Tuesday, December 27, 2011
I was saddened to learn that Siobhan Reynolds, a controversial activist opposed to DEA and other law enforcement clampdowns on pain management medication and those who prescribe and administer it, has died in an aircraft crash. She was a fearless campaigner, one whose advocacy will be greatly missed.
Her death is of particular interest to me because I'm one of the many who suffer from constant, incessant pain. Mine's the result of a disabling injury in 2004. I used to be on a drug 'cocktail' of three different medications to control my pain, until (after my heart attack in 2009) I had to cut back on the number of prescription medications I was taking due to negative interactions and side effects. It means that my level of pain is more elevated than before, but that's just something I've had to learn to live with. Now, I take a painkiller only when I can't stand the pain any longer.
It's amazing how many doctors are 'running scared' because of the DEA's constant monitoring of medical facilities and personnel, trying to 'catch out' those it suspects are over-prescribing narcotic pain-relievers. When I moved between states last year, I asked my new physician to re-issue my pain medication prescriptions, and was taken aback when he flatly refused to do so. He explained that, given the nit-picking strictness of drug law enforcement in my new state, it just wasn't worth the potential trouble to him and his practice to do so. He offered to refer me to a pain management specialist instead (which would, of course, involve additional expense, additional delays, and problems with my medical insurance, who'd have to be convinced that a referral to a specialist was warranted when, in my previous state of residence, my general physician had routinely renewed my pain management prescriptions on an annual basis with no difficulty whatsoever).
You can read more about the problems caused by the clash between drug legislation and pain management in a CATO Institute policy analysis, 'Treating Doctors as Drug Dealers: The DEA’s War on Prescription Painkillers'. It makes sobering reading. You can learn more about Ms. Reynolds' trials and tribulations with law enforcement over the issue in Radney Balko's tribute to her, which is well deserved. Articles on her blog give more information about the problem; and you can learn more at the Web site of Kevin P. Byers, a lawyer with whom she worked on the problem, and at the Web site of the now-defunct Pain Relief Network, an organization Ms. Reynolds founded and ran until legal issues forced its closure.
I hope others will take up the cause for which Ms. Reynolds fought so hard and so long. I'll certainly try to support it as best I can, knowing from all too bitter personal experience how important it is.