I Beg You To Consider Reading What I Desperately Hope Won’t Be My Last MEDIUM Article

foofaraw & Chiquita (ARF!)
11 min readMar 16, 2023

Americans are Dying in Uncountable Numbers Because their Cause of Death Is Being Listed As “Suicide”, Not “DEA Dictated Pain Medication Deprivation”

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — -

Thank you for these few moments of your time. Every word I’ve written below of my personal experience is true.

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

“Danny’s brother, Jim Elliott, shared an excerpt from a note Danny left behind after his suicide: “I just can’t live with this severe pain anymore, and I don’t have any options left,” he wrote. “There are millions of chronic pain patients suffering just like me because of the DEA. Nobody cares.” “

https://www.vice.com/en/article/dy7qqv/dea-beverly-hills-doctor-shut-down-opioids

I was born in 1957 with scoliosis, experienced a 30-foot fall in the late 1970s, then in 2003 was afflicted with “botched back surgery syndrome”. I have experienced between significant and unbearable pain every day since my early teens more than 50 years ago. Two days past, I returned from the pharmacy with less than one-fifth of the lifesaving opiate medication I’ve needed to survive each month for about 20 years, and no clue how long I will need to stretch those few pills out due to zero assurance that I (and millions of other Americans) will ever see another life-sustaining pain pill. My situation now has the potential to be worse even than after my botched surgery, when I swore I would rather die than go through such agony again.

I’m writing this, as well or as poorly as I may be able, because I fear I may not have another opportunity for my story (like those of more than 7 million other Americans), to be told. (The National Pain Council link found below relates a mere sampling of 41 very personal accounts of these suicides in heartbreaking and infuriating detail.) The extra meds I took earlier today to help me compose these thoughts (but well below prescribed levels) has the potential to take at least a day from my eventual lifespan should the situation remain unchanged, but that seems a worthwhile price if even one person learns something from reading this and then informs others.

Even if only from watching the mini-series, Dopesick, Americans generally know what happened as the result of the deadly but lucrative scheme hatched by the Sackler Family’s Perdue Pharma, with help from a unique “approval” from the FDA claiming that oxycodone is almost never addictive. This collaboration led to death and misery that is seemingly beyond anything America has ever witnessed outside of war or pandemic. I learned two things from my very first doctor-prescribed oxycodone pill 20-some years ago; oxycodone just might allow me to live decades longer than I ever expected to, and oxycodone has the potential to be addictive as hell. Or at least, countless overdose deaths have shown that to be the case for those fortunate enough to not be suffering from medically diagnosed pain. For the rest of us, it’s just a temporary respite from the hell that is our lives. Numerous studies, some very recent, have shown that those with legitimate medical needs for opiates have an addiction rate of well under 1%. People suffering with chronic pain know how to survive, and that means not abusing a life-saving godsend such as oxycodone. But I’m not here to re-litigate…just to (hopefully) inform.

Other than in some specific earlier instances involving clearly unethical doctors (along with “pill mill” pharmacies), the DEA, with assistance from the CDC, waited most of two decades to address the huge numbers of addictions and overdose deaths from “oxy” (oxycodone) in any sort of nationwide or consistent manner, and then in the most illogical, cruel, and devastating way imaginable. Though the culprit in American opiate overdose deaths is now overwhelmingly illicit fentanyl sometimes being smuggled across America’s borders (but usually arriving on international passenger flights), the DEA and the CDC have cruelly and inexplicably decided that the best way to end America’s overdose epidemic is to either limit or terminate medically authorized prescriptions for basically every opiate medication, effectively abandoning millions of innocent Americans already victimized by chronic pain. The greater an individual’s suffering and need for pain relief, the greater the likelihood and degree of their victimization. The result has been, by some estimations, up to dozens of suicides daily by those unable to survive even one more day of such torture after years, or even decades, of being worn down by severe and constant pain coupled with diminishing hope.

The average brain rests during sleep. A chronic pain-activated brain never rests, as pain keeps it activated 24/7/365, even during sleep. We typically wake already exhausted.

