Still Waters: Friendly fire casaulties in the war on drugs

We have a drug problem in our country and in our neighborhoods. No one denies that. It is visible in spent syringes and spent lives. It crowds our court systems and our jails. It destroys bodies, families and souls.

Some of the problem drugs are legal ones — controlled substances, prescribed or self prescribed. Some are street drugs, imported or manufactured locally in a makeshift lab. The addiction can be the same, regardless of the substance or the source.

In efforts to control abuse, medical providers have gotten together and gotten tougher on prescription drugs like OxyContin, Percocet and Vicodin. Those who have relied on such medications for pain relief may be required to sign contracts promising not to share, sell or trade them. If they lose their prescription bottles, or they are stolen, the prescription may not be replaced. If folks run out of medication before they run out of pain, they will have to wait and endure, because the prescription will not be filled early.

Patients may be subjected to urine tests, which they may have to pay for themselves, to make sure they are taking the medication prescribed to them. They may be asked to bring their bottles in so their providers can count their pills.

They may have to see a behavioral health counselor before they can continue to receive their medications.
I understand the reasons why medical providers have taken measures such as instituting pain management contracts. They are well intentioned, I believe. They want to decrease the abuse of prescription medications.

However, in the “war on drugs,” I believe we have suffered many casualties from “friendly fire.” These well-intentioned regulations and restrictions have sometimes become a literal pain for folks who depend on prescription medications for relief.

They are folks who work hard, pay taxes and support their families and communities. It is not their fault they suffer from chronic pain, either resulting from illnesses, accidents or other traumatic events. They rely on medications to make their pain more bearable.

Let’s not wound more innocent victims in the “war on drugs” or shovel them into mass graves. Let’s bring them into the triage unit, treat them with compassion, and for heaven’s sake, give them something for the pain!

I don’t suffer from chronic pain but I know many, many people who do. I can’t even imagine what they go through every day.

If I was suffering, and couldn’t get the pain meds I needed, would I turn to illegal means to get them? I don’t know. Unfortunately many medical professionals don’t know either because they don’t suffer the same chronic pain many of their patients do.

Constant pain requires constant remedy. You can tell people to try acupuncture and herbs, and for some people that might work, but let’s face it, there’s pain that can’t be fixed at the health food store.

I don’t judge people who get relief from medical marijuana in some form either, but there are many people who either can’t use it because they are in government housing or won’t use it because of their beliefs or past experience with it. It is still illegal in most of the U.S., and it has side effects just like everything else.

What is the solution, then? “Common sense.” If folks need ongoing medication to deal with pain that is not going to go away, then provide that medication to those folks in a responsible manner. Don’t make them feel like criminals. Don’t force them to become criminals.

What good have we accomplished if people who used to take legal opioids can no longer get them so they turn to heroin?

What good have we accomplished if people experience no relief, see no hope and end their suffering by their own means?

The road to hell may be paved with good intentions, but unfortunately sometimes the good intentions of some are creating the road to hell for others.