear infection. She knew she was addicted and went to a family physician. That physican prescribed mutilple drug prescriptions which led to her death of the deadly legal prescription cocktail.

The drug companies, physicians, lack of education, and the FDA are equally responsible for the deaths of our children.


I was wondering about this for a long time now. I have shared this information with my friends in the hospital. I will rest easy tonight with the knowledge I have gathered here today.


This program was very informative. As a nurse I work with a variety of patients who have pain.


I knew Robin Rice aka Robin Orr very very well. He was a great friend, so I hate speaking the truth. I saw him first use Oxycontin. It was from out of state, not prescribed by any doctors, but paid for from a distributor. He did not die from opiates. He had horrible asthma and that was the main reason for his death.
RIP Robin and I am so sorry for his Mom Dr. Orr.


Correction. Distributor implies legal. That transaction apparently was not so. It is diversion. Diversion is illegal. Individuals who sell drugs to others for recreational use that have been obtained by illicit means are called drug pushers, not distributors.


PROP are idiots, their concern is to limit opioid use for patients that really need them. It is totally unfair for patients that take their meds responsibly.
Who are they to claim they know so much about chronic pain? Do they have a chronic pain disease? NO, but I will say Karma is a powerful thing, Watch out Doc's or you will be the ones needing those meds one day..You are cutting your own throats here.
I suffer from an intractable chronic pain disease, which there is no cure, or treatment..I have tried all kinds of different therapy's and procedures to end up with no relief..My only relief is my Opioids..I have been suffering for 7 yrs now..The opioids do not get rid of all the pain, but they do help me live a some what kind of life..If it were not for these drugs, I would be bed bound, or DEAD. I could not live with the pain this Disease causes, Arachnoiditis, the pain is compared to end stage cancer with out the relief of DEATH. There are many of us and the community is still growing, which is very sad,b/c the only way to get this disease is from a Doctor! I got mine from an Epidural injection..I did not ask to live this way, I had no choice in the matter, not even warned about it before I had the Injection..Now, you are trying to take away the only means of pain relief I have? PROP, you will get yours one day! PLease if you are against this Petition go here and sign:
We are over 1100 strong, and we will have our FIGHT AGAINST PROP.


I love the karma part. Love it! I suffer from chronic daily migraines. My life has been trashed. I am working on putting it back together, but I need pain medication to function, until something better comes along. The energy you put out into the universe comes back to you. I believe in his next life, the dickhead ER doctor who doesn't believe my pain gets to feel what it's like.


I am sorry I also have adhesive arachnoidiyis and Cst leak with giant psuedemenigicle! I am shaking as I fix my mistakes. I am lost with pain. God Bless


You are so correct in that we need Opioids in order to live a somewhat normal productive life!

I can understand physicians are afraid to hand out narcotics but if this is the case they shouldn't be treating chronic pain patients!

I have seen many people who suffer with chronic pain get their pain meds from a doctor then that doctor moves etc. and then they are forced to go to another doctor who may not be willing to prescribe the pain meds they need to live!

Don't get me wrong, I believe a well-balanced approach to long-term pain management is needed, not just drugs.


The physicians who know how to treat chronic pain but are now afraid to do so not do so for good reason. Their fear is very justified and will continue to be so until their are laws on the books that protect pain management providers from recurrent political regulatory hysteria.


Where do I sign up against this??? I too, unfortunately suffer from chronic pain. I have been "piss tested" 8 times already this year!!! I take my meds as prescribed, but it ALWAYS a HUGE hassle when getting my meds re-filled!! They treat me like I am a criminal!! All because I have several chronic, degenerative conditions, which are best controlled by medications. Unfortunately, some of these are controls such as hydrocodone, which were developed for the same reasons I take them...PAIN RELIEF/CONTROL!!!


I agree with you 100%. I too have degenerative problems of the spine and neck. My doctor barely even gives me enough to get me through from one month to the other. I'm trying to work and it's very, very hard to do. I also have herniated disks and my curvature in my spine is opposite from what it should be. The right side of my body seems to be the most affected from this. I was almost totally confined to bed for 5 years after i had an injury. I used to work in the medical field but i can't do that anymore. I hate having to rely on the meds to live as normal a life as possible but if it weren't for them i don't know where i'd be. The thing that really bothers me is that i know a girl that goes to some doctors and sells her meds. I'm trying to find what web site i go to so i can report her. She's been doing this for a long time and i'm sick of it. Tired of hearing her complain about hurting when she doesn't take them hardly at all. If someone could steer me in the right direction i'd do it. I want to stay anonymous. When people do this they give people like us a bad name.


