No More Shame and Blame

http://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/feb/25/by-understanding-why-people-use-drugs-i-now-know-why-i-dont-use-them

(2/25/2016) Why I don’t use heroin by Chris Arnade

I spent the last five years documenting drug traps in neighborhoods poorer than is decent for such a rich country. I have become close friends with women and men who live under bridges and earn money for heroin by selling themselves for sex. I have bought heroin for them, unable to stand by as their body rejected the lack of drugs. I have provided them with clean needles, water, and a safe space to inject…

I am surrounded by heroin but have never used, because I am not in pain and have it good. I grew up with parents who cared about me and kept me safe, surrounding me with books and toys. I was encouraged, and expected, to finish high school, and to keep learning beyond that. After my education I was lucky to find a job (I was good at thinking in numbers), and was paid well.  The people I met in the drug traps had none of that. Their parents, if around, were too busy with their own problems to keep them safe. Many did far worse, abusing them physically and sexually. If the abuse didn’t come from a parent, it came from an uncle, or the mother’s boyfriend, or a stepbrother, but the abuse almost always came. It was the ultimate betrayal of trust: being raped by men who were supposed to keep them safe.

Their childhoods were spent dealing with problems that would break most adults…

And so drugs are popular, because drugs work. They allow people in pain, whom society has rejected, a way to integrate into a community that does work for them. How much someone uses drugs is often a measure of how much pain they have suffered, how isolated they are…

That in any city or town, across all of America, people live on the streets, shooting up, selling themselves for another bag, should make us all stop and ask ourselves “why does our society create and allow such pain?”.

I never saw Bernice again, she disappeared from the streets, presumably into a rehab, jail, or perhaps she moved to another town. Still, I cannot forget the last thing she said to me, “Why am I using drugs and hustling? Because I am out here trying to kill myself. I want to get a gun and do it faster, but I am too scared to blow my head off.”

Try not to judge people for how they decide to manage their pain. I know that many of these ways are often destructive, like my addiction to cigarettes. I don’t have the looks to be able to sell my body, but I know what desperation and pain can drive a person to do. And if you don’t understand that kind of desperation, then you’re lucky.

According to all of my reading on this subject, most drug addicts are like the ones described in this article. And so I’m wondering about the homes they ran away from, specifically if most drug addicts are from poor neighborhoods. According to the government’s statistics, most heroin addicts are white people from middle-class homes. I’m not sure about the government’s definition of “middle-class,” but I know that most patients who can afford an addiction clinic are usually from the middle-class.

And so I’m wondering, what kind of pain are these middle-class heroin addicts running from? I’ve been comparing the current heroin “epidemic” to the drug epidemics of the past, specifically in the middle-class. It seems like boredom is one of the reasons for drug use in the upper classes, and I suppose we can also blame the immaturity of young brains.

I used to think I was in the middle-class, perhaps lower middle-class. It’s hard to remember every day of my life, but I don’t think I’ve ever been offered heroin. I don’t know what kind of crowd you have to hang out with to be exposed to drugs like that, but I’m guessing it’s people with a lot more money than I’ve ever had. And perhaps, also, people with a lot less than I have.

I can see why a lot of parents blame legal drugs and drug dealers (I mean, doctors). Who else is left to blame? There are many people who believe that parents are to blame when children do things like take drugs. But parents who don’t take drugs also have children who do, and vice versa, so I think the blame falls more on our DNA (along with the types of drugs that one is exposed to). And yet, there’s all this violence, abuse, rape, and bullying, that contributes to drug addiction…

Does the white middle-class really want to stop the heroin “epidemic”? Does it really want to delve into the reasons for addiction? Abuse and violence are already against the law, yet that hasn’t stopped drug use and abuse. The drug war hasn’t stopped it either.

People abuse sex, just like they abuse drugs. In the past, most people felt that unmarried women having babies was shameful (only for the woman, of course). People used to think that women who took the pill were sluts. One day, our society will progress to the point of not shaming those who use drugs, for whatever reason.

DSC01559 (5)

Thinking of you, Bernice.

When pain patients attack each other

I suppose it’s not easy to talk “to” people instead of “at” them, especially if you’re on opposite sides of an issue. I realize that my blog allows me to articulate my opinions in ways that I might not be able to if face-to-face with my opponents. However, I put more thought and effort into my writing than I do for verbal communication. In other words, I stand by all of the words and opinions expressed by me on this blog.

