In an era when prescription painkiller abuse is on the rise, ONE80CENTER finds it frustrating that doctors still cannot measure pain objectively. An excellent article about this subject was published in the The Wall Street Journal. The most common way to measure pain is to ask patients to rate it themselves on a scale of one to ten. Is a drug addict go to anything less than pick 9 or 10? Doctors also ask patients to match up their pain to a cartoon face that shows an expression similar to what they are feeling. Addicts naturally go for the most dramatic faces.
Prescription Painkiller Abuse and Drug Seeking
Joel Saper, Director of the Michigan Head Pain and Neurological Institute in Ann Arbor, told the newspaper, “We don’t have a pain-o-meter.” Dr. Saper estimates that between 15 to 20 percent of patients seeking relief from pain either don’t have pain or have less pain than they say they do. Drug seeking is becoming more and more common, particularly when it comes to prescription painkiller abuse. Even among patients with real pain, level of tolerance for pain varies widely. Doctors must balance the abuse of prescription painkillers with the real need of patients in pain, the article notes.
An estimated 116 million Americans suffer from chronic pain. Low back pain is the most common type of pain, affecting 28 percent of the population. Knee pain is second; affecting 20 percent, according to a new report by the Institute of Medicine called Relieving Pain in America. The problem is both back pain and knee pain are easy to fake. Just go to any emergency room in any major hospital and ask the attending doctors whether this is a problem. The response will be nothing less than laughter.
Some doctors ask patients who they feel are at risk of prescription drug abuse to sign an opioid contract. This agreement establishes an understanding that the patient will only receive opioids from that doctor and only one pharmacy. The patient may be asked to submit to urine drug screening, and is told that if their medication is lost, it will not be replaced. Stolen medication will only be replaced if the person brings a police report. Many states also have prescription drug databases that doctors can check to find out whether patients are receiving similar drugs from other doctors in the state.
Doctors Need A National Prescription Painkiller Database
ONE80CENTER likes the idea of the opioid contract, but doubts that it will lessen prescription painkiller abuse. Instead, what truly makes sense is giving doctors access to a national prescription painkiller database that must be entered every time a person is prescribed a prescription painkiller with their name and social security number. Beyond education, the number one tool to provide to doctors and even pharmacists access to information. Such access is not that difficult in terms of the scope of modern technology, and it could make a significant impact on prescription painkiller abuse in America.
The Los Angeles Times Reports On The Arrest Of A Doctor Accused Of Dealing Prescription Painkillers, Resulting In Multiple Deaths
In the Los Angeles Times today (1-5-2012), there is an important investigative piece about the arrest of Dr. Julio Diaz for allegedly prescribing addictive prescription painkillers to patients who had no legitimate need for the medications. In the article by Hailey Branson-Potts, Lisa Girion and Scott Glover, they report the story of the Santa Barbara doctor who has been linked by authorities to a dozen drug-related deaths in recent years.
After doing so much extreme damage to his community, Dr Diaz finally finally was arrested by DEA agents on federal drug trafficking charges. ONE80CENTER fully supports the regulative monitoring of the medical industry to make sure that the public is protected from such pill mill-like doctors. Yes, we know that most of the people getting the prescriptions have substance abuse disorders, but it does not help their disease to have easy access to prescription painkillers. It is a recipe for disaster.
Doctor Arrested For Dealing Prescription Painkillers
Here is an excerpt from the Los Angeles Times article that has been edited and shortened:
The arrest of Dr. Julio Diaz, 63, is a step in the right direction given the multitude of overdose deaths of his patients. Diaz has been under investigation for years for allegedly prescribing addictive painkillers to patients who had no legitimate need for the medications. The deaths are detailed in a 75-page arrest affidavit unsealed Wednesday afternoon after he was taken into custody. The deceased patients ranged in age from 26 to 58.
Among those who died: A 49-year-old father who overdosed on painkillers after recently completing a 60-day drug rehab and a 35-year-old mother found dead in her bedroom by her young daughter. In addition, the affidavit described a father distraught in the emergency room where his 20-year-old son had been brought for a drug overdose. He later learned that Diaz had been prescribing “huge quantities” of drugs to his son, who told investigators that he learned of Diaz from a fellow inmate in county jail. Three other parents made complaints to the Medical Board of California regarding Diaz’s treatment of their children, the affidavit states.
The affidavit depicts Diaz as a drug-dealing doctor known to some patients as “the candy man … because they knew he was the man to go to for drugs.” Two female patients treated at a local emergency room told hospital staff that they and their friends got drugs from Diaz in exchange for sexual favors. Doctors at a local hospital considered Diaz such a menace that they kept a spreadsheet documenting his patients’ emergency room visits. Dr. Chris Lambert said he and colleagues watched in frustration for years as one Diaz patient after another turned up in his emergency room. ”How many deceased patients and bereaved relatives will it take before somebody says no more?”
Abuse Of Prescription Painkillers Is A Plague In America Today
ONE80CENTER utterly agrees with what was expressed by Dr. Lambert because we experience the same horror with so many of our clients and potential clients on a regular basis. It is hard to even estimate how many client we have seen enter treatment for addiction to prescription painkillers. The vast majority of those patients were first prescribed those prescription painkillers like OxyContin and Percocet by their own doctors. The Clinical Team and Expert Staff of ONE80CENTER wholeheartedly echo Dr. Lambert’s tragic sentiment: “How many deceased patients and bereaved relatives will it take before somebody says no more?” It is time to put an end to the pill mills!
Mind you, such a sentiment is not only in connection with the criminal abuses of Dr. Diaz, but with the problem of prescription painkillers and substance abuse across the board. Let’s be perfectly clear – the abuse of prescription drugs is a plague that has been ravaging our country for many years, and it is only getting worse. Are you tired of watching friends and family suffer such devastating consequences?
ONE80CENTER commends the Southern California families who made reports to the Medical Board of California about the criminal behavior of Dr. Julio Diaz. It took real courage to take this step and take significant action. After all, if we are not at the forefront of this battle, then we will continue to see the bodies piling up and the overdoses becoming an almost daily occurrence. Enough is enough!