OK this is EXTREMELY biased program, if not propaganda. First Dr. Rosemary Orr says her son died from and Oxycontin overdose. He injected Cocaine and Oxyconting, this is called "speed balling" and is typically done with heroin not oxycontin. This is VERY dangerous. Yes opiates can kill you, but opiates are some of the safest drugs there are. They do not affect the major organs. Had her son either just did the oxy or the cocaine separately and had not mixed these two drugs he most likely would be alive. They do NOT clarify the statistics either, all those ER visits for "Opiates" if you look a majority of ER visits involve an opioid that is mixed with Tylenol, and they are having liver failure, NOT from the opiate but from the Tylenol. Most people who die from these "Over doses" are mixing the drugs and are not dying just from the opiate, had these people not mixed alcohol and benzo's they would still be alive. I also noticed that when they kept scrolling on the prescription bottles to show the opiates with the scary music they had a bottle of Clonazapam, umm that is not an opiate, it's a benzo. First do some research. It's clear this is all propaganda, unfortunately the American populace is like sheep and will eat up this crap.


THANK YOU JAMES for your comment below... This is a vveeryy BIASED site and program. People who are on a pain management program and are taking there Medication properly are not at this "High Risk" for Overdose. Someone who may be abusing the prescription medication and unfortunitly passed away due to the use of it either just took too much, were not going to a very well known well educated "PAIN MANAGEMENT DOCTOR" who really knows what they are doing. I live in Washington State and here we have one of the highest prescription medication abuse rates in all of the states, this is due to people who don't need the medication selling it on the street to those who are un aware of how to properly take it and most likely are un aware of how dangerous they can be IF they are abused. The Benzodiazapines (benzo's) such as xanax, Clonazapam, ect... Those medications are not pain medications they are to treat Anxiety, PTSD and depression as well as other phyciatric problems. Mixing those with pain medication always raises the danger of overdose ALTHOUGH me having suffering from Ehlers Danlos Syndrome having finally giving in and knowing i need to take some pain medication (Methadone & oxycodone(as needed for break through pain) I also was prescribed Xanax due to PTSD, Anxiety and minor depression for being a 26 year old woman and a mother of two I knew i needed to get my body emotionally and physically under control and thankfully i Found the most amazing Pain management DR who also works VERY close in the same office with my Phyciatrist and together they were able to get my pain and anxiety under control so i could function as the 26 year old woman I am yet at the same time still feel something so that im not completely numbing myself from the world and my pain and anxiety. Im in the greatest place right now physically as well as being on the medication i do regular physical therapy (which for me with my Ehlers Danlos Syndrom is hard but there is a step and reason for all of what my Dr has me doing as well as adding the pain medications and anxiety meds ... People really REALLY need to do there PROPER research with specialist who are really knowlageable about what they are doing.. PEOPLE PLEASE LISTEN TO ME PLEASE, PLEASE PLEASE DONT JUST BELIEVE WHAT YOU READ THIS ISN'T HOW IT REALLY IS....YES IF YOU ABUSE UR MEDICATION PROBLEMS MAY ARISE, ALTHOUGH IF YOU DO IT THE RIGHT WAY AND LISTEN TO YOUR DOCTOR (THEY KNOW WHAT THEY ARE DOING AND WENT TO SCHOOL FOR THIS EXACT THING). YOU CAN LIVE WHILE TAKING PAIN MEDICATION AND BE HEALTHY AND NOT AT THE RISK OF HAVING THESE PROBLEMS... OF COURSE YOUR GOING TO HEAR MORE ABOUT DEATHS AND LESS ABOUT HOW AMAZING PEOPLE ARE MANAGING THERE PAIN...!! I DONT KNOW this is truly heating me up and is frusturating me so i must get off the computer and make my son lunch!!!!! I wish everyone who is in pain and needs to be on pain management has a great and successfull way of going about treating there pain and other problems they may have going on!!!

Pain management Advocate <3


**Contents of comment removed for violating KCTS 9 Terms of Service**

Please refrain from personal attacks. Discussion of why you disagree with others' opinions is welcome. Insults are not.

