“There are worse things than dying.” I can’t tell you how many times I heard one of my patients tell me this during my 30 years of practice. The torture of severe pain robs a person of life’s pleasure and for some the only way out is death. In my book, The Painful Truth, I describe an old man I met as an intern. He was a veteran without a family and experiencing terminal, non cancer pain. He begged me to help him die. His words and face continue to haunt me.
Archives for January 2016
If you think the addiction crisis is new, it’s interesting to note that Sigmund Freud was addicted to cocaine.
Yes. That Sigmund Freud.
So addiction is not a new problem. You might think that, because we’ve been dealing with addiction for so long, that we would have found a cure for it. At least, you’d think, we would have progressed past the point where we were prescribing cocaine.
And, yet, cocaine is still used clinically today.
Reporting on the Opioid Crisis
I was interviewed by a reporter yesterday for a column that will soon appear in a national online publication about whether naloxone (opioid antidote) should be available for people who may overdose on opioids. Hmm, I thought, who would not support making a life saving treatment available to people we know are at risk of dying without the antidote? However, I was stunned by what she had to say and what her follow up questions were about.
Former New York Giants safety, Tyler Sash, died at age 27 from an accidental pain medication overdose. He’d played 16 years of football, so perhaps it’s unsurprising that, after his death, he was diagnosed with CTE, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which is a degenerative brain disease.
Have you seen “Concussion,” a movie starring Will Smith as Dr. Bennet Omalu? Dr. Omalu is a pathologist who learns that playing football — simply playing the game — can cause serious concussions that lead to brain damage. In other words, it shows how brain damage can happen to any football player. You don’t have to play for the NFL to suffer brain damage as a result of playing the game. The movie, which was wonderfully done, is painful to watch because it is the sickening story of how greed and power trumps the well being of human beings.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is recommending that all adults get screened for depression. That would update the recommendations set in place in 2009 in two ways. First, all adults over age 18 would be screened for depression. Second, the recommendations would include screening women who are pregnant or who have just given birth.
This would be a positive change.
Depression is a big problem. It is part of being human.
All of us experience degrees of depression throughout our lives. When depression interferes with our ability to function, something must be done.
Senator Markey is well intentioned but misinformed. The FDA is not the problem. The agency has not “willfully blinded itself of the warning signs” of prescription painkillers, as Senator Markey believes.
The “experts” Senator Markey is referring to tell part of the story, but the situation is more complicated than most appreciate. Surely, if Senator Markey knew the whole story, he wouldn’t want to deprive children of painkillers that could ease their extreme suffering. He wouldn’t want children to die in agony while their doctors were forced to stand by and watch them suffer.
The China Food and Drug Administration is investigating 35 restaurants in China for potentially using powdered (and possibly addictive) opium poppies to season their food. They detected morphine and codeine as well as other poppy derivatives in the food.
The Chinese restaurants involved might view using powdered poppies as an innocuous way to keep patrons returning, in the same way as U.S. fast food restaurants use salt, fat, and sugar to ensure that customers keep coming back.
However, it’s not the same thing.
There is nothing innocuous about using powdered poppies as seasoning.
Thank you to the LA Times for recently running a story about Chris Bell.
Chris Bell was producing a documentary about prescription drug abuse. Bell wasn’t only making a documentary about the problem. He was also living it.
Bell was using alcohol in combination with Xanax which led to a decline similar to the one that had ended the life of his brother, Michael, who had been a professional wrestler. Neither Michael nor Chris were stereotypical prescription drug abusers.
Can good, old-fashioned fun help people overcome chronic pain?
It all depends what we mean by “fun.”
One person’s fun is another person’s work
For example, therapists have been recommending coloring books to their adult patients for years. The benefits of using crayons (and markers and colored pencils), the theory goes, extends beyond children to adults. While you use your creativity, and splash colors on the page with joyful abandon, you can’t focus on your troubles.
True, right? Well, some of the time, for some people, it’s true.