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May 2005
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Pain Wars

Just as recently it seems that more mainstream sources are questioning, or outright condemning, the drug war in Colombia, it’s also nice to see more taking on the DEA and its war on pain.
USA Today has Prescriptions for Painkillers are Harder to Get and the Washington Examiner has an editorial: Pain relief is major casualty of drug war.
The Agitator (who’s been all over this) and TalkLeft, have more on these articles and the issue in general.
The Examiner editorial is quite strong — starts out:

As federal prosecutors target physicians who prescribe large doses of pain-killing drugs because they can also be abused, doctors are increasingly afraid to provide relief for sick people with intractable pain. As Pain Relief Network President Siobhan Reynolds said, “Ninety-eight percent of doctors won’t touch [chronic pain patients] with a 10-foot pole.”

That shows how this effort by the federal government is, in essence, a criminal act of massive proportion (and provides additional justification for the need to get the feds out of medical decisions).
The editorial concludes:

The system is indeed broken when the federal government is more concerned about the welfare of drug addicts than the 25 million Americans identified in a 2002 National Institutes of Health study who live with unrelenting pain – while the means to alleviate it remains just beyond their reach.

Here, I believe the Examiner is being a bit sarcastic. They know that the federal government doesn’t really give a damn about the welfare of drug addicts. And yet, if you look at it, the entire supposed reason to have the feds involved in pain medication diversion is to prevent addicts from getting drugs.
So yes, in this case, the paper is saying that the policy of the DEA is to prevent addicts from getting drugs at the expense of those legitimately in pain (hence, caring more about addicts that pain sufferers).
In actuality, the DEA only cares about getting busts, some notches on its belt, and more funding.
It’s hard for us (who see all the hypocrisy of the drug war) to imagine, but the entire drug war (with all the costs, and prison, and killing) is supposedly fought to prevent some people from voluntarily using drugs.

Reasons for Drug War

  • Avoiding the harm that may occur to some people who are voluntarily using drugs.
Costs of Drug War

  • Billions of dollars
  • Huge numbers incarcerated
  • Booming black-market economy
  • Profitable criminal industry
  • Impure, unsafe drugs
  • Hobbling of doctors and medical treatment
  • Death
  • Government corruption
  • Reduction of citizen support for law enforcement
  • Targeting of children by criminals
  • Increased violence
  • Destruction of families and communities

And, of course, it doesn’t even work.

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