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Pain Patient looking for doctors articles..this is really good.

Are we really living in a Free United States? Why is the powers that be given so much power and by who?

Pain patients and doctors need to ban together.


What about people that have real chronic pain. I've been on the same dose of perks since 2005 never increased amount or dose. I did have fentanyl patches for awhile but my dr and insurance company say it's for cancer patients only and stopped them. I have neurothapy and it's very painful. My dr took me off of patches left me on 110 perks 10/325 a month and gave me a allergy pill to help make me tired to deal with the pain. I don't abuse them yet I am punished for being a chronic pain patient. I've been like this since 2005 and have tried trigger joint injections, stellate ganglion block, and various other things. What should someone like me or others with valid pain problems and awareness of the addiction and the stigma that comes with it?

I would gladly listen, I will be seeing yet another pain dr to try and help. Almost feeling like my only help will be THC, which people freak out about too. Heaven help those with chronic pain!!


Interesting Info!!

You know why most patients who actually need their Meds sell it, because when they lose their job from pain/injury/disability, and then have no income and cannot receive any form of health care coverage, the only way for them to get some relief every month is to sell a portion of their meds. This is not a joke, or a lame tactic. I am fortunate enough to get help from my family, but i bet 85% of people don't. With my thousands in medical bills i have been turned down for every kind of healthcare assistance i can get. i know if i did not get help from my family i would much rather sell half of my meds every month to get some relief instead of none at all. Sadly when i applied it was easy for people to use the system to get benefits, i won't go into details but i am sure most of you already know. SSI will keep you poor, and if you make any money you lose it. Or if you are not a certain ethnic group or few it could take 4 years of no coverage to get medicare. So the whole system is whack!!! I used to do personal loans and i saw first hand the abuse of the system. I also did healthcare billing and collection and yet again i saw the abuse. So if something is done here then you will cut down on diversion. Do the math, $700/ month for SSI, or $4000 a month with SSI selling some meds, or no SSI and still $4000 and up for meds. A guy i went to school with years ago has a house and mercedes paid for by, you guessed it dr shopping.


Shows like this are very upsetting. Sure, they get viewership because they are sensationalist and timely with the issues that have society in an uproar for the moment. However, they are irresponsibly one-sided while being presented as "medically professional". Yes, there are people who abuse pain medicines. But the state's new and historically draconian laws are by no means the answer. This reaction is nothing short of cruel. I suffer from horrendous chronic (and no, "chonic" is not a synonym for "imaginary") pain and am completey unable to function at all without pallative pain medication. Not only can't I function, I am in a state that can only be described as tortured. I invite any of you zealot, know-it-alls to experience a single afternoon of it. You wouldn't make it, I promise. You'd cry like a baby for anything to relieve it. You'd offer your left arm to relieve it. My pain results from a auto accident 8 years ago when I was sitting at a red light and an unlicensed drunk driver mistook my car for her brakes. For 18 mos. I refused all narcotics because I believed in the old party line that they are "bad". After giving in, I still have pain, I still don't function fully by far but it is so much less and life is so much more bearable. If I get breakthrough pain and end up at an ER, I have to endure being treated like a criminal despite the fact that I NEVER request narcotics from them (if the narcotics didn't work at home why use more there?). I am just honest with them when they ask what my meds are. And that attitude is my reward. In fact, if what they try doesn't work and they offer me opiates, I refuse for the reason I just cited. And shows like this one do wonders create the climate that I face in the ER or any new medical situation. I don't have to do ANYTHING to be marked as an addict seeking more drugs, nope, this sort of hysteria does it for me. This sort of unbalanced reporting packaged as a factual, educational show is very much beneath what all of us expect from KCTS 9. It's very sad because there is real suffering and its going to get worse with the "Pain Law" recently passed and your "work" has done nothing but harm to vulnerable people. If you want to pick on something why don't you go after alcohol? There isn't even a legitimate need for that and it causes a great deal of death, medical costs in Medicaid, Medicare, private insurance and lost work time. Or cigarettes? Again, yes, there are pain med abusers, but there are also people who desperately need their meds to have any quality of life (and the decision to put someone on them is NOT taken lightly despite the urban tales that pour in). These are vulnerable, sick people and shows like yours only threaten the bit of quality of life they have some access to. Thanks.