I’ve seen the drug war force many changes on the pain patient population in the past 30 years, but I don’t think I’ve ever felt such desperation in my fellow sufferers. Unfortunately, desperation has caused some patients to draw lines, like how many pain patients blame drug addicts for the opioid war. Like how the DEA and grieving family members of overdose victims blame the drugs.

My blog is mostly about my own opinions of living with chronic pain, although I also include the thoughts, feelings, and comments from other pain patients. Which brings me here…

https://painkills2.wordpress.com/2016/02/23/future-visit-to-serenity-mesa-addiction-clinic/

Sun, Mar 6, 2016 1:10 pm
Re: Blog posts about Jennifer Weiss-Burke
From: Jennifer Weiss-Burke (jenweiss24@msn.com)

Dear Johnna,

You are right I am not an expert in chronic pain and I’ve never claimed to be. My husband suffers from chronic pain and, like yourself, was dependent on painkillers for a number of years. They almost killed him and destroyed his life so he now seeks effective alternatives and non-opioid medications. So while I do not have direct experience with being a chronic pain patient, I know what my husband went through and continues to go through each and every day.

When you decide to visit Serenity Mesa, I will be happy to have someone other than myself guide you on a tour. You can call 877-3644 which is our main number. Anyone who answers can help schedule something.

I am a supporter of MAT and do not deny any of our residents access to these medicines that are proven to be effective for opiate addiction. In addition my son was on MAT so no I do not deny people access to effective and evidence based solutions, including medication.

We submitted our Medicaid application back in August and are waiting for it to be approved. We have contacted the state Medicaid office numerous times and have been told that all Medicaid applications are on hold because they are changing the application process. If you have any contacts in this area who can help me push the process through I would greatly appreciate it.

No, these are not paid positions. I am a community member of the prescription drug misuse and overdose prevention committee and there are two other community members who are chronic pain patients so your concerns are represented on this committee. The meetings are open to anyone so you are welcome to attend.

You have made a number of assumptions about me that are not true, posted quotes on your blog that I have not said and continue to try and devalue my advocacy efforts. But, the truth remains that young people are becoming addicted to pain killers at alarming rates throughout this country. Kids are dying. Kids are becoming heroin addicts when their supply of pills runs out. Those are the facts. I wish that was my opinion or my over exaggerated perception but sadly it’s not.

I feel for your pain and pray for your strength and perseverance to get through each and every day. I am sorry you are going through what you are going through and hope you somehow find peace. My heart goes out to you.

Sincerely,

Jennifer Weiss-Burke
Executive Director Healing Addiction in Our Community (HAC) & Serenity Mesa Youth Recovery Center
jenweissburke@serenitymesa.com
(505) 363-9684
http://www.serenitymesa.org
http://www.healingaddictionnm.org

Along with this reply from Mrs. Weiss-Burke, her significant other, David Burke (Dbkono@gmail.com), posted a comment to the above link (twice), which I have copied below in its entirety:

As a fellow chronic pain patient I completely agree that prescription pain medications should not be taken away from us! The last thing those suffering from chronic pain need is to suffer daily without remediation. I have been fighting since 2006 with an intense intestinal disease in which I have lost sections of my small intestine and suffer daily from villitrocious sections of my intestines that will never heal. Currently I am still on a variety of other medicines to take care of my condition but I have to live in constant pain everyday.

I, like you, was addicted to painkillers and they almost destroyed my life. I lost everything before I was finally able to detox off the opiates and am proud to say that I have been clean for over 5 years now. I have learned to live and deal with the pain and now advocate. along with my wife, for laws, funding, facilities and whatever else it takes to help stop this epidemic that results in needless opiate overdose deaths.

