Complicated World of Narcotic Prescribing

This editorial spoken in the words of a patient presents a balanced discussion on some of the complicated issues surrounding narcotic prescribing. The exact percentage of the population that is addicted to drugs is debatable. The “2 percent” quoted in this article is likely low if alcohol is included. Nevertheless, narcotic pain control is a constant balancing act that requires close working relationship between the doctor and the patient. With doctors always straddling the line between meeting patients’ pain medication needs and scrutiny of drug enforcement, patients can do best by being open and honest with their doctors, and follow the agreed to drug treatment plans as closely as possible.

Chronic-pain sufferers deserve treatment with dignity
By JEFFREY S. KLEIN • June 22, 2008
Battle Creek Enquirer

Pain. We all experience it at some time in our life to varying degrees and for varying periods of time. Caused by injury or illness, it is nature’s way of telling us that something is wrong. In a majority of cases, modern medicine does an excellent job of relieving our pain. Through treatment of the cause of the pain or simply controlling the pain that is not easily treatable, most patients receive relief from their pain.

Doctors, left to their own resources, do an excellent job of improving the quality of life of their patients. Even those patients suffering from chronic pain are able to live a normal life if properly treated. Some of the time, that proper treatment includes narcotic pain medication. Prescribed and taken properly, narcotics provide the only relief for some chronic pain victims. Spinal injuries, deformities and degeneration are some examples that respond well to narcotic therapy. Many times they are the only choice that will provide relief.

It is estimated that 2 percent of Americans are addicted to drugs. This number has not changed over the last 100 years. The “War on Drugs” has not changed this number, in spite of spending almost a trillion dollars in trying to change it. Some of this 2 percent are addicted to narcotics. Narcotics that are stolen – acquired through break-ins or robberies. Some are even acquired through patients scamming their doctors for a prescription – and then selling the pills on the street. People who suffer from chronic pain would never sell their prescription – those pills are their only chance for a normal life. The kind of life that most of us take for granted. Life can be hard enough without chronic pain. For those suffering from it, life can become almost unbearable.

In our zeal to control the flow of illegal drugs, we have made the relief of pain almost impossible for the average doctor. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) tracks all narcotic prescriptions, and has developed guidelines for the dispensing of narcotics. If a doctor exceeds those guidelines, an inquiry is launched. In essence, the DEA decides what the doctor should prescribe, to whom, and in what quantities. With the full weight of the U.S. government behind it, the DEA can be quite intimidating to even the most well-intentioned and dedicated doctor. More…