“…a man was sentenced to death for giving medical grade cannabis oils to patients in need.”

Malaysian Court Sentences Man to Death for Distributing Free Cannabis Oil

A man in Malaysia was sentenced to death after giving medical marijuana to patients in need.

Published 3 weeks ago on September 4, 2018 By Nick Lindsey

Malaysian Court Sentences Man to Death for Distributing Free Cannabis Oil

Malaysia remains a potentially dangerous place to engage in anything related to medical marijuana. And that includes distributing it free of charge to patients who could benefit from it. Just last week, a man was sentenced to death for giving medical grade cannabis oils to patients in need.

Death Sentence For Distributing Medical Marijuana

On August 30, a judge in Malaysia sentenced Muhammad Lukman Bin Mohamad to death. The sentence came after the judge found Lukman guilty of breaking the country’s notoriously strict anti-cannabis laws.

According to local news sources in Malaysia, Lukman was arrested when authorities discovered just over three liters of cannabis oil. Additionally, he was found in possession of 279 grams of compressed cannabis.

All of this occurred in December 2015. Now, nearly three years after being arrested, Lukman received his sentence. Specifically, he was found guilty of breaking Malaysia’s Dangerous Drugs Act of 1952.

This law states: “No person shall, on his own behalf or on behalf of any other person . . . traffic in a dangerous drug.” Further, the law stipulates: “Any person . . . guilty of an offence against this Act shall be punished on conviction with death.”

Given that cannabis remains an illegal substance in Malaysia, the judge ruled that this law applied to Lukman’s case. Lukman is now being held in Kajang Prison. At this time, sources indicate that he plans to appeal the decision in the country’s Court of Appeal.

Guilty for Giving Medical Marijuana to Patients

Throughout Lukman’s case, his defense argued that his acts did not constitute drug trafficking. In particular, they focused on the fact that he was not distributing recreational drugs. Instead, defense lawyers argued, Lukman was distributing medicine to patients who might not otherwise be able to get it.

Further, the defense pointed out that Lukman was not making a profit. Lukman was in fact working in cooperation with an organization that educates the public on issues related to medical marijuana.

Lukman was not profiting from his distribution, either, since patients who could not afford the product were given it for free. In addition to all this, Lukman and his defense team pointed to the growing body of scientific evidence supporting the medical use of cannabis.

Despite all this, the prosecutors maintained that Lukman still broke the country’s laws prohibiting all forms of marijuana. They also claimed that although marijuana is increasingly accepted throughout the world, there is nothing in Malyasian law that allows for the medical use of cannabis.

One Of The World’s Worst Anti-Cannabis Countries

Malaysia has long had some of the world’s most heavy handed anti-cannabis laws. Most obviously, this reputation comes from the fact that a person can still be sentenced to death for breaking certain drug laws.

But Malaysia isn’t the only country where a person can be sentenced to death for possessing, distributing, or consuming cannabis. In fact, there are still a surprisingly large number of countries throughout the world with these types of laws in the books.

Along with Malaysia, this list includes countries like China, Egypt, Singapore, Myanmar, Philippines, Nigeria, and several others.

CONTINUE READING…

RELATED:

Trump wants the death penalty for drug traffickers. He’s got it.

(2)

…an offense referred to in section 408(c)(1) of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 848(c)(1)), committed as part of a continuing criminal enterprise offense under that section…LINK

Drug dealers could get death penalty under new Trump plan

CONCLUSION:

If it can happen there, it can happen here!

“…a man was sentenced to death for giving medical grade cannabis oils to patients in need.”

Malaysian Court Sentences Man to Death for Distributing Free Cannabis Oil

A man in Malaysia was sentenced to death after giving medical marijuana to patients in need.

Published 3 weeks ago on September 4, 2018 By Nick Lindsey

Malaysian Court Sentences Man to Death for Distributing Free Cannabis Oil

Malaysia remains a potentially dangerous place to engage in anything related to medical marijuana. And that includes distributing it free of charge to patients who could benefit from it. Just last week, a man was sentenced to death for giving medical grade cannabis oils to patients in need.

Death Sentence For Distributing Medical Marijuana

On August 30, a judge in Malaysia sentenced Muhammad Lukman Bin Mohamad to death. The sentence came after the judge found Lukman guilty of breaking the country’s notoriously strict anti-cannabis laws.

According to local news sources in Malaysia, Lukman was arrested when authorities discovered just over three liters of cannabis oil. Additionally, he was found in possession of 279 grams of compressed cannabis.

All of this occurred in December 2015. Now, nearly three years after being arrested, Lukman received his sentence. Specifically, he was found guilty of breaking Malaysia’s Dangerous Drugs Act of 1952.

This law states: “No person shall, on his own behalf or on behalf of any other person . . . traffic in a dangerous drug.” Further, the law stipulates: “Any person . . . guilty of an offence against this Act shall be punished on conviction with death.”

Given that cannabis remains an illegal substance in Malaysia, the judge ruled that this law applied to Lukman’s case. Lukman is now being held in Kajang Prison. At this time, sources indicate that he plans to appeal the decision in the country’s Court of Appeal.

Guilty for Giving Medical Marijuana to Patients

Throughout Lukman’s case, his defense argued that his acts did not constitute drug trafficking. In particular, they focused on the fact that he was not distributing recreational drugs. Instead, defense lawyers argued, Lukman was distributing medicine to patients who might not otherwise be able to get it.

Further, the defense pointed out that Lukman was not making a profit. Lukman was in fact working in cooperation with an organization that educates the public on issues related to medical marijuana.

Lukman was not profiting from his distribution, either, since patients who could not afford the product were given it for free. In addition to all this, Lukman and his defense team pointed to the growing body of scientific evidence supporting the medical use of cannabis.