I have been reading your blog (more like uneducated personal attacks) and have come to one conclusion. You like me are nothing more than an addict. If you weren’t you wouldn’t be so crazed about losing your “drug” and would be more active in doing something about ensuring the laws being put into place protected your rights in being able to use them safely and ensuring that big pharma wasn’t continuing to get rich off of your addiction. If you were actually educated in the facts instead of spewing lies and mis quoting people you would also know that for the last five years we have been working hard with the department of health and many Senators and Representatives ensuring laws like SB 263 and SB 277 among many others protected the rights of chronic pain patients. If you don’t believe me, Call Senator Richard Martinez from Rio Arriba or Sen. Brandt from Sandavol County who is himself a chronic pain sufferer and advocate. Or how about Senator Cervantes. I can go on and on with all the support we have received from both sides of the aisle to show you that one of the biggest concerns from all involved was to ensure the protection of chronic pain patients. Believe me when I say this that your rights as a chronic pain patient are protected.

Unfortunately, your rights as an addict are much harder to protect. In NM there isn’t enough treatment beds for adults, teens, Men or women. When it’s time for you to get help what are you going to do? Where are you going to go? Who are you going to call? Sadly most people have no where to go or call. For the last five years we have been fighting to change that. HAC has been fighting for the youth of this state. Doing everything we can to ensure our young people have a place to go to get help. Wether they are rich, poor, middle class, coming out of jail, homeless or affluent homes. White, black, Hispanic, Native American, purple, or green. After all drugs or addiction don’t really discriminate do they? Have you ever seen anyone die from an overdose? Have you ever looked into the eyes of a 16 year old who is so gripped by opiates that his whole life is consumed by the drug? Have you ever looked into the eyes of a family that has had their lives turned upside down because they lost their son or daughter because of these drugs? Do you not care? Do you not have a heart? I don’t think you do. I think right now you are like every other addict I have ever met. All you care about at this point in your addiction is making sure you are able to get your next dose or “fix”. You are so blinded by your addiction that your lashing out at people who are actually trying to help you keep your precious drugs while trying to make sure others are protected from those same drugs.

My wife may not be an expert in chronic pain but she has never claimed to be. I, however am an expert in chronic pain. My wife has never claimed to be an expert in addiction but an advocate and one who constantly educates herself on addiction. I am an addict and I do the same. We do both however live it everyday. We live it through the eyes of the boys we care for. Through the death of her son. Through the everyday struggle of addiction in my own disease. Through the pain we see in the hundreds of phone calls and emails we receive from parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters and friends of people who have died or are struggling with this horrible addiction!

Do you even know the statistics? Do you even care about where our state falls nationally? Do you even care how many people die every year because of prescription pain pills?

I know if you truly wanted to you could advocate for your cause. It doesn’t take any thing more than picking up a phone or as you are always on your computer or outside taking pictures of planted trash outside your apartment. Just pick up your computer and write a letter to you legislator stating your concerns! Did you know they are required to respond to you? Did you know your elected officials in reality actually do care? All you have to do is try!

You constantly assume things and you know what they say about people who assume things right? There is absolutely nothing and I mean nothing truthful about one thing in ANY of your blogs about my wife or our facility.. We continue to lobby UNPAID for more funding to complete the entire facility. We travel around the state speaking to everyone possible. Anyone who will listen about this epidemic. We will speak to judges, DRs, lawyers, dentists, students, teachers. ANYONE. Especially addicts like you because I don’t want to see you die of an accidental overdose. As a matter of fact I think you should get a prescription of Nalaxone and keep it on hand for anyone around you to know how to use just In case you overdose. Doctors in NM are now starting to co-prescribe Naloxone with an opiate script because the danger of death is so high. There are lots of good NA meetings located around NM. Remember the first step is admitting you have a problem😀 You may have chronic pain but being an addict and a chronic liar can be a far worse disease than the other disability😢

So there is no chance of you misrepresenting this post or me I will be posting my wife’s letter yours and mine on my Facebook page, Yahoo page and have saved a copy of it in my notes in case you decide to alter it in any way. You know being that your so honest and all.

Dear Mr. Burke:

Sometimes my honesty comes across in a negative way…

Well, if I’m being honest (about my obsession with honesty), perhaps I should say that it’s often seen in a negative light. I suppose that’s because the truth often hurts. But since my pain levels are always higher than the pain from honesty, I find the truth to be quite refreshing.

Obviously, this obsession doesn’t win me any popularity contests. But I think the lies we tell ourselves cause us more pain — like anxiety, depression, and digestive problems — than the truth.

So, I think the very last line of your comment pretty much sums up how much you know about me. Funny, if you really wanted to learn more about me, all you had to do was take the time to read some of my blog posts — not just the very small handful that are about your wife.

