We have met the enemy and he is us
August 1, 2011 1 Comment
Walt Kelly, who famously said the title of this post, did not live to see a specific case of this phenomenon. I just learned about the new FDA guidelines for doctors regarding opiate medications, and I’m not pleased with what I’m learning. As background, both my wife and my mother are disabled and suffer from chronic pain which can be pretty debilitating. I’m in the midst of a significant pain episode – possibly due to Herxheimer reactions caused be one of the 20 pills I took this morning (or maybe one of the 16 I took tonight – who knows?) – so as would be easy to imagine, making it more difficult for doctors to prescribe cheap, effective painkillers is not something which gives me a warm fuzzy.
I know about the abuses: about the so-called “doctors’ offices” which are the size of a closet, where “patients” are bused in from all over the country; I know about the straw purchasers and about how some of those meds can be crushed and snorted to significant effect; and I even have a family friend who is wrestling with the demon of addiction to opiate painkillers. All of these cases speak to a significant question: why are we doing this? Who, precisely, benefits? What is the harm we are trying to prevent?
When I’ve asked that question of multiple very smart people today, the answer I was given was “it’s a big problem if people take morphine and drive” – which of course has nothing whatsoever to do with whether they took it legally.
So I come back around to a more pointed phrasing of the question: given that many of the societal problems we are experiencing are the direct and indirect consequence of the prohibition regarding an individual’s use of these substances, is the cure worse than the disease? It sure looks that way to me.