Drug Control? No, Citizen Control

Drug Control? No, Citizen Control
By Siobhan Reynolds
Published 04/20/09

"We keep hearing about how the War on Drugs has failed. But the truth
is, the War on Drugs has been tremendously successful, that is if you
wanted your country to be a police state, your Congress completely
unresponsive to the needs of the people, and your doctors letting you
and your loved ones live and die in unnecessary pain.

The marijuana activists have made a lot of progress toward marijuana
legalization and overall, that is a positive development. What isn't
positive is that they have done so, at least in part, by covering up
the crackdown on medical pain management that has been going on full
tilt since 2001. Veterans, cancer patients, people who have been
unfortunate in any number of ways (and I am talking here about
millions of Americans) have been unable to get pain medications that
are supposed to be legal, but which, in reality, are only "semi-legal"
-- drugs whose legality can be withdrawn by law enforcement whenever
the DEA decides that this or that doctor isn't controlling his
patients sufficiently.

This has meant that while no one was looking, our most vulnerable
citizens, those in crushing chronic pain, have been denied pain care
and allowed to die abandoned by us all.

The Controlled Substances Act makes it a crime to buy or sell
controlled substances except as authorized by the Attorney General of
the United States. When the act was passed in the early 1970's doctors
were told that possession of a medical license and the issuance of a
DEA certificate would automatically exempt them from prosecution -- in
other words, if a doctor was acting as a doctor, he or she would be
safe. Shortly thereafter the Department of Justice included some
language in the Code of Federal Regulations that changed the terms of
the deal. A doctor had to write such prescriptions not only in "the
course of professional practice" but with a "legitimate medical
purpose." Now the coast was clear for the USDOJ to criminalize any
physician whose practice of pain medicine didn't meet with a single
prosecutor's notions of how medicine ought to be practiced.

When then Attorney General John Ashcroft went into the state of Oregon
and attempted to defeat the state's assisted suicide law by declaring
the practice of assisted suicide "illegitimate," the ruse was exposed.
It was US government attorneys themselves who in court documents
acknowledged that they had been prosecuting pain treating physicians
on what amounted to medical disagreements. District Judge Jones
scolded the government and later the United States Supreme Court
forcefully clarified that the act only criminalized physician conduct
that was drug dealing as "conventionally understood." But the Feds
were undeterred. In direct defiance of the Supreme Court, the
Department of Justice continued its crackdown on medical pain
management, prosecuting some 400 physicians since 2003. Many of these
doctors are serving decades -- long prison sentences, having been
found guilty of writing "illegitimate prescriptions" by lay juries.
How does a jury come to conclude that a prescription was illegitimate?
Patients looking for reductions in their sentences testify that they
exaggerated their pain to the doctor, and, too, the government brings
in one of several hired gun "expert witnesses" to testify that the
doctor "should have known" the patients were abusing the medications,
based on the presence of certain "red flags" that the "expert" says
should have been a clear warning to the doctor that the patient should
have been cut off his medications. Sound to you like witch trials?
That is exactly what they are.

Recently, the FDA got into the act and withdrew some 13 pain medicines
from the market. Those few patients who had been getting by were now
told by pharmacists that they would not be able to fill their
prescriptions. Shockingly, academic medicine, funded by government
grants, has nothing to say in the face of these outrages. Moreover,
the mainstream press such as the New York Times and the Associated
Press continue to trumpet the government's press strategy --
portraying actions taken against sick people as responsive to an
utterly undemonstrated "health crisis" of prescription drug overdoses.
Time and again, stories about what's actually happening to the
patients are buried by editors.

The political consequences of this latest crackdown are almost as
grim. The Federal government has managed to completely subvert the
regulation of medicine in the states, as concerns the management of
pain, turning medical boards into kangaroo courts where doctors who
mistakenly thought their job was to heal the sick and relieve
suffering, get their medical licenses summarily taken away on the
DEA's say so.

Patients are afraid to speak out, lest they lose the medicine that
keeps them working. Physicians are counseled by white collar attorneys
to put their heads down and take a plea deal. And all of us are being
registered with pharmacy computers so that those who take any
controlled substances -- or in the latest insanity, even cold
medicines -- are being monitored by the government. And the abuses

The War on Terror was not the first overblown fear campaign that was
used to destroy our liberties. The War on Drugs and the nearly one
hundred year old Federal campaign against us all, called "drug
prohibition," pioneered the tactics that many people now view as
transparently authoritarian. Once you come to understand that "drug
control" was never intended to control drugs, but rather to create a
pretext for the Federal control of citizens, you come to see that the
"War's" goals have been met. . . and then some.


Tami PRN