Despite all this, the prosecutors maintained that Lukman still broke the country’s laws prohibiting all forms of marijuana. They also claimed that although marijuana is increasingly accepted throughout the world, there is nothing in Malyasian law that allows for the medical use of cannabis.

One Of The World’s Worst Anti-Cannabis Countries

Malaysia has long had some of the world’s most heavy handed anti-cannabis laws. Most obviously, this reputation comes from the fact that a person can still be sentenced to death for breaking certain drug laws.

But Malaysia isn’t the only country where a person can be sentenced to death for possessing, distributing, or consuming cannabis. In fact, there are still a surprisingly large number of countries throughout the world with these types of laws in the books.

Along with Malaysia, this list includes countries like China, Egypt, Singapore, Myanmar, Philippines, Nigeria, and several others.

CONTINUE READING…

RELATED:

Trump wants the death penalty for drug traffickers. He’s got it.

(2)

…an offense referred to in section 408(c)(1) of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 848(c)(1)), committed as part of a continuing criminal enterprise offense under that section…LINK

Drug dealers could get death penalty under new Trump plan

CONCLUSION:

If it can happen there, it can happen here!

“…a man was sentenced to death for giving medical grade cannabis oils to patients in need.”

Malaysian Court Sentences Man to Death for Distributing Free Cannabis Oil

A man in Malaysia was sentenced to death after giving medical marijuana to patients in need.

Published 3 weeks ago on September 4, 2018 By Nick Lindsey

Malaysian Court Sentences Man to Death for Distributing Free Cannabis Oil

Malaysia remains a potentially dangerous place to engage in anything related to medical marijuana. And that includes distributing it free of charge to patients who could benefit from it. Just last week, a man was sentenced to death for giving medical grade cannabis oils to patients in need.

Death Sentence For Distributing Medical Marijuana

On August 30, a judge in Malaysia sentenced Muhammad Lukman Bin Mohamad to death. The sentence came after the judge found Lukman guilty of breaking the country’s notoriously strict anti-cannabis laws.

According to local news sources in Malaysia, Lukman was arrested when authorities discovered just over three liters of cannabis oil. Additionally, he was found in possession of 279 grams of compressed cannabis.

All of this occurred in December 2015. Now, nearly three years after being arrested, Lukman received his sentence. Specifically, he was found guilty of breaking Malaysia’s Dangerous Drugs Act of 1952.

This law states: “No person shall, on his own behalf or on behalf of any other person . . . traffic in a dangerous drug.” Further, the law stipulates: “Any person . . . guilty of an offence against this Act shall be punished on conviction with death.”

Given that cannabis remains an illegal substance in Malaysia, the judge ruled that this law applied to Lukman’s case. Lukman is now being held in Kajang Prison. At this time, sources indicate that he plans to appeal the decision in the country’s Court of Appeal.

Guilty for Giving Medical Marijuana to Patients

Throughout Lukman’s case, his defense argued that his acts did not constitute drug trafficking. In particular, they focused on the fact that he was not distributing recreational drugs. Instead, defense lawyers argued, Lukman was distributing medicine to patients who might not otherwise be able to get it.

Further, the defense pointed out that Lukman was not making a profit. Lukman was in fact working in cooperation with an organization that educates the public on issues related to medical marijuana.

Lukman was not profiting from his distribution, either, since patients who could not afford the product were given it for free. In addition to all this, Lukman and his defense team pointed to the growing body of scientific evidence supporting the medical use of cannabis.

Despite all this, the prosecutors maintained that Lukman still broke the country’s laws prohibiting all forms of marijuana. They also claimed that although marijuana is increasingly accepted throughout the world, there is nothing in Malyasian law that allows for the medical use of cannabis.

One Of The World’s Worst Anti-Cannabis Countries

Malaysia has long had some of the world’s most heavy handed anti-cannabis laws. Most obviously, this reputation comes from the fact that a person can still be sentenced to death for breaking certain drug laws.

But Malaysia isn’t the only country where a person can be sentenced to death for possessing, distributing, or consuming cannabis. In fact, there are still a surprisingly large number of countries throughout the world with these types of laws in the books.

Along with Malaysia, this list includes countries like China, Egypt, Singapore, Myanmar, Philippines, Nigeria, and several others.

CONTINUE READING…

RELATED:

Trump wants the death penalty for drug traffickers. He’s got it.

(2)

…an offense referred to in section 408(c)(1) of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 848(c)(1)), committed as part of a continuing criminal enterprise offense under that section…LINK

Drug dealers could get death penalty under new Trump plan

CONCLUSION:

If it can happen there, it can happen here!

NOVA SCOTIA CANADA: Once again it seems that you can’t grow Cannabis and treat licensed patients, even if Cannabis is “legal”…

NOVA SCOTIA CANADA:  Once again it seems that you can’t grow Cannabis and treat licensed  patients, even if Cannabis is “legal”.

At approximately 10:30am on September 5th, Rev. Daren McCormick and Rev. Kevin James were visited by the RCMP at which time they proceeded to search their property located in Loch Broom Nova Scotia Canada, where they were growing Cannabis for            Patients.  Rev. Kevin James explained to RCMP that they were licensed plants and who they belonged to.  The RCMP produced no warrant yet they proceeded to search both outside and inside their home.

They were  both incarcerated by the RCMP for growing, and trafficking Cannabis.  They both remained incarcerated for 24 hours before being released.  Rev. Kevin James was denied medication for seizures during the stay.

Over 1000 plants were taken by the RCMP as well as a small indoor  grow. Personal items of the two men were taken in the search such as legal documents, witness lists and an antique Bow that hung above the fireplace belonging to Daren’s Grandfather, a family     heirloom dating back to 1915 that yielded no threat to anyone.

The garden of Cannabis is estimated to be worth well over a million dollars plus and it has been destroyed.  You can’t give back a plant that was pulled from the ground in its natural growing state!

