Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Tennessee's pain medication laws are insane!
Following a recurrence of problems with the disabling injury I suffered some years ago, I've been in and out of doctor's offices and hospital facilities over the past few days. In the process, I've run headlong into what are undoubtedly the most iniquitous pain medication laws and regulations I've ever encountered. It seems that in the state of Tennessee, if you ask for medication to control serious pain, you're immediately regarded as a potential drug abuser. It's the most heavy-handed, distrustful, in-your-face 'Big Brother' approach I've ever seen, and it's infuriating!
The first sign of trouble came when my physician flatly refused to even consider prescribing any painkiller stronger than 'Ranger candy'. He wouldn't go into detail, just said that if I wanted the good stuff, I'd have to see a pain management specialist. This annoyed me, because back in Louisiana (where I suffered my injury) pain medication was a matter of a quick prescription from any doctor for whatever they considered appropriate. In fact, I'd once had to ask for a reduction in the strength of my pain medication, as it was so potent it was making me come over all Biblical! At one point I had a monthly prescription for Ultracet, plus a bottle of 100 Percocet prescribed on an annual basis "for when the Ultracet isn't strong enough". I never abused the latter - in fact, I usually ended the year with 50 or 60 tablets remaining! That didn't faze the doctor concerned, who would happily write out another prescription for the coming year. He knew me, after all, and knew I wasn't abusing them or letting others have them. There was a relationship of trust between us.
I had another inkling that things were different in Tennessee when I received a fat packet of documentation in the mail, all of which I had to fill in and sign ad nauseam. Turns out that the physician's office, under Tennessee law, can (and must) call me at irregular intervals and require me to show up at their office (or the nearest pharmacy) within 24 hours, complete with my pill bottle, so that the remaining pills can be counted. It's apparently an offense to hold back some of the pills if you haven't used them all. I can be summoned for a urine test at random, and may have to provide one during my 'pill count' too - in fact, I had to provide a urine sample before they'd even see me today! Furthermore, there were all sorts of dire warnings that my personal information would be shared with the authorities for investigative purposes, and I had to sign a waiver permitting my prescription and other information to be released to them. Finally, they wouldn't give me a prescription for a few months' supply at a time, or a renewable prescription. No, I got only 30 days worth, plus two more appointments at 30-day intervals (for which I have to come up with a co-payment every time, thank you very much!). "After that, we'll see." The fact that my injury has been well-documented since 2004, with abundant prescriptions for pain medication from pain management specialists in another state, apparently counted for nothing at all.
I was so angry at this invasive, overly officious, bureaucratic intrusion into my privacy that I protested vigorously to the nurses at the office. They apologized, but said that the abuse of prescription drugs was a big problem in Tennessee. This is how the legislature had chosen to address the issue. The state was deliberately trying to make it as difficult as possible to get pain medication in order to combat the abuse. The fact that this means treating legitimate patients as criminals-in-waiting clearly doesn't bother the authorities at all. They've done the same for anti-allergy medications containing pseudoephedrine, which can be abused as a precursor chemical for the manufacture of methamphetamines. One has to jump through hoops to get those as well. (They're still available without a prescription, but some politicians are making noises about changing that, too!)
What happened to the presumption of innocence until guilt is proven? It looks like Tennessee's controlled substances laws and regulations assume you're intending to abuse prescription drugs unless and until you can prove you're not - and even then, the powers that be will look upon you with dire suspicion! It's no wonder my physician didn't want anything to do with prescribing pain medication. If I found the process burdensome and irritating as a patient, what must it be like for medical practitioners to deal with all the administrative overhead and bureaucratic obfuscation involved? It must be mind-bogglingly frustrating!
What about your states, readers? How many of you have to put up with this sort of 'Big Brother' intrusiveness when you need pain or allergy medication? I'd be interested to see how widespread this is. Certainly, Louisiana was a libertarian nirvana by comparison! Furthermore, are there any groups fighting this sort of nonsense? I'm more than willing to contribute to their cause now! Meanwhile, I'm going to look into ways and means to obtain the medication I need without jumping through all these hoops. I'm no criminal: but if Tennessee wants to pass stupid laws, the state needn't be surprised if people decide that obeying them is equally stupid!