Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Wick Fisher
Moose Lake Star Gazette 

How would you rate your pain?

Wick's World


You walk into your doctor’s office seeking to ease the pain from an old parachute mishap, the auto accident when you broke your sternum and fractured several vertebrae, and the open heart surgery in which the once-healed sternum was once again busted wide open.

The doctor asks, “On a scale of one to 10, how would you rate the pain?”

A patient whose file is marked “drug seeker” in hospital parlance, having no apparent illness or injury, walks into a doctor’s office seeking to feed a drug addiction, although he never mentions this to the medical staff. Most often the excuse is for "back pain."

The doctor asks the same question, “On a scale of one to 10, how would you rate the pain?”

Pain is subjective. It is not clinically measurable. Unfortunately, the doctor cannot hook a patient up to a magic machine that gives a readout ranging from one to 10 that gives the quantity of pain one is suffering. Therein lies the opioid problem.

Now that the government is cracking down on the ease of which opioids were once procured, a new problem has arisen. The medical profession is facing intense scrutiny, which has led to increasing difficulty in obtaining opioids for patients requiring legitimate pain control. Some patients now have to sign contracts with their doctors, even having their pills counted to ascertain they are taking their drugs as prescribed. Urine samples are being required. Other drug use can be detected.

In other instances, the lack of the drug in the patient can mean the opioid is being sold on the street at an incredible markup. A prescription of just 30 Percocets can have a street value of close to $1,000. Many long-term patients legally obtain three times that many per month. You can see the temptation to divert some or all of the pills to the black market.

Doctors have to be careful. A national online survey asked chronic pain patients to rate how often their doctors were dubious of their need for opioids. Fully two-thirds of doctors had some level of skepticism. Only one-third of the doctors were rarely or never concerned about the integrity of their patients.

For years, several rings of young entrepreneurs were doctor-shopping at the many opioid mills dotting freeways leading north out of Florida. They would obtain a prescription from a pain doctor in one half of the building and open the door to the adjacent pharmacy to pick up their reward. Massive quantities of Percocet and Oxycontin were soon on their way to Kentucky and Tennessee; marketed as hillbilly heroin, each pill was sold for 20-30 times its actual cost. The profits were enormous.

The Florida businesses were really nothing more than small clapboard shacks operating out in the open. Although their ethics and morals may have been substandard, the doctors and pharmacists were legitimately licensed to reap in massive profits.

Although many of those loopholes have been closed, the epidemic brought to America by the drug company called Purdue Pharma still exists. In 1987, Purdue Pharma, although lab tests proved otherwise, marketed Oxycontin as a safe, non-addicting pain medicine. The resulting cost is the most widely abused drug in America today is a leading cause of death by overdose. The hidden cost has left millions of Americans struggling to legitimately get needed medicine to deal with pain. Many of these patients are veterans who sacrificed their health for their country, only to find themselves in an intolerable situation created by a corporate drug pusher who, to date, has taken no responsibility for their gluttonous action.

Don’t expect any easy solutions. Don’t expect doctors to be enablers. They now have requirements and guidelines that need to be followed. In some cases, you can expect needless suffering.

For one who has tolerated a lifetime of back pain, I fortunately have lived my life by the adage, “Get by on the smallest dosage and least amount of medicine that works. Save the stronger stuff for when you really need it.”

This worked well for me following my auto accident in which I broke my sternum and fractured several vertebrae. It worked well following my subsequent heart surgery. I am one of the lucky ones. I have a very understanding family doctor and I do not abuse the system. Mayo Clinic knows my story well and they have saved my life more than once.

Today I am upset over the fact that because little Johnny can’t keep his hands out of Grandpa’s medicine cabinet, millions of veterans, along with other pain-sufferers, are increasingly finding it difficult to get the medicines they need to live a quality life.

Something ain’t right.


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