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, hat   Image may contain: 1 person, standing, sky, plant, tree, grass, outdoor and nature

WE OPERATE UNDER CANNATHEISM and our congregational collective is via the Church of the Universe: the Universe is our Church

37951157_10215451144886138_4076102690378088448_n

Untitled

Above:  The Global Incident Map publishes the bust.

Pictou RCMP dismantle grow-op, seize marijuana in Loch Broom

Image may contain: dog, plant, outdoor and nature

Above:  Rev. Kevin James Service Dog “Molly” was not charged in the raid!

He has also posted these status updates on Facebook concerning the events:

FROM ONE HONORABLE MAN TO ANOTHER

FOR POSTING US ON THIS MAP 🙂 DOES THIS MEAN WE MADE IT TO THE BIG BOY LIST LOL

FACEBOOK LAND OF CANNABIS ACTIVISTS AND OIL MAKERS AND HEALERS…

“Officers of the court have no immunity, when violating a constitutional right, for they are deemed to know the law”

I just read the search warrant they used to destroy the plants.

Daren Mccormick has 4 new cannabis charges, and i have 5 new charges… in last 10 days… heads up…

AFTER HAVING BEEN CONTACTED BY SEVERAL PATIENTS WE TENDED GARDENS FOR FROM ACROSS CANADA..

Q. If a patient revokes the DG status of a grower and they get caught growing anyway… say 850 plants x 4 crops a year and do it for 4 years or so…. and the patient receives zero from their garden… thats diversion…

RELATED:

ARTICLES ON KENTUCKY MARIJUANA PARTY ABOUT DAREN

NOVA SCOTIA CANADA: Once again it seems that you can’t grow Cannabis and treat licensed patients, even if Cannabis is “legal”…

NOVA SCOTIA CANADA:  Once again it seems that you can’t grow Cannabis and treat licensed  patients, even if Cannabis is “legal”.

At approximately 10:30am on September 5th, Rev. Daren McCormick and Rev. Kevin James were visited by the RCMP at which time they proceeded to search their property located in Loch Broom Nova Scotia Canada, where they were growing Cannabis for            Patients.  Rev. Kevin James explained to RCMP that they were licensed plants and who they belonged to.  The RCMP produced no warrant yet they proceeded to search both outside and inside their home.

They were  both incarcerated by the RCMP for growing, and trafficking Cannabis.  They both remained incarcerated for 24 hours before being released.  Rev. Kevin James was denied medication for seizures during the stay.

Over 1000 plants were taken by the RCMP as well as a small indoor  grow. Personal items of the two men were taken in the search such as legal documents, witness lists and an antique Bow that hung above the fireplace belonging to Daren’s Grandfather, a family     heirloom dating back to 1915 that yielded no threat to anyone.

The garden of Cannabis is estimated to be worth well over a million dollars plus and it has been destroyed.  You can’t give back a plant that was pulled from the ground in its natural growing state!

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, hat   Image may contain: 1 person, standing, sky, plant, tree, grass, outdoor and nature

WE OPERATE UNDER CANNATHEISM and our congregational collective is via the Church of the Universe: the Universe is our Church

37951157_10215451144886138_4076102690378088448_n

Untitled

Above:  The Global Incident Map publishes the bust.

Pictou RCMP dismantle grow-op, seize marijuana in Loch Broom

Image may contain: dog, plant, outdoor and nature

Above:  Rev. Kevin James Service Dog “Molly” was not charged in the raid!

He has also posted these status updates on Facebook concerning the events:

FROM ONE HONORABLE MAN TO ANOTHER

FOR POSTING US ON THIS MAP 🙂 DOES THIS MEAN WE MADE IT TO THE BIG BOY LIST LOL

FACEBOOK LAND OF CANNABIS ACTIVISTS AND OIL MAKERS AND HEALERS…

“Officers of the court have no immunity, when violating a constitutional right, for they are deemed to know the law”

I just read the search warrant they used to destroy the plants.

Daren Mccormick has 4 new cannabis charges, and i have 5 new charges… in last 10 days… heads up…

AFTER HAVING BEEN CONTACTED BY SEVERAL PATIENTS WE TENDED GARDENS FOR FROM ACROSS CANADA..

Q. If a patient revokes the DG status of a grower and they get caught growing anyway… say 850 plants x 4 crops a year and do it for 4 years or so…. and the patient receives zero from their garden… thats diversion…

RELATED:

ARTICLES ON KENTUCKY MARIJUANA PARTY ABOUT DAREN

NOVA SCOTIA CANADA: Once again it seems that you can’t grow Cannabis and treat licensed patients, even if Cannabis is “legal”…

NOVA SCOTIA CANADA:  Once again it seems that you can’t grow Cannabis and treat licensed  patients, even if Cannabis is “legal”.

At approximately 10:30am on September 5th, Rev. Daren McCormick and Rev. Kevin James were visited by the RCMP at which time they proceeded to search their property located in Loch Broom Nova Scotia Canada, where they were growing Cannabis for            Patients.  Rev. Kevin James explained to RCMP that they were licensed plants and who they belonged to.  The RCMP produced no warrant yet they proceeded to search both outside and inside their home.

They were  both incarcerated by the RCMP for growing, and trafficking Cannabis.  They both remained incarcerated for 24 hours before being released.  Rev. Kevin James was denied medication for seizures during the stay.

Over 1000 plants were taken by the RCMP as well as a small indoor  grow. Personal items of the two men were taken in the search such as legal documents, witness lists and an antique Bow that hung above the fireplace belonging to Daren’s Grandfather, a family     heirloom dating back to 1915 that yielded no threat to anyone.

The garden of Cannabis is estimated to be worth well over a million dollars plus and it has been destroyed.  You can’t give back a plant that was pulled from the ground in its natural growing state!

