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The DEA's War on Pain Doctors

Some in the medical community call it "a war on pain doctors," or "state-sponsored terrorism." However you describe the current campaign, Frank Owen writes, the DEA's hardball tactics have scared physicians nationwide to the extent that legitimate pain sufferers now find it increasingly difficult to get the medicine they need.

by Frank Owen
November 5 - 11, 2003

Twenty-four years after Darlene broke her back in a swimming pool accident, crippling pain still rules every aspect of her life, from getting up in the morning (which she describes as akin to "climbing the highest mountain") to falling into a fitful sleep at night. After years of botched surgery that left her in even more agony, she knows there is no real cure for what ails her, but thanks to synthetic opioids (which include such regulated substances as Vicodin, Dilaudid, and the devil drug of the moment, OxyContin), she says that she can now lead a halfway normal life. Just folding sheets or washing dishes or sitting at the computer are daily miracles for Darlene, who claims she would otherwise be bedridden and suicidal without the chemical crutches that high doses of these powerful opium-like painkillers provide.

But in some ways worse than the pain, says Darlene (who doesn't want her last name revealed), are the shame and fear that come with it. Shame when she goes to have her special triplicate prescription–required for all scheduled drugs–filled at the drugstore and the pharmacist looks at her as if she were some addict abusing the drug to get high. Fear that her medications will soon be taken away by the Drug Enforcement Administration's ongoing crackdown on pain doctors. "You worry every day that the medicine won't be available for much longer, or your doctor won't be there tomorrow because he's been arrested by the DEA," she claims. All the bad publicity in the press about the abuse of OxyContin by celebrities such as Rush Limbaugh and Courtney Love doesn't help matters. But, says Darlene, the media scare stories shouldn't blind people to the fact that these drugs–when taken under medical supervision–have made life livable for hundreds of thousands of chronic pain patients, herself included...

To read more than this small exerpt go to: www.villagevoice.com/news/0345,owen,48381,1.html

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