THE EPIDEMIC OF MORAL PANIC
MONOLOGUE WRITTEN BY CLYDE LEWIS
Yesterday as I was preparing my show, my wife texted me after a visit from her doctor. She said that it came to her attention that basic health plans including Medicare are changing their policies with regard to prescribing opioid painkillers. After exhaustive searches online, I saw dozens of insurance plans and state health plans that have recommended limits on opioid prescriptions, including not covering the costs and new criteria that are more restrictive such as not prescribing these drugs for chronic back pain.
As I was reading these restrictions, I was becoming angry because I have seen what happens to people when they are cut off from receiving pain management care.
I don’t know if I have made myself clear about how I feel about the so-called opioid crisis. With all the shows I have done about health, I have always seen myself as a champion of effective pain management.
I am also a champion of cutting through negative propaganda and the moral panic that has developed with the constant reports of a so-called opioid crisis that does not exist.
I repeat – there is no opioid crisis.
Now, before I get all of the hate mail and excoriation from people who think I am being irresponsible for speaking against the propaganda, I want to explain how this moral panic devised by the CDC the FDA and the DEA is harming you and me and others by creating another other that can be considered the bottom feeder.
People in pain have no place in a world of scarcity.
The news media has been generating the hysteria about an opioid epidemic but not one of these front page websites do nothing to explain what is really happening.
The so-called opioid epidemic argument is the same as the gun control argument it always has some political agenda behind it and every time the blame is placed on the artifact rather than on the responsibility of those who use it.
If you Google “opioid” crisis, you will get a mountain of hits that parrot each other. You can read into any website or any study and the first thing they bring up within the first ten lines is the death rates.
There is nothing said about the benefits of pain management and how responsible opioid use is effective. For example, if you go to the US National Institute of Health website you will notice this sentence:
“Every day, more than 90 Americans die after overdosing on opioids.”
So if we read the sentence carefully we can understand what the problem really is. It is not an opioid epidemic – it is an overdose epidemic, which is a behavioral crisis that needs to be addressed.
Is the opioid crisis the same as the overdose crisis?
It most definitely is NOT.
One has to do with addiction rates, the other with death rates.
Now statistically, the National Institute of Drug Abuse has reported that addiction rates have actually tabled in this country. They have remained pretty much at the same level since 2015.
However, drug overdoses are skyrocketing.
They have quadrupled since 1999. More than 52,000 Americans died from drug overdoses last year. We are now being told that it is because of an opioid epidemic and that we have to limit or eliminate the prescription of these drugs.
After January some people with chronic pain will be cut off or their doctors will be pressured to under-prescribe these medications, which will in time drive patients to street drugs, marijuana use, ordering from the internet where the drugs are low quality or even suicide.
Drug overdose is the leading cause of death for Americans under 50. Some people swallow, or more often inject, more opioids than their body can handle, which causes the breathing reflex to shut down. But drug overdoses that include opioids about 63% are most often caused by a combination of drugs or drugs and alcohol or heroin, even drugs and something as simple as cough medicine.
More people die from combinations of drugs and unfortunately one of those drugs in the cocktail is an opiate of some kind.
So immediately we hear the outcry form a histrionic media “Ban all opiates” when the problem is behavioral and can be linked to the fact that in America today millions of people live in a world without hope, certainty or structure.
The news media rarely bother to distinguish between the legitimate prescription of opioids for pain and the stealing of pain pills for illicit use.
Yes, there has been an upsurge in the prescription of opioids in the US over the past 20 to 30 years, though prescription rates are currently decreasing.
This was a response to an underprescription crisis. Severe and chronic pain was grossly undertreated for most of the 20th century. Even patients dying of cancer were left to writhe in pain until prescription policies began to ease in the 70s and 80s. The reason was that an opioid scare campaign not much different from what’s happening today was going on.
The pendulum has swung back the other way and we will see the same problems happen again because no one bothers to remember history and the pain crisis that existed because people were brainwashed into believing that being in pain and being dependent on pain medication was a moral failing.
I know that some doctors have been prescribing opioids too generously, and a few are motivated solely by profit. But that’s a tiny slice of the big picture.
