Pain pills and angry mothers

Readers respond to Damien Cave on the DEA's control of pain medication and to a mother lode of anger.

By Salon Staff
Published April 11, 2002 10:00PM (EDT)

Read "No Relief" by Damien Cave

I retired in December 1995 as a senior forensic chemist with the Drug Enforcement Administration. Since then my father has died of lung cancer, begging my mother to get his pistol to end his terminal pain. I have seen the DEA grow from a reasonable "will of the people" agency in the early 1970s to an out-of-control right-wing bunch of nuts today, who deny pain control for terminal patients in the name of "anti-drug policy."

DEA is totally out of bounds today in its ideological battle to control all drugs for any use. It must be constrained to reasonable bounds, yet any politician who opposes its narrow restrictions is labeled "soft on drugs." It seems to me that the problem is one of semantics. This labeling is the major problem in getting reasonable restrictions on drugs vs. the unreasonable ones in place today.

This in a country that has a "drugstore" on every corner. Double-think has arrived. Reasonable restrictions should be placed on DEA regarding patients who need pain medicine. I think such restrictions should be placed on marijuana in federal law, but federal law should respect state laws that supersede federal laws aka states' rights: States like California should be free of raids by federal criminals, who ignore the restrictions placed upon them by the Constitution. I will still travel to the Netherlands whenever I want to indulge in a bit of hash, as I did in 2000 and 2001. Try the Blueberry hash at the Bushdoctor.

-- Josef D. Prall

As a caseworker at a methadone clinic for almost seven years, I have firsthand experience dealing with the hypocrisy of the government regarding drug addiction and pain-killing drugs. What exactly are we afraid of -- that a few addicts will get over on us? Three hundred deaths resulting from the abuse of OxyContin in a two-year period? How many deaths could easily be attributed to the legal use of alcohol over that same period of time? How many lives would be saved by legalizing needle exchanges over that two-year period? How many addicts could avail themselves of treatment if some of the money we're spending on the failed policy of interdiction would be diverted in that direction? I have never heard an addict say, "Man, I can't find any dope." Virtually all of my clients come here for the treatment of opioid dependence. Many of them, I am sure, are also here for the side benefit, treatment of chronic pain.

-- Lance Lein

I read Damien Cave's article about OxyContin and came away with one big question: Where is the doctors' outrage? While doctors avoid the DEA and divert patients to overwhelmed pain specialists, why aren't they pissed off that they are being discouraged from adequately treating patients? There seems to be a lot of outcry among pain management advocates (not sure how many are M.D.s) and, of course, the patients themselves. But judging from the article, M.D.s are more resigned to the gloomy reality than fired up to change it.

-- Christine Owens

Mr. Cave, thanks so much for taking the time and having the compassion to write your wonderful piece "No Relief." It's time that we as a civilization move forward, like Holland, like Switzerland, like Portugal, like Scotland, the U.K. and many other great countries and free societies. We must become progressive and let grown adults have jurisdiction over what enters their own bodies. America is supposed to be the land of the free. It is obscene that the U.S. has now become an oppressive nanny state dictating how much pain medicine a suffering person can have. These issues are nobody's business aside from doctor, patient and family.

Regrettably, we have a right-wing administration, and the irony is that they are always the ones talking about how they want to take government out of the people's personal lives, proving once again what puritanical, hypocritical liars they really are. The very idea that an AIDS patient can be sent to prison for growing a plant in his garden that helps him keep his medicine down, or eases his pain, is tragic. The thought of compassionate doctors being harassed by corrupt DEA thugs for doing their job and giving patients what they need for pain is simply not acceptable in any free society. The War on Drugs is nothing more than a War on the American People.

-- Holly Day

Cave states that there are 20 to 50 million Americans who suffer from pain and need the relief that drugs like OxyContin provide. I would imagine if every one of those pain sufferers who are eligible to vote reminded their various elected representatives that they do vote, said representatives might be less inclined to play politics with their constituents' healthcare.