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, hat   Image may contain: 1 person, standing, sky, plant, tree, grass, outdoor and nature

WE OPERATE UNDER CANNATHEISM and our congregational collective is via the Church of the Universe: the Universe is our Church

37951157_10215451144886138_4076102690378088448_n

Untitled

Above:  The Global Incident Map publishes the bust.

Pictou RCMP dismantle grow-op, seize marijuana in Loch Broom

Image may contain: dog, plant, outdoor and nature

Above:  Rev. Kevin James Service Dog “Molly” was not charged in the raid!

He has also posted these status updates on Facebook concerning the events:

FROM ONE HONORABLE MAN TO ANOTHER

FOR POSTING US ON THIS MAP 🙂 DOES THIS MEAN WE MADE IT TO THE BIG BOY LIST LOL

FACEBOOK LAND OF CANNABIS ACTIVISTS AND OIL MAKERS AND HEALERS…

“Officers of the court have no immunity, when violating a constitutional right, for they are deemed to know the law”

I just read the search warrant they used to destroy the plants.

Daren Mccormick has 4 new cannabis charges, and i have 5 new charges… in last 10 days… heads up…

AFTER HAVING BEEN CONTACTED BY SEVERAL PATIENTS WE TENDED GARDENS FOR FROM ACROSS CANADA..

Q. If a patient revokes the DG status of a grower and they get caught growing anyway… say 850 plants x 4 crops a year and do it for 4 years or so…. and the patient receives zero from their garden… thats diversion…

RELATED:

ARTICLES ON KENTUCKY MARIJUANA PARTY ABOUT DAREN

Legal cannabis must be option for pain sufferers, panelists say

He didn’t like the black market, so he cultivated at his home. He was arrested and received five years of probation.

HENDERSON – Advocates for medicinal marijuana said Tuesday the time is now to push for statewide legalization.

They said research is clear that cannabis helps those suffering from a variety of painful conditions, yet, the word marijuana is still taboo for many in society.

Jaime Montalvo deals daily with multiple sclerosis. After being diagnosed, the Louisville man discovered that cannabis improved his quality of life far more than anything else he’d tried.

He didn’t like the black market, so he cultivated at his home. He was arrested and received five years of probation.

“I lost custody of my son for six months, not for cultivation, but for testing positive,” Montalvo said. “So that’s what’s motivated me for the last six years or so, to change the laws and give people safe access to cannabis.”

Montalvo is a cannabis educator and director of KY4MM (Kentuckians for Medicinal Marijuana). He and others who took part in a panel discussion at Henderson Community College were preaching to the choir; most of the 50 or so in attendance seemed sympathetic to legalization.

The challenge, speakers said, is convincing state legislators.

Lawmakers in Kentucky and Indiana have legalized hemp oil, also known as CBD oil. But speakers said the positive impact of that is very small compared to what legal medicinal marijuana could do.

“You’re just really scratching the surface” with CBD oil, said Ashly Taylor, a Lexington native who is now a cannabis industry entrepreneur living in Colorado. “We’re looking to get legalization so we can help more people.”

Taylor, who used to work in the pharmaceutical industry, explained at Tuesday’s forum what a legalized marijuana industry would look like.

She said in a regulated market, all cannabis grown comes from state-licensed, taxpaying cultivation facilities, monitored from seed to sale.

All plants are tagged and entered into a state regulated tracking system.

They are processed at a state-licensed product manufacturing facility, with OSHA guidelines enforced and a staffed human resources department.

The product would pass testing from a state-licensed facility before being distributed for legal consumption.

“All of the things you see with other big industry, you’re going to see here,” Taylor said.

Legal medicinal marijuana “is not that new of a thing,” Taylor noted. It’s been legalized or decriminalized in a long list of countries, from Canada to Australia and many European countries.

It is legal in 30 states, and Taylor cited a shift in public opinion on the subject: 64 percent favorability according to one Gallup poll. She said those who support legalization show varied political bent.

Sympathy for legalization has reached local elected officials in Henderson. The City Commission recently passed a resolution stating support for medicinal marijuana.

Henderson City Commissioner Brad Staton said he and his colleagues were moved by testimony from many city residents, including a veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder who spoke about suicidal thoughts and depression.

“I didn’t think there was any way we would even take a vote much less pass it,” Staton said. “But we said we have people in the state of Kentucky who are suffering, and we can do something about it.” The vote was 5-0.

Forum speakers said cannabis helps with appetite and sleep, in addition to pain relief. They said the addiction potency is comparable to sugar.

A pharmacist in the audience asked the panelists about studies showing negative effects of long-time marijuana usage, and concerns about children’s usage.

Panelists said marijuana already is pervasive in the culture. Montalvo cited a study showing that in Kentucky, about 40 percent of teens have used marijuana.

“We need to decrease that,” he said. “In my opinion the way to decrease it is regulate the product and keep it out of the hands of children. Right now everybody is prohibited, but it’s still everywhere.”

Taylor said Kentucky authorities in 2016 seized and destroyed more than 560,000 plants, placing the state in the nation’s top five.

Kentucky that year spent $56.8 million for marijuana eradication.

“If we can take the money we save and do something better with it, it seems like a win-win to me,” Taylor said.

Grace Henderson would agree. The Henderson resident, an organizer of Tuesday’s forum, suffers from a list of chronic conditions, such as Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and Chron’s disease.

She’s on a list of medications which she said interact and cause other health problems.

Medical cannabis, she said, needs to be a option for people like her who, at times, struggle to simply get out of bed.

“We need a safe, viable alternative that does not kill people,” Henderson said. “And this is it.”