There’s an awful lot of information on my blog (over 6,500 posts), so I don’t expect you to be familiar with all the details of my chronic pain survivor story. I find it terribly ironic that you accuse me of making assumptions, when it’s you who has made a great number of assumptions about me. But that’s okay, because I don’t mind correcting you.

I think it’s very, very sad when pain patients attack each other. And one of the poison darts often thrown is to accuse another patient of being a drug addict — as if suffering from this additional medical condition is something to be ashamed of. Anyone who follows and reads my blog knows about the enormous amount of empathy I have for those who suffer from any kind of addiction, as well as the in-depth self-analyzing I’ve done on my own addictions.

Tell me, Mr. Burke, do you recognize your addictions?

https://painkills2.wordpress.com/2015/02/17/do-you-recognize-your-addictions/

For those pain patients who choose stoicism over drugs, I salute you. I can only warn you that untreated pain can very easily turn into chronic and intractable pain, increasing your daily pain levels, sometimes to the point of being unmanageable (even with drugs).

For those who choose to treat their pain with other drugs besides opioids, I wish you luck. But please don’t play the hypocrite, with the belief that some drugs are good, while others are bad. All drugs have side effects, and you can become addicted to antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, and stimulants, just like opioids. In fact, some patients have more trouble detoxing from antidepressants than opioids, with longer-lasting effects. Have you read about brain zaps?

https://painkills2.wordpress.com/2015/08/12/lilly-chalks-up-a-win-for-cymbalta-in-first-u-s-trial-over-withdrawal-symptom-claims/

Mr. Burke, you claim to have been “clean” for five years. I suppose that means you haven’t taken any painkillers, as if these are the only drugs that can make one feel dirty while taking, and become clean when they cease taking them. (Heck, some people feel that way about gluten.) If your chosen treatments for pain are working for you, that’s great.

For the past 4 years, I haven’t taken any prescription drugs for chronic pain, even though I’ve had more than one opportunity to purchase them in the underground market. And while you think that I’m addicted to drugs — only interested in getting my next “fix” — the truth is that I was really addicted to doctors and the medical industry. Freeing myself from that addiction was both the hardest and best thing I’ve ever done.

So, there’s no way I can overdose, unless it’s on aspirin. But you’re so very kind to worry about me, Mr. Burke. But dude, there’s no way on Earth that you could ever shame me, although I’m sure you tried your best. Tell me, why did you think it was a good idea to assert that I plant trash outside of my apartment? I think that’s the silliest thing I’ve heard all year.

And no matter how many thinly-veiled innuendos you throw at me, you can’t make me feel bad about my blogging and art therapies — at least they’re free. And I’m sure we can agree that blogging and art therapies are not addicting (unlike the prescription drugs you’re currently taking).

The problem I have with you and your wife’s advocacy work is that it’s not helping pain patients. In fact, it’s harming them. (Isn’t New Mexico at the top of the list for drug abuse and overdoses, including alcohol? And if you check your statistics, you’ll find suicide on that list, too.)

I find it odd that you and your wife don’t understand the results of your actions, but then you both have a rather narrow focus on addiction. And until you read every email (posted on this blog) that I’ve written to government employees (and anyone else I thought might help), you have no business telling me to “try.”

Don’t get me wrong, your comments didn’t offend me. But your attitude — especially as a chronic pain patient — is offensive and harmful to millions of other patients. I think you know that. And I hope you also know how foolish you look, trying to judge me, based on your own misconceptions and the lies you tell yourself.

Dude, you’re not an “expert” on chronic pain. You’re only an expert on your version of adequate treatment options. You discriminate against certain drugs, just like your opinions about me discriminate against other pain patients. I’m not trying to change or open up your mind — no, I’m trying to inform millions of other pain patients what they’re up against in the opioid war.

It’s unfortunate that we’re on opposite sides of this war, Mr. Burke, but I prefer to be on the right side of history. The drug war is, and has been, a total failure (just like prohibition). The war against cannabis has been a disaster, too. The opioid war will also be a failure, but it could take decades — decades of increased suffering, depression, disability, alcoholism, homelessness, and suicides. Yes, and overdoses, too. All because of people like you and your wife. (And a shout out to Unum and the CDC.)

