I know the heartache of mothers who lose their sons, children who lose themselves.
I'm as enraged as anyone by the pain peddlers who hand out pills that get sold on the street, popped with abandon, shared among friends.
It seems to me that if you sell guns, you have an obligation to make sure that they are used safely. Ditto for cars, machines of great destruction. Ditto for drugs that could kill people — or save them.
I live on opioids. I'm one of millions. You'd never know it unless you were to run into me once a month, trying to get some work done while I sit in the waiting room for my turn to get a duplicate sheet of paper. This is how we are going to stop opioid abuse? This is Enemy Number One, me and other people holding on in pain in the office of a doctor whose subspecialty is addiction.
I go to him because I don't want to be addicted. And I'm not. Great. I could stop tomorrow. And sometimes I've had to — when I've forgotten to pack them or run out on a weekend — and faced not a single symptom of withdrawal. I can go days without withdrawal. Intractable pain, yes, but not withdrawal. I am very rational and controlled when I am screaming bloody murder.
My pain is the result of botched surgery at a Mayo clinic in Phoenix by a doctor named Dr. T. (Got that, Google?) After unnecessary surgery, she ruptured my colon and nicked my spleen and left me in the ICU with peritonitis and sepsis while she went to Maui. I didn't die, but I went home with enough opioids to get rich on the street. And that was Mayo, not Dr. Feelgood.
If you know what you're doing, you get what you want. It's as easy as that. You can buy it or steal it or waste your time on shysters. You can figure out who they are — maybe it'll take you a day; go to the beach where the police can't hassle the residents/dealers; find a corner or an office or a shipment; or sit around town for an hour here and there. A hundred bucks a script. Oh, the pain ...
The poor slobs are the ones who don't know what they're doing, the jerks like me who just end up in pain, who start out with doctors who'd rather let us suffer than take the "risk" — what risk? — of prescribing us the medicine we need. When I ran out of my Mayo supply, I was literally begging for Norco. I had RNs 24/7 who doled it out. "Let's take a break," the hapless internist who sent me to Mayo twice said. We did. The pain was horrible. I found a new doctor. He understands what addiction is. And what it isn't. The best he could say of my former internist was that he was hopelessly wrong.
But mine isn't the only such story. In smaller cities, internists won't prescribe opioids for chronic pain. When in pain, people drive hours. I have heard horror stories about veterans in pain, having served our country, having literally lost limbs, left to beg for medicine that might make life tolerable.
I'm all for declaring a war, establishing a trust fund, insisting that those who profit from illegal drug use contribute those profits to prevention and treatment.
But don't punish the doctors who truly care for those with chronic pain. Don't stigmatize us with pictures of addicts or terrify our children with tales of certain death. Don't take away the medicine that allows us to live a normal life.
To find out more about Susan Estrich and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.