This program does speak seriously to the FACT that opiate addition and overdose is at an alarmingly high number. For those patients in chronic pain there are proper doses and formal monitoring that can be done. But, the numbers do tell us that the pendulum has swung too far and that opiate medications are too readily prescribed for "painful" life events. The human body can develop and be trained to manage pain without opiate treatment and too often opiates are the easy, quick answer to pain. Many times an anti-inflamatory medication will do more for pain and may even eliminate the pain permanently. Double blind studies are now showing this overmedication to be the case and anyone on opiates long term should consider steps to reduce their use; if only because the medications are liver and kidney toxic.


I do not for a minute believe that all pain can be successfully treated without opiates. However, I live in senior housing and more than half of the seniors here are clearly opiate addicts. One of them is on liquid morphine for fibromyalgia. Does that make sense to anyone? Others are using Oxycontin, morphine, and fentanyl patches simultaneously. These people are visibly impaired and there have been many OD's necessitating trips to the emergency room via ambulance. Two have died in the last year. A number of these people travel to physicians in as many as three counties to get multiple prescriptions. Doesn't Medicare have the ability to create software that red-flags multiple simultaneous prescriptions of opioids? It seems that people who want to abuse these drugs have no problem at all getting them while others who genuinely need them (in case you're wondering, I'm not one of them) report being unable to get them.

I suffered a serious orthopedic injury a few years ago and was given an opioid prescription from the emergency room physician, another a couple days later by an orthopedic surgeon and, when I told him I couldn't take that type, yet another -- all within the space of a few days. All were filled at the same pharmacy. I called the pharmacist to explain why and he was totally unconcerned. I ended up using one prescription for a few days and destroying the rest but the story could have been quite different.


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As a chronic pain sufferer who donates yearly to KCTS 9, I am surprised, dismayed, and upset by the unbalanced sensationalism in both the documentary, “Prescription for Abuse,” and in the Panel Discussion that followed.

I've lived with the chronic musculoskeletal pain and fatigue associated with fibromyalgia since a car accident 1987 — the kind of pain that makes you want to commit suicide; the kind of bone-sucking fatigue that makes you feel too tired to draw your next breath.

After the accident, I tried desperately to function in spite of my increasing pain. Thirteen physicians and therapists couldn’t tell me why I hurt; one of them told me to stop my beloved hobby, middle eastern dance, until my pain went away.

It was four years before a neurosurgeon diagnosed my fibromyalgia. I tried every therapy he suggested or prescribed, including acupuncture, proliferent injections, massage, antidepressants, vitamin B-12 injections, cortisone injections, physical therapy, a tens unit, relaxation tapes, heating pad/ice, capsacin cream, Chinese herbs, -- even magnets. I joined a support group. I went to a holistic doctor.

Nothing alleviated my pain. Yet, as the mother of two teens in the DARE program (Dare to Say No to Drugs) I was afraid to ask for pain medication because I thought my Dr. would think me a drug addict.

So I started thinking suicide was the only way to end my all-consuming pain. Isn’t that stupid? To be willing to kill myself rather than ask for medication to ease my pain? Fortunately, my doctor suggested I try pain medication.

For the last ten years, I’ve taken methadone for pain. I was able to start dancing again; in fact, I taught dance for my local Park Dept. for nine years. I stopped teaching to care for my 90 year old mother, who has high-functioning dementia.

I don’t live without pain today. I still hurt, all the time, and I want a cure! I am sick of living like this. But thanks to pain medication, I can function again; I can set my pain over on a shelf for an hour or two. I have part of my life back. And my family has part of me back.

Taking an opioid is no Joy Ride -- there is no “high,” only a lessening of pain for a while. I am careful not to take more than prescribed, and I’ve continued to explore other treatments: pregabalin, gabapentin, lidocaine injections, lidocaine cream, hypnotherapy. I still hurt.

“Prescription for Abuse,” asserts that anyone who takes opiates/opioids for pain is on the road to heroin addiction. Did KCTS9 interview any legitimate chronic pain patients who take their pain medication as prescribed, whose lives are improved by taking it? Or did you just want to scare sufferers away from seeking help, toward choosing suicide to end their overwhelming pain because they fear heroin addiction? Did you want to scare physicians away from helping the persistent pain sufferers who have the courage to seek them out?

