Throwing out the baby with the bathwater.
The federal government continues its assault on medical cannabis with recent DEA raids in Oakland, threatening letters sent to landlords in Oregon, and indictments in Montana. A candidate for state Attorney General in Oregon makes criticism of the state's medical marijuana program part of his campaign rhetoric, calling it a quote “train wreck” end quote, because so many patients in the program have only chronic serious pain as their qualifying condition.
On another front, the federal government is warning of an epidemic of painkiller addiction, threatening doctors for prescribing adequate medication for their patients and pushing some pain sufferers into illicit drug use, treatment, or prison.
These drug control policy stories aren't only about drug policies. Ultimately this is about pain, and the question of whether pain is real. Pain is regarded by many as a legitimate treatable condition, by others as a subjective and difficult to measure symptom, yet it is viewed by some as an illusory complaint used by the weak and the lazy to excuse their lack of will.
Most of us would regard that latter opinion as unthinking and cruel, though inhuman and barbaric are clean enough for radio and probably cleave closer to the mark.
Yet, the fact is that some people do malinger. Research on how many people try to fake illness, injury, pain or disability has yielded mixed results. Estimates of malingering range from as low as 1-10% to as high as 20-40%. As with so many tough questions, reality may lie somewhere inbetween.
But if you think those sound like big numbers, check these out: According to the federal Institute of Medicine, quote “chronic pain affects about 100 million American adults – more than the total affected by heart disease, cancer, and diabetes combined. Pain also costs the nation up to $635 billion each year in medical treatment and lost productivity.” End quote. That 100 million estimate leaves out those who suffer short-term serious acute pain for example because of injury or a sudden serious illness such as cancer.
A few cases may be exaggerated, some go untreated, and yet all of them are targeted by federal and corporate bureaucracies which view pain as a moral failing and a sin against business. It's time for change.
For the Drug Truth Network, this is Doug McVay with Common Sense for Drug Policy.
Friday, April 6, 2012
Pain, Malingering, and The Real Question
Following is the text of an audio piece I just put completed for the Drug Truth Network. I'll post a link to the audio file when it's aired.