Many of the Americans most cruelly victimized by this DEA directive are already vulnerable veterans, as the VA has seemingly embraced this DEA “suggestion” (not law, but enforced as if one) as standard policy. (From the National Pain Council link below: “The VA refused to treat his war wounds with pain medicine, and offered instead a stress ball.”) Other victims include countless young children left behind by the suicides of mothers (and fathers) deprived by their government of any option that might even remotely be considered sane or humane.

If you’re wondering how effective this barbaric practice has been in reducing overdose deaths; the needle hasn’t even flickered. Unsurprising, as anyone being treated for chronic pain could have predicted this non-result. People legitimately receiving treatment for severe pain were never the problem.

Study Finds Less Than 2 Percent of Overdose Victims Had Active Opioid Prescriptions

“Meanwhile, about four out of five doctors have reported turning away pain patients…”

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — -

While hundreds of thousands of Americans did indeed die from oxycodone overdoses prior to 2016 (and some after), even a pain medication such as methadone, which has never been considered an abused drug and has contributed next to nothing to these tragic deaths, is now equally restricted with no rhyme, reason or explanation.

Ironically, some tragically unfortunate chronic pain victims who managed well on medically prescribed opiates (including near universally safe methadone) are now dead from substituting desperately obtained street drugs for the safety of their no longer available prescription opiates. The overall result of that desperation is what is perhaps the most infuriating and heartbreaking overdose death statistic of all:

“Among patients with long-term opioid prescriptions, research shows that stopping those prescriptions without providing effective alternative care is associated with nearly triple the risk of overdose death.”

Yes, not providing opiates for severe pain relief has a significant probability of resulting in overdose death.

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

Are People In Pain Committing Suicide For Lack of Opioids?

“Seemingly, the CDC now recognizes that people in severe pain are not the cause of the opioid epidemic. Cutting them off from their pain medicine did not solve the crisis, though it probably created its own epidemic of suicides.”

Yet the heartless policy continues, despite even the American Medical Association (AMA) arguing against the cruel and useless practice:

“The nation no longer has a prescription opioid-driven epidemic.”

(AMA website is periodically under maintenance.)

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

I suspect this is the first time many readers have heard of this issue, but through no fault of their own. In the midst of daily GOP insanity competitions and a war-torn world, these suicides just aren’t sexy enough to be interesting, or to generate the “clicks” needed to expand reporting. This article’s opening expressed part of the problem with directing attention to this important issue; the Death Certificate cause of death is generally listed as suicide (usually by handgun) rather than the unrealistically wordy but statistically trackable “DEA ordered medical neglect”.

I get it. Americans are sick to death of hearing about “oxy”. (God knows I am.) However, not only do I have concerns for my wellbeing and that of millions of other Americans, but that of my 91-year-old mother and 94-year-old father, for whom I am sole caretaker at a time when I can often scarcely get out of bed or feed myself. (With careful planning, I’m still able to get them to their appointments and bring food into the house, but little more.) Americans just like me are dying in levels of hopeless misery beyond the comprehension of most people, and I try to feel happy for those unaware, knowing that most people will never have personal knowledge that this intensity of suffering even exists.

I’ve been fearing something like this since the beginning of my treatment, so I may be a bit more prepared than most with a small “rainy day” stockpile, something an addict or “drug seeker” would be unlikely to do. (My pain doctor offered the suggestion years ago and I took it very seriously, despite the obvious difficulty and increased suffering.) While I am now expected to make about six days of medication last for 30 days (and am struggling to cut that miniscule dosage in half to double its lifespan in the event the situation worsens) I will almost certainly survive somewhere beyond 60 days thanks to years of sacrifices, even if (or when) this restriction becomes absolute. (Last month’s 50% dosage now seems almost like a cruel and distant memory of a precious lost gift.) The fact that I have seen the same pain doctor for more than 20 years, have never failed a drug test, have never reported medication lost or stolen, have never missed an appointment or been even a minute late despite a drive of nearly an hour each way, with a perfectly clean police record…means nothing. My doctor agrees that I am essentially the poster child for pain treatment, but that is small consolation as I sit here struggling to compose effective sentences on what may well be the least pain-filled day of the remainder of my life.