If I believed in shame, I would call that shameful. Hopefully, the patients treated at your addiction clinic are not shamed, as you have tried to shame me here.

https://painkills2.wordpress.com/2015/04/14/what-is-the-purpose-of-shame/

Future Visit to Serenity Mesa Addiction Clinic

https://painkills2.wordpress.com/2016/01/22/dear-new-york-times/

Fri, Jan 29, 2016 12:17 am

Johnna,

I have “enjoyed” reading your continual posts about me and my advocacy work and your “opinions” about me give me a good laugh now and then. You question my ability to fact check and to be labeled as an “expert” in addiction but maybe you should do your own fact checking. Numerous entries in your blog are incorrect. Your most recent blog post listed several quotes that you said I made (see below). I never made these quotes and have no idea who did. Maybe there is another Jennifer Weiss in Albuquerque or someone made those comments in my name but I absolutely did NOT make those comments.

You can talk about me, my deceased son, my advocacy work all you want but please do not start posting false information about me and making up things that I did not say. I also do not receive endless amounts of funding from the state as we are up in Santa Fe right now fighting for the little funding we do get. Maybe you should do your own fact checking before you publish inaccurate information with my name attached to it.

And, as it appears that you have an excessive amount of time on your hands, maybe you should come visit Serenity Mesa and I will give you a personalized tour showing you all of the evidence-based therapy we provide our young residents who suffer from heroin and meth addiction. Maybe if you saw the services we provide and the work we are doing you wouldn’t be so quick to judge. It’s obvious you have never been an addict, loved and addict or lost an addict so maybe you should try a little more empathy and a little less judgement for something you know nothing about.

Once again, the comments below were not made by me:

Jennifer Weiss · Top Commenter · Albuquerque, New Mexico

And one more thing. Since it looks like you hate cops, how many times has APD arrested your dumb butt for just being a jackass or slapping around your p*nis because no hooker in their right mind would ever touch you. So how many times have you been locked up?

Jennifer Weiss · Top Commenter · Albuquerque, New Mexico

Loretta Baca obviously you think your s*it doesn’t stink because you think violence begets violence. Wow, you’re more into death and destruction for your own gratification because your life is so boring and lacking of what is truly important. And you know what, I actually feel sorry for you. You are a pitiful excuse for a human.

Jennifer Weiss-Burke
Executive Director
Healing Addiction in Our Community &
Serenity Mesa Youth Recovery Center
jenweiss24@msn.com
(505) 363-9684

—————–

Tue, Feb 23, 2016 4:36 am

Dear Jennifer:

I’m sorry it took me so long to respond to your email, but if you follow my blog, then maybe you can understand the lateness of my reply. (Being disabled, poor, and powerless is no fun, believe me.) And if you’ve read my blog, then no doubt you are prepared for the type of response you would receive. (At least, I hope so.)

You may not believe this, but it was nice to hear from you. And it’s nice to know that I could give you a good laugh, even if it was at my expense. After all, I’ve heard that laughter is the best medicine. 🙂

We’ll have to disagree about the Facebook comments you’re now disclaiming, because I think they were, in fact, made by you. However, there have been plenty of times when I’ve responded in anger and said things I didn’t mean, so let’s just forget about those comments for now.

It’s funny what some people use to claim the title of “expert” these days, especially in the addiction industry. Considering your background, you can’t be surprised that anyone would question your credentials. Maybe that doesn’t happen in the addiction and political industries? Or is this the very first time? Being rich and white is something I’ve never experienced, but I’m guessing the combination has been really helpful for you.

Maybe you can tell me why you think your experience — specifically in pain management — qualifies you for things like this:

https://painkills2.wordpress.com/2014/12/25/prescription-drug-misuse-and-overdose-prevention-advisory-council/

“The council shall meet at least quarterly to review the current status of prescription drug misuse and overdose prevention and current pain management practices in New Mexico and national prescription drug misuse and overdose prevention and pain management standards and educational efforts for both consumers and professionals. The council shall also recommend pain management and clinical guidelines.”

https://painkills2.wordpress.com/2015/02/02/because-grieving-parents-make-great-medical-experts/

“We will have a discussion on how opiates affect the brain, their addictive qualities and how prevention is a far better option than treatment. We will also offer ideas on how the dental community can help be part of the solution to an epidemic affecting so many people in NM.”

