Moving HEAL Research into Action

Admit OUD is uncommon and get DEA out of doctors' offices

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Contrary to what most people have been have been fed from main stream media and politicians, the data shows addiction to opioids is uncommon. The 2016 CDC Prescribing Guidelines state this. But the DEA is pushing doctors, and pharmacists, to abandon millions of Americans living with chronic pain.

My wife has Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and has lived with chronic joint pain for decades. She used to be treated by her PCP and was prescribed enough pain medication to maintain some quality of life. Then in 2015, her PCP's clinic stopped prescribing opioid medications so she was forced to start seeing a PMR.

In 2017, the PMR who was treating her decided out of the blue that he no longer wanted to treat her for fear of losing his license. He actually said "I do not want to go to jail" to our faces before discharging her. So just like that she was left without the medication that dulled her joint pain enough to keep her mobile. She very quickly became bedridden and started to atrophy.

We started searching for another doctor willing to treat her but were turned away from everyone. When I spoke to any clinic and described my wife's condition and history, the first thing they said was "we do not prescribe opioids." Pain management doctors were no longer prescribing pain medications? What was going on? So we started researching and found out about the 2016 CDC Prescribing Guidelines that were being treated like an overbearing law rather than guidelines as written, and also that doctors all over were discharging chronic pain patients due to pressure from the DEA.

What didn't make any sense was that those CDC guidelines actually state down in the fine print that addiction to opioid medication is uncommon (less than 1%), but all these doctors were saying they won't prescribe opioids "because of the CDC guidelines" and "because opioids are highly addictive." And the media was on fire with stories of "pill mills" and the "opioid crisis." Yet the data, and reinforcing studies that have come out since then all show that addiction and overdoses are largely to and from illicit substances like heroin, black-market fentanyl, and polysubstance abuse. People abusing "prescription pills" were mostly getting them from those "pill mills" and not legitimate doctors. And furthermore, as prescribing has gone down over the last decade, overdoses are still increasing, indicating the drug problem was never about chronic pain patients.

We were incredibly lucky to have found a doctor in 2019 who was willing to take on my wife's treatment. He has been incredibly helpful but I see signs that he is also under pressure to get patients off prescription pain medication, so I live in constant fear that she will be discharged again and left for dead by the government and medical community who are supposed to help her.  And in those 2 years that she lived without pain management, her body had withered and deteriorated so much so that even now she struggles to recover at all even with decent pain management medication.  I worry that damage done is permanent and she will never be the same again.

Millions of Americans suffering from painful chronic conditions aren't abusing their meds, or selling them, or overdosing from them. But they're the ones being punished by the government and the medical community due to bad information and the "opioid crisis" narrative. It's time to have the DEA back off and let all of the good doctors treat their patients without fear of reprisal. Let my wife and the millions of Americans like her get or keep receiving the treatment they need. Let them have some quality of life.

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