CONTINUE READING…

More: City of Henderson backs medical cannabis resolution

More: Henderson woman tells how cannabis brings relief

As the feds crack down on opioid prescriptions, patients are taking their own lives, doctors are losing their jobs and overdose rates continue unabated.

The Government’s Solution To The Opioid     Crisis Feels Like A War To Pain Patients

By Art Levine

Meredith Lawrence's late husband died by suicide after his opioid pain prescription was severely restricted.

Jay Lawrence, an energetic truck driver in his late 30s, was driving a semitrailer across a bridge when the brakes failed. To avoid plowing into the car in front of him, he swerved sideways and slammed the truck into a wall, fracturing his back. For more than 25 years, he struggled with the resulting pain. But for most of that time, he managed to avoid opioid painkillers.

In 2006, his legs suddenly collapsed beneath him, due to a complex web of neurological factors related to his spinal cord injury. He underwent multiple surgeries and tried many medications to alleviate his pain.

The next year, he began to experience some semblance of relief when his doctor prescribed morphine, one of a class of opioid drugs. By 2012, he was taking 120 milligrams per day.

But this isn’t a story about opioid addiction. Lawrence managed a relatively productive, happy life on the medication for the better part of 10 years.

“This isn’t the life I thought I’d have,” he told his wife, Meredith Lawrence, in December 2016. “But I’m all right.”

Living on disability payments, he could still walk around their two-bedroom trailer home using his cane, take a shower on his own and, on his good days, even help his wife make breakfast.

Then, in early 2017, the pain clinic where he was a patient adopted a strict new policy, part of a wide-ranging national effort to respond to the increase in opioid overdose deaths. 

Citing 2016 guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, her husband’s doctor abruptly cut his daily dose by roughly 25 percent to 90 mg, Meredith Lawrence said. That was the maximum dose the CDC recommends, though does not mandate, for first-time opioid patients. 

The doctor also told Jay Lawrence that the plan was to lower his dose to 45 mg over the next two months, a cutback of more than 60 percent from what he had been taking.

At the end of that traumatic visit, his wife said, Jay Lawrence’s doctor dismissed their concerns and shared his own fear about losing his license if he continued to prescribe high doses of opioids. (When HuffPost followed up, the doctor declined to comment on the case, citing patient privacy.)

For a month, Lawrence suffered on the 90 mg dose. At times, his pain was so bad that he needed help to get out of the recliner, and when his wife looked over, she sometimes saw tears streaming down his face.

He dreaded his next appointment when his dose would be slashed to 60 mg. In the weeks before that scheduled visit on March 2, 2017, Lawrence came up with a plan.

On the day of his appointment, on the same bench in the Hendersonville, Tennessee, park where the Lawrences had recently renewed their wedding vows, the 58-year-old man gripped his wife’s hand and killed himself with a gun.

Meredith Lawrence sits in the living room of the home in Gainesville, Georgia, that she bought after her husband's death

Dustin Chambers for HuffPost Meredith Lawrence sits in the living room of the home in Gainesville, Georgia, that she bought after her husband’s death.

There are at least nine million chronic pain patients in the United States who take opioid painkillers on a long-term basis. As law enforcement and medical regulatory bodies try to curb the explosion in opioid deaths and the rise in illegal opioid use, they have focused on reducing the overall opioid supply, whether or not the drugs are provided by prescription. 

There’s mounting evidence this won’t work ― that curbing patient access to legal prescription opioids does not stem the rate of overdoses caused primarily by illegal drugs ― and that patients are being denied desperately needed relief. There are also troubling indicators that cutting back on opioids increases the risk of suicide among those with chronic pain.

Some chronic pain patients and advocates have even begun compiling lists of individuals they know who have died by suicide after they were no longer able to treat their pain with opioid medication.

“There is no doubt in my mind that forcibly stopping opioids can destabilize some of the most vulnerable people in America,” said Dr. Stefan Kertesz, a professor of medicine and an addiction researcher at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. “And the outcomes for those folks include suicide, overdose and falling apart medically.”

I mean, people need to take some aspirin sometimes and tough it out a little. Attorney General Jeff Sessions

For a decade or so, government officials in the U.S. have sought to drive down the opioid supply through a range of tactics ― from increased seizures of diverted opioid medications to state crackdowns on “pill mills.” The Trump administration has embraced the hard-line approach.

In late January, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a “surge” in Drug Enforcement Administration activity targeting pharmacies and physicians that, in the agency’s view, oversupply opioids. In February, the Justice Department doubled down with the announcement of a new task force that would focus on manufacturers and distributors of opioids. In March, President Donald Trump unveiled a plan to lower opioid prescriptions by a third within three years. And in late June, the federal government arrested 600 people, including 165 medical professionals, for allegedly participating in $2 billion worth of fraud schemes involving opioids.

The Trump administration’s efforts are dramatic even within the context of the CDC’s opioid dose guidelines. The guidelines were originally intended to advise primary care physicians treating chronic pain patients and other pain sufferers. They were urged to exercise caution in prescribing opioids, to use alternatives whenever possible and to prescribe daily doses of no more than 90 morphine milligram equivalents (MME) for new opioid users.

For pain patients like Jay Lawrence who had already been on opioids for years, h
owever, the guidelines simply recommended regularly assessing the harms and benefits of the dosage. They didn’t advise either mandatory cutoffs or any set limits. (The Tennessee Department of Health’s guidelines would also have allowed Lawrence to stay at 120 mg of morphine when prescribed by a pain specialist.)

But “the CDC guidelines have been weaponized,” said Kertesz. The ramped-up enforcement by the DEA and state regulators has led some doctors to choose caution and to overcorrect in their prescribing, lest they lose their ability to practice medicine at all. Kertesz decried these policies as “simplistic” in a definitive new article published last week in the journal Addiction.