Another point I wish to make: I have since been in three more major car accidents (none my fault!). I’ve lost a toe joint due to osteoarthritis and can barely use some of my fingers. In the last two years, I have gone through two 6 month, bi-weekly acupuncture sessions, and two 5 month massage therapy sessions. I still hurt. Sometimes alternative treatments do not take away the pain


Hi Linda
Thank you for your informational and educational letter. Sometimes people who don't know someone in pain can't see the need for medications to help them get through daily life. Thanks for the reminder from someone who has done her homework.

Kim Smith(Richard's wife)


I would like to echo the previous comments about the one-sided nature of this program. As the child of someone who suffers from severe, chronic, and incurable pain, I have seen first hand how these patients are often held responsible for the actions of drug abusers. I find it shocking that there was no mention or representation for the community of responsible pain patients who depend on access to these vital medications to have any quality of life at all.

Already many of these patients, and the doctors willing to treat them, are demonized and treated as near criminals by many in the medical community. The kind of fear-mongering and bias that this program represents only adds to the difficulty of these already suffering souls.

I implore you, KCTS, to do in this arena what you do so well in others. Strive for a balanced and informative view. This kind of stark, black and white logic really is beneath the high level of journalism I have come to expect from you.


I am a chronic pain sufferer and was taken aback at how one sided and biased this production was. I am a long time supporter of public television for the purpose of encouraging balanced and unbiased coverage of important issues.

As only one example, the show stated the increased prescription rates for pain medicines. That is because pain medication was so UNDER PRESCRIBED before. People like myself had lives that were at times unbearable. Now thanks to this which hunt we are on our way back.

While I can feel for people who are addicted or have lost someone, this sort of prejudiced film further stigmatises people like myself who already have a very difficult time obtaining the safe and effective medicine that allows me to live a life somewhat free of suffering.

I am VERY disappointed in KCTS.

KCTS owes myself and other chronic pain sufferers an apology.


Thank you; I entirely agree. This was a huge disservice to the Chronic Pain community. I do not think anyone realizes how fearful the medical community in Washington is becoming towards treating pain, so much so that clinics are simply not accepting pain patients entirely. It is so sad that a wonderful institution like Public Television has gotten on the ignorant bandwagon and doing such damage to the public they are meant to serve.


A good article about painkillers with some shocking statistics can be found here:


I would like to read these stats. Your address did not show entirely. Could you re-comment it. I cannot find it either. thank you!


Mirroring the requests for balance on your program, why did you not have a testimonial from someone in pain who did not become addicted to their medication? Though it may not be the focus of your program, it is still your responsibility to show balance and the whole truth: the majority of people do not become addicted. Only showing the one testimonial of the police officer who became addicted is misleading when you do not at minimum show one other side (the side that is more likely) of someone who used medication appropriately, healthily, and legally.


Thank you for all your thoughtful responses! No matter which side of the debate you are on, you cannot deny the lack of balance by not including a single success story of a non-addicted chronic pain patient. It may not be exciting, but it is simply necessary for showing the truth: the majority of patients do not become addicted (which you wouldn't guess by this program). My concern is, just like you said, the "sensationalism". And many people see these meds used only for lazy, day-in-day-out treatment without progress in health, but most patients are always going to referrals for other docs, surgeons, treatments. Or people are using meds for getting through physical therapy, getting through surgeries and other life experiences. It isn't just lazy folks wanting a high, which you would assume based on many misconceptions out there.


Good point Maggie. I thought this was a fantastic article (I'm a community pharmacist). I agree with you though because too often I encounter patients and healthcare professionals who are hesitant to venture into the arena of prescription narcotics for acute and chronic pain due to their fear of addiction.


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In response to Maggie S, I had a total knee replacement and it was the most painful procedure and recovery I could imagine. I needed a pain killer (Percocet) for almost six months, which my orthopedist prescribed. I never abused it, never took more than was prescribed, and never asked for early refills. When it was time to stop taking it, i.e., when my pain was manageable without a pain med, I stopped taking it. Just like that. No addiction, no abuse, no problem.

6 months is longer than it takes to recover from most orthopedic surgeries, but it is not unique. I am so grateful that my doctor trusted me, did not go by a cookbook guide about how long "most" people take, and did not insist that I just "deal with my pain," as some people suggested.