I can’t help but wonder if these are paid positions, and if so, which part of your work experience has qualified you for these positions? Maybe all you need is a college degree, like doctors who become addiction “specialists”?

You say you’re now fighting for more government funding (an endless task, right?), but you didn’t mention the funds you’ve already received:

https://painkills2.wordpress.com/2014/12/25/1172014-healing-addiction-in-our-community/

https://painkills2.wordpress.com/2015/02/02/nonprofit-501c-organizations-albuquerque-nm-87187/

And remember when you advocated to deny the approval of Zohydro?

https://painkills2.wordpress.com/2014/12/31/reconsider-approval-of-dangerous-new-opioid-zohydro/

I also have to wonder, what is your experience with Zohydro? Do you think that treating pain and drug addiction are the same thing? Do you also advocate to deny patients access to opioids like Suboxone, Methadone, and bupe?

And why doesn’t your addiction clinic accept Medicare/Medicaid?

With all your advocacy work on pain management and addiction, you must be aware of the crisis that millions of pain patients are experiencing. You must also be aware that even if your work helps thousands of drug addicts, at the same time, it is also part of terrorizing tens of millions of pain patients. So, with this knowledge, I assume that you also understand why I have felt compelled to publicly point out all the hypocrisy.

We might be fighting on opposite sides of the opioid war, Jennifer, but as a 30-year intractable pain survivor, at least I can say that I’ve tried very hard to understand your side. Can you say the same? Not in my opinion.

For all these reasons, I would be happy to accept your offer for a visit to Serenity Mesa. However, I don’t think it should be a scheduled visit, or include a tour given by the owner of the facility. And because of my current financial difficulties, as well as my disabilities, I don’t know when I’ll be able to plan this visit.

But rest assured, I plan on visiting Serenity Mesa in the future. And just like any stranger off the street who may have questions about your facility (and the treatments offered therein), I hope my visit will help me better understand addiction. After all, I advocate for access to all treatment options for all patients, not just for those suffering from chronic pain.

Now, Jennifer, what are you going to do to learn more about chronic pain?

Johnna Stahl
Executive Director of My Own Blog
The Disabled Community
painkills2@aol.com
No phone

Dear New York Times

Re: How the Epidemic of Drug Overdose Deaths Ripples Across America (1/19/2016)
From: painkills2@aol.com
To: letters@nytimes.com, public@nytimes.com, publisher@nytimes.com
Cc: jmonahan@ix.netcom.com

Your publication is just one of many that has helped to create the opioid “epidemic.” (And don’t think that 100 million pain patients will ever forget that.)

I don’t know how you choose which “experts” to quote in your drug-war articles — or how you even determine who is actually an expert — but in the case of Jennifer Weiss-Burke from New Mexico, you’ve made a terrible mistake. Is there anything in this woman’s background, besides the tragedy of her son’s death, that would suggest she’s an expert in addiction and its treatment? Are you basing her expertise on the fact that the state has showered her with funds to open up her own addiction clinics (where they use reiki as a treatment option)?

Let’s look at a few of her online comments, shall we?

Jennifer Weiss · Top Commenter · Albuquerque, New Mexico

And one more thing. Since it looks like you hate cops, how many times has APD arrested your dumb butt for just being a jackass or slapping around your p*nis because no hooker in their right mind would ever touch you. So how many times have you been locked up?

Jennifer Weiss · Top Commenter · Albuquerque, New Mexico

Loretta Baca obviously you think your s*it doesn’t stink because you think violence begets violence. Wow, you’re more into death and destruction for your own gratification because your life is so boring and lacking of what is truly important. And you know what, I actually feel sorry for you. You are a pitiful excuse for a human.

“When you go right back to the same environment, it’s hard to stay clean,” [Weiss-Burke] said.

Actually, it doesn’t matter what kind of environment you return to, those who suffer from drug addiction will always have a hard time staying clean, especially if you believe that being drug-free is the only way to conquer addiction. There are plenty of parents who have sent their kids to different environments, only to result in the exact same problems.

The reputation of the NYT is not as good as it used to be, and issues like this are part of the reason why. I know the newspaper industry is going through a lot of changes, but there’s no excuse for crap like this. Are you a respected newspaper or a tabloid rag?