In February, Sessions struck a particularly harsh tone by suggesting that the fate of chronic pain patients was not high on his list of concerns. “I am operating on the assumption that this country prescribes too many opioids,” the attorney general said. “I mean, people need to take some aspirin sometimes and tough it out a little.”

Attitudes like that are based on a series of mistaken assumptions about pain, according to Dr. Thomas Kline, a North Carolina-based family practitioner and former Harvard Medical School program administrator. Kline regularly updates a list of pain patients, published on Medium, who’ve killed themselves in the wake of draconian restrictions on pain medication.

“I ask people to imagine the very worst pain they’ve ever experienced in their lives,” Kline said. “And then that they’re denied relief by a doctor with the one medicine proven effective for pain control for 50 centuries.” (Historical records show that people in ancient Mesopotamia cultivated the poppy plant for medical use.)

The CDC guidelines have been weaponized. Dr. Stefan Kertesz

The government’s aggressive focus on doctors and patients is unlikely to address the very real menace of opioid-use disorders and sharply escalating overdose deaths. Fraud ― driven by pharmaceutical company policies ― and diversion ― the phenomenon of prescription medications being sold as street drugs ― initially spurred a wave of opioid abuse in the late 1990s, as some doctors turned their practices into pill mills. But new reports by the CDC and a drug data firm, the IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science, suggest that prescription drugs play a much smaller role in today’s crisis.

The reports show that total opioid prescriptions dropped 10 percent in 2017 ― the sharpest annual decline in such prescribing in 25 years. While opioid prescriptions peaked back in 2010, the studies found that growth rates in opioid-linked deaths, overwhelmingly due to illegal fentanyl and heroin, have skyrocketed in the last seven years.

Indeed, although two-thirds of the 64,000 overall drug overdose fatalities were linked to opioids in 2016 ― the most recent year for which there is data ― more than 80 percent of those opioid drug deaths came from illegal street drugs such as heroin and fentanyl. Prescription opioid drug deaths alone ― excluding methadone ― amounted to less than 15 percent of all drug overdose deaths, or about 9,500 fatalities.

Still, the CDC’s guidelines have triggered restrictive laws in at least 23 states that mandate ceilings on opioid dosage. (Oregon, in fact, is moving to taper dosages down to zero for all Medicaid chronic patients over a year.) That makes relief less attainable for pain patients and threatens the practices of doctors who treat them. These laws have been augmented by the growth of state prescription monitoring programs that use the software NarxCare, which is designed to flag addiction but can also rope in pain patients based on their prescription history and use of multiple doctors.

And in June, the House of Representatives passed over 50 bills that would establish dramatic new restrictions on opioid prescribing, eliciting alarm among patients and some disability rights groups.

The side effects of the current enforcement efforts are disturbing enough, from patients denied relief to drug shortages to suicides.

No health agency has kept track of all pain-related suicides that may be linked to doctors cutting back on prescriptions. But some preliminary findings from Department of Veterans Affairs researchers indicate that VA pain patients deprived of opioids were two to four times more likely to die by suicide in the first three months after they were cut off, compared to those who remained on their pain medications.

“To protect people, you have to take care of the patient, not the pill count,” said Kertesz, who worked on the VA’s April 2017 study but spoke to HuffPost only as an independent researcher. “The findings suggest that the discontinuation of opioids doesn’t necessarily assure a safer patient.”

Even terminally ill cancer patients are increasingly getting less relief, and there are growing shortages of injectable opioids at local hospitals and hospices, spurred in part by DEA-ordered reductions in opioid manufacturing quotas.

Leah Ilten, a 53-year-old physical therapist who lives in Kennewick, Washington, told HuffPost that as her 86-year-old father lay dying of pancreatic cancer in a hospice, the medical staff ignored her pleas to provide appropriate opioid pain relief, even cutting his dosage in half on the last day of his life. A few days earlier, when he was in the hospital, one nurse explained to her that opioids could lead to an overdose or could potentially cause the man, who lay moaning in pain, to “get ad
dicted.”

“I was horrified,” Ilten said.

In mid-April, the DEA responded to the injectable opioid shortage by lifting production quotas. An agency spokesman told HuffPost that it was “a manufacturers’ problem, not the quotas,” while asserting that progress is being made.

There have been production issues, including Pfizer’s foul-ups with a plant in Kansas. But the DEA’s delay in taking action ― shortfalls were flagged in February in a letter from the American Society of Anesthesiologists and other health groups ― definitely contributed to the shortage, according to Dr. James Grant, president of the ASA. He told HuffPost that quotas were among the factors creating the crisis.

I’m not willing to go back to the state I was in before I started treatment. Anne Fuqua

Faced with the hardline national crackdown on opioid prescriptions, people with chronic pain are trying to raise awareness of the suffering caused by the loss of medications. Some are gathering the names of those patients who ended up taking their own lives, both as a memorial to those who died and as a protest against the health establishment that has seemingly abandoned them. Others are seeking comfort from each other on social media.

Lelena Peacock, who declined to name her southeastern city of residence for fear of retaliation from doctors, is struggling with how to treat the pain associated with fibromyalgia. The 45-year-old found that her social media posts drew other pain patients who turned to her for help.

By her own count, Peacock has thus far convinced more than 70 chronic pain patients to call 911 or suicide prevention hotlines instead of killing themselves.

For Anne Fuqua, a 37-year-old former nurse from Birmingham, Alabama, the motivation for compiling a list of chronic pain-related suicides is to track the damage done by what she sees as policies that have left people like her behind. 

“There’s so many people who have died,” she said. “We have to remember them.”

Fuqua has an incurable neurological illness known as primary generalized dystonia that causes Parkinson’s-like involuntary movements and painful muscle spasms. She started taking about 60 mg of Oxycontin a day in 2000. Her doctor began to limit her access to high doses of opioids in 2014, the same year she started chronicling those friends who had killed themselves or otherwise died after being denied pain medications. Her informal list is now up to roughly 150 people, augmented by lists that other pain patient advocates have compiled.