From inside looking out, it’s clear that to most of the world those like me whose lives are controlled by chronic pain are perceived one of two ways. At best, the 50+ million Americans (and 1 in 7 people worldwide) afflicted with such pain are seen as weak for even needing pain medication, and at worst we’re considered to be akin to filthy, drooling, drug-seeking junkies consumed with uncontrollable criminal lust. (Or something equally demeaning and preposterous.) Frequently pharmacists, and even doctors, are the least likely to express any degree of compassion, obviously often thinking of the most innocent of possible victims as their enemy. (My own pharmacist literally smirks every time I’ve mention suffering, death or the risk of suicide to him.) Thus, most people in our individual worlds, but outside immediate family, may never even be more than marginally aware of the intensity of the suffering by those effectively isolated from view.

National Pain Council

Suicides Associated with Non-consented Opioid Pain Medication Reductions & Discontinuations

In Memoriam: those who had to purposely end their lives, to stop untreated & unrelenting pain.

“It is our opinion at the National Pain Council that if the “CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain”, March 15, 2016 had never been published, virtually all of these people here would still be with their families — not in graves.”

Vice

The DEA Shut Down a Pain Doctor. Now 3 People Are Dead.

After a California doctor was labeled an “imminent danger” to the public, the consequences were devastating for his patients and their families.

“First, there was the double suicide — a husband and wife from Georgia who took their lives one week after the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) suspended the license of their doctor, David Bockoff, a pain specialist in Beverly Hills. After Bockoff lost his ability to prescribe fentanyl and other powerful painkillers on Nov. 1, dozens of his patients became “opioid refugees” with nowhere to turn. The third death came barely a month later.”

I thank anyone reading this with all my being. With more than 50 million Americans suffering from chronic pain, and in excess of 7 million of us experiencing at least some loss of critically needed pain medications, it’s safe to assume most Americans may know someone who either is affected by this, or soon will be. Though we largely suffer alone and in silence, please let those of us you may be personally aware of know that you care about their suffering. On a really bad day it can matter more than you likely realize, and it can help, at least on an emotional level, for us to feel seen by anyone.

Being seen can feel a bit like hope, and often that’s all we have to hold onto.

[EDIT: 3/30/23] Supply chain issues have been announced that will make life even more difficult for those in need of oxycodone simply to experience normal lives. With prescription levels for opiates well below when OxyContin originally hit the market several decades ago, it seems DEA intimidation tactics have worked all too well, now even affecting production.

[EDIT: 4/11/23] Pain was never as well understood (in America) as after America’s Civil War where the “opportunity” arose to see the results of many thousands of devastating, though not fatal, wounds. It was learned that basically, once a pain nerve was damaged, the resulting pain impulse became permanent. It’s widely believed that without some form of treatment for pain, its victims never died of old age or so-called natural causes: the end was always by each sufferers own hand. (The treatment of the day was raw opiates, and the resulting illness of addiction became known as the “soldiers disease”. But it did keep them alive while supplies were available.)

More recently, approximately 10% of suicides have been the result of poorly managed pain, increased by an unknown magnitude due to tapering or medication access denial caused by the DEA directive issued in 2016, and now additionally by supply chain issues:

[EDIT: 4/2/24] The DEA has announced an additional reduction in opioid production for 2024 of almost 9%. For now, I’m back to being one of the lucky ones, but that generally changes from one day to the next, so I have little hope for a long-term solution.

We lost Dad in December, but Mom and I are holding up OK. He was at home with family, and I will always be grateful to a local hospice for their unquestioning and compassionate assistance.

--

--

foofaraw & Chiquita (ARF!)

100% UNPAID writer, because I must. Liberal for life (so far!) FYI-If I see only a reply (and don’t know the name), I have to presume it’s from a troll. Sorry..