The increasing difficulty with which I must obtain my pain medicine is a frequent topic of discussion both here and over at Creaky Joints. Legitimate users like myself are being punished because of the increasing numbers of drug addicts who are replacing heroin with prescription narcotics. As bad as that is, though, the fault does not lie mainly with the end-user. It actually sits squarely on the shoulders of the pay-to-play doctors who take cash for controlled substance scripts. These dubious docs require little to no proof of patient need beyond a simple “doc, I’m in pain,” and the consequences are grave and far-reaching.
Yesterday, a report surfaced about a doctor in Santa Barbara California who some people referred to as the “Candy Man.” Dr. Julio Diaz was well known to patients seeking powerful painkillers, and the Milpas Street Clinic that he operated out of was notorious for large narcotic scripts. In fact, this drug dealer disguised as a doctor was eventually caught because the local Cottage Hospital emergency room was tired of treating overdoses and deaths resulting from the sometimes comically large amounts of pain medicine prescribed by Dr. Diaz.
The hospital documented more than 400 visits from Dr. Diaz’s patients, and they eventually decided to inform the DEA and local authorities. The ensuing investigation resulted in a list of charges, including prescribing narcotics without a medical need, and illegal distribution to a person under the age of 21. One of these victims was Adam Montgomery, a boy who eventually died from an overdose of Oxycodone.
Adam Montgomery came to Dr. Diaz after he hurt his back, and the doctor immediately prescribed the boy Oxycodone, the active ingredient in Percocet and Oxycontin. Of course, Adam only got more and more dependent on the narcotic, and by the end, he was taking a reported average of 63 pills a day. Now, being in constant pain, I take a very large amount of Oxycodone, and if I took one-fifth of what Adam took, I’d be dead inside of 24 hours. This is was it was inevitable (and tragic) that Adam died a day after Thanksgiving in 2011, and the autopsy found that a cocktail of Methadone, Vicodin, Xanax, and Oxycontin was in his system when he overdosed.
As you can see, these doctors who take cash for pain medicine scripts are little more than drug dealers with a government seal of approval. Unfortunately, the public isn’t going to take the time to separate the bad apples from the good. As we often do in this reactionary society of ours, we are going to make a knee-jerk decision and ban these high-level pain medicines altogether. Mark my words, folks, it’s coming. What makes it even more tragic is that there is a fairly simple solution to the problem – create a central DEA database that spans the entire country. That way, anyone obtaining scripts from multiple doctors will be caught, and anyone obtaining large amounts from one doctor can be vetted. Even if someone who needs is initially denied, they will be able to appeal. Trust me, people like me who need the large amounts we take will fight for it, and those who don’t fight probably don’t really need it anyway. Being in constant pain is a very efficient motivator.
Right now, people like me who need narcotics to live a normal life are facing a crisis of conscience. On one side is our desire to help prevent the death of people like Adam Montgomery, and on the other side is our need to use pain medicine to give us enough relief to enjoy a decent quality of life. We can have it both ways, though, I promise. We just have to take the time and spend the money to put a system in place that will prevent abuse. I know that the DEA is beginning to implement a procedure for identifying problem doctors, but they might not get it finished before people are screaming too loud to ignore, and congress passes a reactionary bill. I’m counting on you, my faithful readers, to help spread the word!
Education before outcry.