On July 9, Fuqua joined other chronic pain patients at a meeting at the Food and Drug Administration campus in Maryland to express their fears and outrage at the cutbacks. Sitting in the front row in her wheelchair, she told FDA officials about that list and declared, “I’m not willing to go back to the state I was in before I started treatment.”

Anne Fuqua needs exceptionally high doses to manage her pain because of opioid malabsorption.

Courtesy of Anne Fuqua Anne Fuqua needs exceptionally high doses to manage her pain because of opioid malabsorption.

Fuqua’s own difficulties are compounded by the fact that her body does not respond to even large doses of opioids the way others do ― she suffers from severe malabsorption that hampers her ability to benefit from everything from opioids to vitamin D. Since 2012, she has relied on a strikingly high daily regimen of 1,000 MME of opioids, including fentanyl patches, to manage her pain.

But her physician, Dr. Forrest Tennant, was driven to retire this year after a DEA raid and investigation. The Los Angeles-area physician mailed her a final series of prescriptions, which will run out at the end of July.

“It’s terrifying,” she said looking at her future. “If these were people who had asthma or diabetes and weren’t stigmatized because of opioids, this wouldn’t be allowed to happen.”

Another doctor has quietly stepped forward to continue treatment for Tennant’s remaining patients, Fuqua said, although there’s no assurance that this physician won’t also be investigated in the future.

If these were people who had asthma or diabetes and weren’t stigmatized because of opioids, this wouldn’t be allowed to happen. Anne Fuqua

The raid on Tennant’s home and office last November illustrates the hard-line regulatory and enforcement approach that critics say doesn’t distinguish between pill-mill doctors who deserve to be shut down and legitimate pain doctors who use high-dosage opioids. The wide-ranging search warrant served to Tennant essentially accused him of drug trafficking even though he’d earned a national reputation for deft treatment of ― and research about ― pain patients.

“He’s highly respected and prominent in pain management,” said Jeffrey Fudin, a clinical pharmacy specialist who heads the pain pharmacy program at the Albany Stratton VA Medical Center in Albany, New York, and serves as an associate professor at the Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. “Most of his patients had no other options, and they came from around the country to see him.”

Tennant was known for taking on difficult-to-treat patients, including those suffering from pain as a result of botched surgeries and other forms of malpractice. His research included innovations in the use of hormones to alleviate pain and lower opioid use up to 40 percent, as well as work on genetic testing for enzyme system defects that lead to opioid malabsorption.

“The DEA can trigger an investigation every time they misapply the CDC guidelines without paying attention to the population the physician treats or issues of medical necessity,” said Terri Lewis, a patient advocate and a Ph.D. clinical rehabilitation specialist with Southern Illinois Uni
versity who trains clinicians on how to manage seriously ill patients with incurable pain.

Special Agent Timothy Massino, a spokesperson for the DEA’s Los Angeles division, declined to comment on the agency’s approach to Tennant. “It’s an ongoing investigation,” he noted.

Tennant’s isn’t alone. Physicians must now balance their prescribing obligations to their patients with legitimate fear for their livelihoods.

DEA enforcement actions against doctors have risen some 500 percent in recent years ― from 88 in 2011 to 449 last year, according to an analysis of the comprehensive National Practitioners Data Bank by Tony Yang, a professor of health policy at George Washington University. Even though that’s a relatively small number of arrests compared to the roughly one million physicians in the country, such arrests can have an outsized impact.

“They make big news, and they serve as a deterrent for physicians whose specialties require them to use a lot of pain medications,” Yang said. “It makes them think twice before prescribing opioids.”

Meredith Lawrence shows the tattoo she got after her husband'€™s death. The bluejay represents her husband, Jay; a cup of cof

Dustin Chambers for HuffPost Meredith Lawrence shows the tattoo she got after her husband’€™s death. The bluejay represents her husband, Jay; a cup of coffee is the way she loves to start her day; and the quote is “Sail away with me, what will be will be.”

Dr. Mark Ibsen of Helena, Montana, found himself in a five-year battle against the state licensing board that’s still not over ― even though a judge last month reversed the board’s decision to suspend his license because of due process violations. The court has remanded the case back to the licensing board for potential further investigation of his opioid prescriptions, but Ibsen has decided he won’t resume his medical practice.

That’s bad news for Montana, which has the highest rate of suicide in the country, according to the CDC. What’s more, chronic pain-related illnesses account for 35 percent of all the state’s suicides, as a recent state health department study found.

In the course of his fight with the medical board, the 63-year-old doctor said three of his former chronic pain patients have killed themselves after he and other doctors stopped prescribing opioids. The first of those patients died shortly after attending a hearing to show his support for Ibsen.

The deaths of pain patients haunt those who treated them and loved them. Meredith Lawrence, who sat with her husband to the very end, said, “It was as horrifying as anything you can imagine.”

“But I had the choice to help him or find him dead someday when I came home,” she added.

Lawrence was arrested and sentenced to a year’s probation for assisting a suicide. Now her goal is to fight restrictions on opioid prescriptions.

“If we don’t stand up, more people will die like my husband.”

If you or someone you know needs help, call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also text HOME to 741-741 for free, 24-hour support from the Crisis Text Line. Outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of resources.

Art Levine is the author of Mental Health, Inc: How Corruption, Lax Oversight, and Failed Reforms Endanger Our Most Vulnerable Citizens.

CONTINUE READING…

That study isn’t without flaws. Veterans die by suicide at higher rates than average ― currently accounting for 20 suicide deaths a day ― so they are not a nationally representative sample. And the VA study, which was released at a national opioid summit in early April, has not yet been submitted for peer review.

