And the drug war continues, with help from a renowned pain specialist

(5/23/2015) Medication hard to come by for some pain sufferers

Gary Snook is a 62-year-old Bitterroot Valley man who has never found himself on the wrong side of the law. And yet almost every time that he goes into a pharmacy to pick up the opiates he desperately needs to keep his horrific pain at bay, he feels like a criminal.

“The last time I tried to get my meds filled in Missoula, I was turned down at three different pharmacies,” Snook said. “I can’t go into an emergency room. They won’t treat me there. Yet when my pain flares, it’s so bad that I could die from a heart attack or stroke.”

Snook suffers from a relatively unknown malady called adhesive arachnoiditis that causes unbearable chronic pain. Ironically, it struck after physicians applied a series of steroid epidurals to his back in an effort to quell the pain he suffered following surgery for a bulging disk…

“You’re not really in pain,” he said. “You are in agony. It feels like you’re up to your neck in boiling oil. How bad is it? It’s suicidal kind of pain.”

Snook requires high doses of narcotics to keep the pain in check. He sought out one of the most renowned intractable pain physicians in the country, Dr. Forest Tennant of West Covina, California, for treatment…

I’m glad to hear that Dr. Tennant hasn’t abandoned all of his pain patients.

“I’m not a drug addict,” he said. “I’m drug dependent. The only crime that I’ve committed is that I’m sick. I can’t really figure out this concern over opiates. The only thing that they do for me is give me pain relief.

“Sometimes I feel like I’m living in a rerun of ‘Reefer Madness,’ ” he said. “Do people really think that if I take an opiate pill that I’m going to burglarize my neighbor?”

“The people who are suffering like I am are not going to sell their pills, no matter what,” Snook said. “The people who have these problems do everything they can to ensure that there’s no diversion. They need their medication to survive one day to the next.” …

“Unfortunately, today there are drug addicts who are masquerading as patients with intractable pain,” Tennant said. “Unless a doctor is well trained, those patients can fool you. If that happens, it’s understandable that the medical board will ultimately have to step in and address that issue.”

Sure, Dr. Tennant, make people who suffer from addiction look bad.  Give doctors even more reasons to abandon patients.  As if addiction wasn’t a real medical condition.  And the interference of State Medical Boards is part of the problem, not the solution.

“Opiates are all bad,” Tennant said…

Yeah, this is a renowned pain specialist talking…  Perhaps because this doctor abandoned me, I’m a little prejudiced, but I can’t help it:  Fuck you, Dr. Tennant.

In Helena, Dr. Mark Ibsen has come under scrutiny after he began treating pain patients around 2011. Many of those had been dropped by their regular physicians. The State Board of Medical Examiners is currently considering sanctions against Ibsen for his alleged over prescription of narcotic pain medications…

“It’s been two years and there is still no ruling for me,” he said. “It’s been a hard thing for my family and my business. On the other hand, pain patients have been flocking to me because of the publicity. The word is out that I won’t abandon them.” …

With the current focus on cutting down illegal use of prescription drugs, Ibsen said physicians and pharmacists alike are “just terrified” to treat patients with chronic pain…

Terri Anderson of Hamilton believes the medical establishment needs to look elsewhere in its attempt to address the issue of pain in America. Anderson also suffers from adhesive arachnoiditis caused by misplaced steroids in her spine. She lost her civil engineering career with the U.S. Forest Service because of it and will rely “on high-powered opioids” for the rest of her life to address the “suicide-level pain” that’s been caused.

In her comments on the proposed national pain strategy being developed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Anderson said federal regulators and policy makers must recognize the underlying problem that’s causing the need for opioids in the first place.

“Preventable medical harm is the third leading cause of death, and I have no doubt it is one of the leading causes of disability in our country,” she wrote. “Interventional pain physicians use the fear of opioid prescribing to fuel their profitable epidural steroid injection mills.” …

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