The D.E.A. Changes a Policy on Painkillers

The Drug Enforcement Administration has issued a new guideline intended to help ease the delay some nursing home residents face in receiving certain painkillers and anti-anxiety medications. The D.E.A. had not previously recognized nurses employed by nursing homes as the legal agents of doctors in conveying controlled substances prescriptions to pharmacists. The agency’s previous stance, critics said in an article last week in The New York Times, caused many nursing home residents to suffer in pain while they waited for their prescriptions. (Link to Story)

Pain sufferers, the forgotten victims

The real victims on the war on drugs have been pain sufferers.  Under the current legal framework, a person is deemed an addict or abuser simply by virtue of using a substance such as pain medication without regard to motives or other surrounding circumstances.  In order to be legally entitled to such medicines, a pain sufferer must convince a doctor that he or she is in pain and therefore needs the medicines, and doctors are more reluctant now than ever to prescribe without a definite diagnosis due to high-profile DEA prosecutions of doctors.  In the case of hard-to-diagnose, debilitating diseases, this may lead to years of needless suffering before a sick individual is able to get relief.  Ironically, the government's war on drugs leads, all too often, to the very results it is purported to protect against:  sick people are forced to quit their jobs and can no longer live a normal life because of their debilitating illnesses.  In other words, they are less productive than they would otherwise be if their pain was adequately treated, which is the alleged justification for punishing people for drug use in the first place (ie, to keep them from becoming unproductive members of society).

The government needs to end its futile war on drugs.  Failing that, it should, at the bare minimum, revise its drug laws so that they are not based solely upon a person's use habits.  Other factors should be considered in determining whether a person is an "addict" as opposed to a legitimate pain sufferer.  For example, the law should take into account whether the person is actually more productive as a result of having medication than he or she would be without the medication.  Is he or she robbing stores to obtain medicines and exhibiting other behaviors that distinguish "addicts" from legitimate pain sufferers?  If not, the person should not be persecuted based on use alone.  In addition, doctors should be sued if their refusal to treat pain leads to patient suicides.  I wish there was a group that put such counter pressure on doctors who cave into the pressure not to treat pain.

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