Doctors have the great privilege of being capable of relieving peoples' pain; with this goes great responsibility. But to say that everyone who takes an opiate for a week or longer is addicted is absolutely ludicrous, and thankfully at least some doctors have the sense to know better.


In response to Maggie S.' response. I've been in the addiction field on both sides of the fence for many, many years, and your story brings the word "intent" to mind. Your "intent" in taking the narcotic was to relieve your pain, nothing else, plain and simple. I see you for your strength in taking the medication for as long as you did without the hook setting and leading you into a hell that is hard to get out of.

I've heard stories of Vietnam Vets using narcotics in combat to escape the war and when they came back state side they no longer had the need to hide, so, therefore no longer had the need to use narcotics. there "intent" to their usage was to cope with the tragedies of war, not to get loaded. withdrawals were minimal. Now on the other side of the coin were/are the soldiers [whether in war, or personal hell] who use with the "intent" to get loaded and/or maintain addiction. Withdrawals with these individuals are a living nightmare. Luckily this nightmare doesn't last forever.


May I offer a solution? Perhaps to stop the need for ongoing-use pain medication (which can lead to availability for misuse), invest in medical innovation to find real cures/solutions for the medical conditions and injuries that cause chronic pain. Medical science is vastly behind on real life-long solutions for pain, and many people are awaiting a cure and taking medications to get by until that miraculous day comes. As a member of the Chronic Pain Community with first-hand experience, I can tell you that the vast majority would MUCH rather not take our pain medications; we would much prefer a CURE to our condition (Fibromyalgia, torn spinal discs, and much more) and be free from pain and free from all its treatments! And speaking of "all its treatments", I would also like to remind those who suggest alternative treatments that many patients have tried or are using them too. So, to claim "they work" is not true for all, and pushing a variety of treatments in addition to medication is "preaching to the chronic pain choir”. And I ask that you remember that for every story of a death from these medications there is another human being suffering who could be HELPED by these medications.


I want to thank all of the people involved in airing this show. My son is a heroin addict very much like the young people featured in the kcts report. The last two years have been incredibly heart breaking and led our family down a road we never expected to go. I was completely blind sided by my son's addiction, so my own learning curve is steep and ongoing.

I am thankful for the show because Alanon and Naranon meetings have been the only places, so far, where I have felt safe to deal with the reality I face. This problem HAS to be brought out into the open, because so much of our community is involved: My son did start with oxycontin from a friends' parents' medicine cabinet . I may teach the children of his drug supplier. I meet many mothers from all parts of our city who struggle every day to have enough strength to walk the narrow line between overwhelming love, and the hell of enabling. They struggle to keep shame, fear, and guilt from eating them alive.

We have lost our children, some are still alive, and some are not.

And today I find, from the comments, that there is a whole community of other people forced to feel shame when they seek pain treatment.

I hope we can all come up with safeguards for both groups. How about lock boxes in every house for the short term?


MAYBE we need to look at HOW we are parenting our children. The "Old School, My-Way-Or-The-Highway" approach has failed us, drastically. If we, as parents reflect and look inward then we may find the answers as to "why" our children "need" to look toward "drugs" to ease their "pain." Remember, psychological pain is still pain and usually with heroine addicts they are trying to block that emotional, psychological pain. Now, with all of these "controls" being placed upon legal, legitimate, physical pain, the DEA and our FEDERAL "government" are PUSHING people to self treat their PHYSICAL pain with street drugs, such as heroine. I'm finding that it is cheaper and almost EASIER to get than a legal prescription from a medical professional. I cannot begin to imagine the loss of a child and my prayers go out to anyone who has lost anyone for any reason BUT we must ask ourselves; "Why did they feel they needed to turn to illegal drugs" and "what can I do for my future children/grand children so that THEY won't feel the need to go that direction as well." Just my opinion from life experiences (I have known two people who have over-dosed on this horrific drug and both were self medicating their psychological pain inflicted (unintentionally of course!!!) by their parents.


Wow i am sorry to hear about your son. I have seen a lot of programs on how canada and other places basically supply addicts with clean needles and a safe place to do their thing. It really gets me on how some people can actually do something like that to themselves.