-- Michael Varien Daly

Damien Cave asserts: "It is difficult to argue with laws intended to make it harder for addicts to get drugs."

Actually, it's easy to argue with such laws. They artificially inflate the price of the drugs and encourage addicts to commit property crime. They create lucrative black markets that enrich only criminals. They result in adulteration of the drugs, making them more dangerous to users.

Of course, the real problem is that it is hard to argue with the popular prejudice that people should not be allowed to decide for themselves which drugs to take. But with so much evidence of the human suffering caused by prohibition, it might be worth the effort.

-- Giles Burgess

This story highlights one of the contradictions in the argument to not allow physician-assisted suicide: People who are against it say that we have medicines that can make people with chronic conditions comfortable, ignoring the fact that many of those who need these drugs have a very hard time getting them.

I watched my grandfather die of prostate cancer that had moved to his liver and kidneys. He was in terrible pain, and everyone knew that he had only a couple of weeks to live. My mother had to badger the nurses into giving him morphine on a regular basis since they didn't want to give him much (or any, really), their reason being that it is a very addictive drug. Hey, the man has two weeks to live! Who cares if he spends his last 14 days dependent on morphine?

Couldn't the DEA find something better to do with its time than investigating doctors who help people manage their pain? I know people who are addicted to Chapstick, but we don't force the vast majority of people to live with dry lips as a result.

-- Sarah Hawkins

Read "Raging Mom" by Dayna Macy

Thank you, Dayna Macy, for showing me that I'm not the only angry parent in the world. Motherhood is definitely not a Pampers commercial.

-- Marie-Therese Hernon

Is this little diatribe yet another essay giving thinly veiled support to mothers who kill their children, ` la Andrea Yates? Or is it one woman's problems with anger management? Does anyone care? Everyone gets angry. The differences in people lie in how they deal with it. So deal with it.

-- David Nierengarten

Thank you, Dayna Macy! No one I know will be honest and talk about this, or maybe I am the only one who doesn't love every single minute of motherhood. I thought something was wrong with me. So many of my friends are these perfect-seeming mothers (and fathers) whose entire being seems to revolve around parenthood, and here I sit "selfishly" mourning who I used to be, wondering if I will ever get to be her again. My daughter is the brightest star in my universe and the love of my life (I feel as though I have to qualify any negative comments about motherhood), but the resentment I feel toward motherhood (what about my needs?) is sometimes enormous. She and I have both gone through the anger issues as well (and continue to), and I have learned so much from her about feeling it, getting it out and then just letting it go. Thank you so much for sharing your story; I will put it next to my bed (with all my how-to-be-a-perfect-parent books).

-- Catherine Young

I related strongly to the writer's frustrations and anger, and especially to how her friends and mom groups wouldn't talk about how hard it is to give up so much of our own lives in order to meet the needs of little ones. That kind of admission is not easy, no matter what the rewards. When my two kids were both under age 3, I had a supportive husband who enabled me to be home full time, enough money to buy what we needed, close relatives and friends with little kids with whom I could trade "time off," lots of education and experience with children, all the love in the world for my babies ... and still I found myself capable of unbelievable rage. It was at this time that I completely changed my attitude and opinion about abortion. If I could come so close to throwing my beloved child against a wall, how can I expect someone less prepared to handle a child she maybe didn't even want? I don't wish that on the child or the woman. I would never again support legislation that would hinder this most personal of choices.

-- Bonnie Rames

Thank you for continuing to include articles such as Dayna Macy's "Raging Mom" on your Web site. In a society that is full of card-carrying members of the mother cult, this is one of the only places where I can get any sense that there are other women like me out there who, despite feeling almost boundless love for their young children, still struggle with feelings of frustration, isolation and resentment at the daily grind of mothering in the modern world.

-- Laura Story

Salon Staff

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