Johnna Stahl
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87114
(I’m too poor to have a phone)
painkills2@aol.com
https://painkills2.wordpress.com/

Tale of Two Suicides; Lessons for Opioid Public Policy

http://www.pharmaciststeve.com/?p=12691

http://nationalpainreport.com/tale-of-two-suicides-lessons-for-opioid-public-policy-8828356.html

For one it was the best of times, for the other, the worst. At no time did the paths of their lives cross, but they shared the same fate, one most would consider a tragedy. Their legacies, for pain and public policy, could not have been more different…

 I knew one, only heard of the other; both dramatically affected my life.

Bob was a marine. He had valiantly served his country, and he was proud of it. His identity was so tied to his service that he could not handle the thought of being any less of a marine, a warrior… a man, whatever that means. His back injury robbed him of that identity, and he struggled in a futile attempt to regain that which he no longer was, or, at least thought he was. Perception is reality, and his perception was that he was no longer what he wanted to be, needed to be.

Surgeries and elixers, therapies traditional and non-traditional. All tried in a vain attempt to rid himself his pain. All failed. Some made his pain worse.

He used pain meds to numb the pain, but they couldn’t restore his manhood. In desperation, he kept taking more and more. After a while, he gave up the hope for a cure. He was a broken man, not just physically, but also mentally and spiritually. The meds gradually became a temporary reprieve from his painful reality.

I was his doctor. I never really saw that brave marine. Rather, I saw a broken, staggering man, subservient to the world his pain had created for him. Our goal for any treatment is to improve one’s function. For many, opioids accomplish that. Not for Bob…

I told him that I could no longer prescribe the medication for him as I saw it harming more than helping…

There were no candle-light vigils for Fred [Bob]. He was gone, and quickly forgotten…

Billy’s parents took to the legislature to exact vengeance. While few would ever be driven to action to help Bob, there were many who sought to vindicate Billy. There are few things more motivating than a grieving mother’s wailing, and the legislators were not immune. Soon, laws were being enacted in a vain attempt to “stop the carnage.” In a world fueled more by emotion than reason, the land of “feel-good law,” the law of un-intended consequences reigns supreme. Soon, laws were passed. Addicts still died. Those in pain struggled to find someone with the courage to defy those laws and care…and they died too, but their cries went unheard…

The battle has only started, and it is not just in the legislatures, and not just in my state of New Hampshire. It is also in courtroom. In the chilling wake of a second degree murder conviction for Dr. Hsiu-Ying “Lisa” Tseng, accused of prescribing opioids in the course of her practice that led to the deaths of three patients, I, like many others feel lost and vulnerable…

Under comments:

Jackie
November 23, 2015 at 5:49 pm
Have you wondered if telling Fred you were taking away his medication (his main means of controlling his unrelenting pain) may have in fact been the catalyst for his suicide? As a chronic pain sufferer I know a few sufferers who have done so when no longer able to get the medication they need. It is a very frightening thing to face the kind of pain you know is going to come. My pain is managed by opiates, but my strength fortunately comes from somewhere else.. So it’s never an option I would take, but I certainly understand why others may not want to have to deal with unremitting pain for the rest of their lives.

Shari
November 23, 2015 at 4:34 pm
I have Chiari Malformation and EDS and several other chronic debilitating conditions. I am to the point that I have PTSD because of the treatment I have received due to patient profiling and being labeled a drug seeker. Because of this I am unable to go to any dr. and would rather die in my home than go to the ER because of severe anxiety just thinking about calling to make an appointment let alone actually go to it. I don’t drive and have been house bound since August ’14 and spend most of my days in bed or on the couch. That wasn’t the case when I was going to pain management. I actually engaged in life rather than waiting to die like I do now. I’m 43 I do not receive ssdi and live with family because I have a 9 year old daughter and I am unable to properly care for her! Physically or financially. The thought of living another 5 or 10 or 20 years like this is daunting to say the least! But as I hear far too often “it could be worse, at least you’re alive!”
REALLY??? I fail to see how that would be worse!

In my search terms:

“can a politician in my community help me fight unum for my ltd benefits”

Wow, this is a really hard question to answer…  (Please note sarcasm.) I guess that depends on how much money and influence you have. I mean, anti-drug advocates spend a lot of time and money on politicians, and it obviously works.