Physical dependence can happen with the chronic use of many drugs, including many prescription drugs, even if taken as instructed. Physical dependence in and of itself does not constitute addiction, but it often accompanies addiction.
This distinction can be difficult to discern, particularly with prescribed pain medications, for which the need for increasing dosages represents tolerance or a worsening underlying problem, as opposed to the beginning of abuse or addiction.
I have always learned that as a general rule if you are taking a pill to kill pain you are dependent if you are taking it even after the pain is gone, you are addicted.
But if you are taking your pills as directed and the pain persists, your body has gotten used to them over time, or the worst case scenario would be that the drug companies are doing the equivalent of watering down the alcohol.
Now, the fact is that for those who are prescribed pain pills, meaning those who do not steal the medications or use heroin, the onset of addiction which is usually temporary is about 10% for those with a previous drug-use history and less than 1% for those with no such history.
Now to illustrate the point even further, I am sure that you or someone who you know has had a major surgery where they were prescribed heavy doses of opiate pain medication.
If opioids are that addictive then everyone that has had a major surgery should be in rehab.
There are many stories of people who have had surgeries, were prescribed pain medications and have been weaned off of them without being addicted at all.
But because of the lazy practice of pack journalism, the media does not make any distinction between prescribed pain medications, street drugs, and deaths because of drug combinations.
Wouldn’t it be sensible for the media to distinguish street drugs such as heroin from pain pills?
Of course, it would but the media is never sensible when it comes to the bottomless pockets from pharmaceutical companies that wish to promote many alternatives to effective opioid use.
I also have a problem with the media not differentiating overdosed and addictions with prescribed use and the use of dangerous opioids like fentanyl, we are talking about a drug that is stronger than heroin and far cheaper, so drug dealers often use it to lace or replace heroin. Because fentanyl is a manufactured pharmaceutical prescribed for severe pain, the media often describe it as a prescription painkiller no matter how it has been used.
It’s irresponsible that the media ignores these distinctions and then use “sum total” statistics to scare doctors, policymakers and review boards into severely limiting the prescription of pain pills or not covering them with insurance.
It’s doctors – not politicians, journalists, or professional review bodies who are best equipped and motivated to decide what their patients need, at what doses, for what periods of time. And the vast majority of doctors are conscientious, responsible and ethical.
I also think most people are the same when it comes to using opioids.
The problem is that the media and several people who don’t know any better think the drug availability causes addiction. Using this logic then gun availability makes everyone a killer, and alcohol availability must make every one alcoholic.
Addiction is caused by psychological and economic suffering and the inability of people to connect with something or someone other than themselves.
It’s probably not surprising that overall life expectancy for Americans declined for the third straight year in 2017. But according to data from the CDC, drugs weren’t the only factor at play: Deaths from suicide, the flu, diabetes, and many other causes also increased. And surprise – deaths from suicide happen usually around the holidays or the end of the year.
In 2017, US life expectancy at birth for the total population declined by 0.1 to 78.6 years for the total U.S. population. The drop in overall rates was driven by an increase in deaths for men (who are more likely to die of drug overdoses and suicide), with their life expectancy dropping by 0.1 to 76.1, while life expectancy for women was steady at 81.1. The spread between life expectancy for men and women also widened (in the women’s favor) by 0.1 to 4.9 years.
More men are committing suicide than women a statistic that seems to not get that much attention.
The 10 leading causes of death – heart disease, cancer, unintentional injuries, chronic lower respiratory diseases, stroke, Alzheimer disease, diabetes, influenza and pneumonia, kidney disease, and suicide – were unchanged from 2016 (these are ranked by number). These accounted for 74% of all deaths last year. But when adjusted for age, the data showed that more Americans are dying at younger ages from nearly all of the causes above – with the biggest jump seen in the age-adjusted rate for suicides (up to a staggering 3.7%).
According to a World Health Organization study, people who live in chronic pain are four times more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression. Pain does not kill directly but it diminishes the quality of life and left untreated has led to dangerous behaviors and even suicide.