Now about me. I am 30 years old, i have a handicapped tag (at 30) because i was in two car accidents that were not my fault. one of them i was very lucky, .02 seconds later and the tree would have crushed me, instead it crushed the car in two feet right behind me at 40MPH. I am currently in pain management and have had to take meds since 2004. My neck is messed up bad which i have a constant headache and neck ache. It hurts so bad several times a month enough where i throw up all day long, can't hold down my meds, and wish i were dead really. Im my state there is no medical marijuana and i will tell you it helps for nausea. I used to party in high school etc and never was addicted to pot and dropped cocaine in an instant in 1999. Now my lower back is so messed up i can barely walk some days, hence the handicapped tag. Since i have been hurt i have never abused my meds and really wish i didn't have to take them and had my life back, like having season tickets to the Georgia Football games. I have two little girls that without my meds i wouldn't be able to keep up with. It honestly gives me a shot at being normal. Sadly programs like this one and others make everyone think i ma a criminal. It sucks going into a pharmacy and being looked at like i killed someone, or i get lied to by the pharmacist about my meds not being in stock because i look younger than 30. As of right now i have a prescription that i haven't been able to fill in almost two weeks. Around here it seems the people who don't need it, make a living off it can get theirs to sell and then i'm stuck trying to figure out what to do. It's also hard to keep a job like this, as soon as anyone finds out it goes up the ladder and they don't want you to be around long enough to get insurance or FMLA. ok enough of that.

I will say i have had many friends who snort the meds i get who think i am lucky to get a prescription. Or they beg you and make you feel bad because you won't share with them for their habit. Or someone steals my meds. I have had a lock box stolen, someone came into my home(my neighbor) and took a weeks worth of my meds, even when dating i have to be careful because they will be my best friend thinking i will share. Well i won't. It makes me sick seeing people abuse pain meds that people actually need. I have helped a couple of my friends quit and not ruin their lives or families but others can't be helped even when they lose everything. So i can relate to what you are saying. Nobody i know has gone to heroin, most chose methadone or something else.

I can say since i know people who used to get high off meds that the only way this happens if they snort them, smoke them, or shoot them up. If properly taken it relieves pain. There is no high, there is no massive addiction. You may become dependent, but that is determined by how long you really have to take the meds. I wish i didn't have to take them, but atleast i have somewhat of a life. Because of all these scare tactics the doctors in my state are wanting to change everything, which i fear may turn out horrible.


I thank "Guest" (and the other responders) for her thoughtful comments. As a provider of treatment of chronic pain that has not responded to non-opiate treatments, I do require that my patients have a lock box to keep their medications safe from loss and theft. And I constantly remind them of the need to keep their meds safely away from young children who could ingest them accidentally, and from older children or even adults who would seek to steal them.

I am relieved to see the many thoughtful comments from those that recognize that the issue of chronic pain is an important issue that should be equally explored.


Dear Guest,
So sorry for what you, our communities, and our children are going through with these addictions. I've had mothers come is crying as they tell me about their children's addictions to pain turned recreational med/drugs. Again I want to mention acupuncture, not as the only solution but as a great adjunct to therapy. There is a technique that can be done in group settings if someone cannot make it in for private treatments. Perhaps Alanon and Naranon could consider this group style either before, during, or after a meeting.

Participants sit and have very small needles inserted in their ears for about 25 minutes. They can continue with the meeting during this time as the acupuncturist quietly does the work. This can also be a very inexpensive way to treat. Just a thought.

There are a few studies showing how acupuncture can affect brain cells and I've seen some amazing healings. Perhaps KCTS9 would be interested in doing a program on this . . .


This program was very informative. As a nurse I work with a variety of patients who have pain, both chronic/acute, addiction issues and infections related to IV drug use. Perhaps it is time to make this as important as other core measures such as congestive heart failure, pneumonia and immunization.


A good show. I hope the dialogue continues.

For pain especially, please refer to acupuncture. It's cost effective and has no side effects. If one acupuncturist cannot help, try another. I had a patient who was addicted to her pain meds and still in pain. Her life was impacted in a horrible way. After no pain relief from her previous acupuncturist, I was able to get her pain down. Still addicted to her meds, I treated her for the addiction and she was able to go into a treatment facility ahead of schedule. She was stepped down to suboxone and then eased off that easier than expected. Her doctor told her he was surprised to see her go through such an easy transition back to health.

Perhaps consider bringing acupuncturists into hospitals and more treatment facilities.

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