Unfortunately, the problem with Unum and LTD benefits exists in the federal government, not state or local governments. It’s all about the ERISA law, which no one really understands. Basically, ERISA should be renamed to something like URFUCKED.

In Heroin Crisis, White Families Seek Gentler War on Drugs

When you think about the New York Times, you usually think about some kind of quality reporting. Maybe even some fact-checking. I think of the NYT’s coverage of the drug war to be more of a mouthpiece for corporate and political America than real investigative reporting. But it’s always nice to know what the rich and influential are thinking:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/31/us/heroin-war-on-drugs-parents.html

While heroin use has climbed among all demographic groups, it has skyrocketed among whites; nearly 90 percent of those who tried heroin for the first time in the last decade were white…

The Times states this as if it were fact, when it’s only based on “self-administered surveys to gather retrospective data on past drug use patterns among patients entering substance abuse treatment programs.”  I can’t imagine that too many people are honest about their past drug use, let alone those who suffer from addiction. And I imagine that the racial make-up of addiction treatment programs is unlike the racial make-up of America’s prison system. Like a lot of (psychiatric) research studies, this one doesn’t prove anything.

I don’t know what percentage of first-time heroin users have been white in the last decade, but heroin has always been a drug used more by white people than blacks (even if the media in the past portrayed it differently). It’s usually not good to generalize, but people use certain drugs because they have access to them — a $400/day heroin habit is not something most black people would have access to. (Another reason why pain patients, usually poor and disabled, aren’t really a part of this heroin “epidemic.” Even though the DEA says heroin is cheaper than pills, if you need to spend $400/day for the drug to be effective, that’s a choice most pain patients don’t have.)

And the growing army of families of those lost to heroin — many of them in the suburbs and small towns — are now using their influence, anger and grief to cushion the country’s approach to drugs, from altering the language around addiction to prodding government to treat it not as a crime, but as a disease.

“Because the demographic of people affected are more white, more middle class, these are parents who are empowered,” said Michael Botticelli, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, better known as the nation’s drug czar. “They know how to call a legislator, they know how to get angry with their insurance company, they know how to advocate. They have been so instrumental in changing the conversation.”

Mr. Botticelli, a recovering alcoholic who has been sober for 26 years, speaks to some of these parents regularly.

Their efforts also include lobbying statehouses, holding rallies and starting nonprofit organizations, making these mothers and fathers part of a growing backlash against the harsh tactics of traditional drug enforcement…

These mothers and fathers are also part of the backlash against opioids. So, even though they’ve changed their thinking on how to treat addiction (no jail time for their families), that doesn’t mean they want to end the drug war. Far from it.

Heroin’s spread into the suburbs and small towns grew out of an earlier wave of addiction to prescription painkillers; together the two trends are ravaging the country…

I’d say the suicide epidemic is the trend ravaging our country, but then maybe my opinion differs from those over at the Times. But I get very tired of the media saying that prescription painkillers started this whole heroin epidemic, because that’s not true. Maybe in the media’s little white bubble, painkillers are to blame because that’s all they see — because white people are the ones with the most access to painkillers (and heroin).

This is what pain patients are up against — grieving, middle-class white people, with the time and money to make our lives miserable. Grieving parents writing anti-drug curriculum for schools, opening addiction “clinics,” and yelling in the ears of politicians and those with influence (like Michael Botticelli, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy). Do you think Mr. Botticelli would make time to talk to pain patients (who are disabled and poor)? Do you think an ex-alcoholic could even understand our position?

While it’s great that more (white) people are finally recognizing addiction as a disease, the problem remains:  What’s the best way to treat it? Obviously, what we’re doing isn’t working, and these parents know it because their family members usually spent time in rehab. So, we’re gonna send millions of new patients into treatment and treat them with… what? Bupe and Suboxone? Antidepressants? AA? Talk therapy? An addiction clinic on every corner?

It’s like creating a war against opioids, but not being prepared for the consequences. The plan to substitute alternative therapies for opioids isn’t working — as if there was even a small chance that it would. Now everyone wants to treat addiction with treatments that only work for a small number of people.

We know the results of the failed (white people’s) drug war.  What will be the consequences of the white people’s war against addiction and opioids?