The overdose epidemic compels us to face one of the darkest corners of modern human experience head-on. I would say that we should stop wasting time blaming the players and the drugs and start looking directly at the source of the problem.
Why are we so stressed out that our internal supply of opioids isn’t enough? Why is the media constantly pushing a fake opioid epidemic when the problem lies in how we are at a point of despair self-loathing and division?
Society’s response has been understandably desperate but generally wrongheaded. We start by blaming addicts. Then we blame the pharmaceutical companies for developing and marketing painkillers.
The ramifications of controlling pain are huge in scope. Every organism on this planet responds to pain. No Police State can exist without the ability to give out pain in all forms. The torture we read about and criticize are academic and in the same way, the CIA or any other black ops group torture enemy combatants, we also suffer a post-traumatic stress response to this type of behavior.
It is the threat of pain and torture that deep down frightens us. We can put up a good front for courage. We can say “better them than us” but the truth is we are them. They are us.
Shocks to the system create cognitive crisis and pain. Those who control pain control the populace. You see, pain is what is controlling us and those who have the power to relieve the pain are also those who have the power to inflict it.
Access to health records gives them the capability of controlling pain and gives them the ability to decide who deserves to be relieved of their pain. If anyone doubts the power of pain as a tool to control people’s behavior they need only to look at the experiments that were carried out by the Nazis.
These experiments in pain for control were carried through to the academics at Yale and Harvard. They were perfected by the CIA and other groups and now they are being implemented with absolutely no limits. This is why torture is not condemned or not being altered in war. Because in a moment of pain, people could say or do almost anything including kill another human being.
We have all seen the rat in the experiment where he presses the bar in order to get a jolt to the pleasure centers of his brain. He will do it so much he falls limp from exhaustion. He runs around madly in his wheel in order to avoid any pain that is being given to him by the controllers.
The experiments evolve where there is no longer anything provided to take away his pain. After a while, the rodent learns to live with his pain and also awaits his next blow. This is known as “learned helplessness.” Soon the rat becomes fearful, and mean. He eventually dies. Giving more control to the government will ease your pain at first – it will become an “opiate solution.”
When we look at “Opiate” as a widespread metaphor we must understand that it was used as a part of the policy. In the times of Karl Marx, “Opiate” was used in a social sense as a metaphor in his day.
“Opiate” was used sociologically as a term for anything that would soothe social turmoil. Literally, with the help of Karl Marx it is loosely defined as a social pain reliever. Since the socialist evolutionary process includes inflicting and relieving pain and controlling the “Opiate.” “Opiate policies” must be looked into as a means to an end. It is a means of control by the government where big brother watches you and controls your intake of that which takes away your pain and stress.
We can also see this as a method of culling the populace as these new restrictions will actually increase the number of suicide deaths of people who suffer chronic pain.
Imagine for a moment having to plan your life having to remember to make a doctor’s appointment each and every month, for a urine test, a pill count and an interrogation.
Think of planning your life around refill dates, days when you may need more or less of the medication to function and wondering, constantly, if tomorrow will be a good day or a bad day. Think of not being able to go on vacation and enjoy it, or of going and having to plan the trip upon when you will need a refill. Think of these things and consider how you would feel.
People with legitimate chronic pain issues need support and care; now they are being forced to make their lives more difficult and being treated like criminals.
I am beginning to see that the so-called opioid crisis is a crisis in the effectiveness of opioids, plain and simple.
The ineffectiveness of the drugs, the drug combinations and other factors are creating an overdose something that can be avoided with education and careful observation.
The pharmaceutical companies are not keeping up with the evolution of pain, and so what they have done is to team up with advertising agencies and have created public service announcements declaring that addiction or even an accidental overdose is actually a moral failing.
It is not a moral failing – I want to say that it is becoming an iatrogenic artifact because each pill that is consumed does not always deliver the medication that is prescribed. One pill could have less of an effective dose while another can have more than the dose prescribed on the label.
This creates a perceived need – when there is no real need or addiction, only dependence to be rid of the pain that makes you feel detached.
It is a vicious circle that can be measured anywhere, but the spin is what is responsible for the epidemic of moral panic.