But another study, published last year in the peer-reviewed journal General Hospital Psychiatry, looked at nearly 600 veterans who in 2012 were cut off from dosages after long-term opioid use and found similar results. Twelve percent of the vets showed suicidal ideation or took violent action to harm themselves ― a rate nearly 300 percent higher than the overall veterans community.

As the feds crack down on opioid prescriptions, patients are taking their own lives, doctors are losing their jobs and overdose rates continue unabated.

The Government’s Solution To The Opioid     Crisis Feels Like A War To Pain Patients

By Art Levine

Meredith Lawrence's late husband died by suicide after his opioid pain prescription was severely restricted.

Jay Lawrence, an energetic truck driver in his late 30s, was driving a semitrailer across a bridge when the brakes failed. To avoid plowing into the car in front of him, he swerved sideways and slammed the truck into a wall, fracturing his back. For more than 25 years, he struggled with the resulting pain. But for most of that time, he managed to avoid opioid painkillers.

In 2006, his legs suddenly collapsed beneath him, due to a complex web of neurological factors related to his spinal cord injury. He underwent multiple surgeries and tried many medications to alleviate his pain.

The next year, he began to experience some semblance of relief when his doctor prescribed morphine, one of a class of opioid drugs. By 2012, he was taking 120 milligrams per day.

But this isn’t a story about opioid addiction. Lawrence managed a relatively productive, happy life on the medication for the better part of 10 years.

“This isn’t the life I thought I’d have,” he told his wife, Meredith Lawrence, in December 2016. “But I’m all right.”

Living on disability payments, he could still walk around their two-bedroom trailer home using his cane, take a shower on his own and, on his good days, even help his wife make breakfast.

Then, in early 2017, the pain clinic where he was a patient adopted a strict new policy, part of a wide-ranging national effort to respond to the increase in opioid overdose deaths. 

Citing 2016 guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, her husband’s doctor abruptly cut his daily dose by roughly 25 percent to 90 mg, Meredith Lawrence said. That was the maximum dose the CDC recommends, though does not mandate, for first-time opioid patients. 

The doctor also told Jay Lawrence that the plan was to lower his dose to 45 mg over the next two months, a cutback of more than 60 percent from what he had been taking.

At the end of that traumatic visit, his wife said, Jay Lawrence’s doctor dismissed their concerns and shared his own fear about losing his license if he continued to prescribe high doses of opioids. (When HuffPost followed up, the doctor declined to comment on the case, citing patient privacy.)

For a month, Lawrence suffered on the 90 mg dose. At times, his pain was so bad that he needed help to get out of the recliner, and when his wife looked over, she sometimes saw tears streaming down his face.

He dreaded his next appointment when his dose would be slashed to 60 mg. In the weeks before that scheduled visit on March 2, 2017, Lawrence came up with a plan.

On the day of his appointment, on the same bench in the Hendersonville, Tennessee, park where the Lawrences had recently renewed their wedding vows, the 58-year-old man gripped his wife’s hand and killed himself with a gun.

Meredith Lawrence sits in the living room of the home in Gainesville, Georgia, that she bought after her husband's death

Dustin Chambers for HuffPost Meredith Lawrence sits in the living room of the home in Gainesville, Georgia, that she bought after her husband’s death.

There are at least nine million chronic pain patients in the United States who take opioid painkillers on a long-term basis. As law enforcement and medical regulatory bodies try to curb the explosion in opioid deaths and the rise in illegal opioid use, they have focused on reducing the overall opioid supply, whether or not the drugs are provided by prescription. 

There’s mounting evidence this won’t work ― that curbing patient access to legal prescription opioids does not stem the rate of overdoses caused primarily by illegal drugs ― and that patients are being denied desperately needed relief. There are also troubling indicators that cutting back on opioids increases the risk of suicide among those with chronic pain.

Some chronic pain patients and advocates have even begun compiling lists of individuals they know who have died by suicide after they were no longer able to treat their pain with opioid medication.

“There is no doubt in my mind that forcibly stopping opioids can destabilize some of the most vulnerable people in America,” said Dr. Stefan Kertesz, a professor of medicine and an addiction researcher at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. “And the outcomes for those folks include suicide, overdose and falling apart medically.”

I mean, people need to take some aspirin sometimes and tough it out a little. Attorney General Jeff Sessions

For a decade or so, government officials in the U.S. have sought to drive down the opioid supply through a range of tactics ― from increased seizures of diverted opioid medications to state crackdowns on “pill mills.” The Trump administration has embraced the hard-line approach.

In late January, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a “surge” in Drug Enforcement Administration activity targeting pharmacies and physicians that, in the agency’s view, oversupply opioids. In February, the Justice Department doubled down with the announcement of a new task force that would focus on manufacturers and distributors of opioids. In March, President Donald Trump unveiled a plan to lower opioid prescriptions by a third within three years. And in late June, the federal government arrested 600 people, including 165 medical professionals, for allegedly participating in $2 billion worth of fraud schemes involving opioids.

The Trump administration’s efforts are dramatic even within the context of the CDC’s opioid dose guidelines. The guidelines were originally intended to advise primary care physicians treating chronic pain patients and other pain sufferers. They were urged to exercise caution in prescribing opioids, to use alternatives whenever possible and to prescribe daily doses of no more than 90 morphine milligram equivalents (MME) for new opioid users.

For pain patients like Jay Lawrence who had already been on opioids for years, h
owever, the guidelines simply recommended regularly assessing the harms and benefits of the dosage. They didn’t advise either mandatory cutoffs or any set limits. (The Tennessee Department of Health’s guidelines would also have allowed Lawrence to stay at 120 mg of morphine when prescribed by a pain specialist.)

But “the CDC guidelines have been weaponized,” said Kertesz. The ramped-up enforcement by the DEA and state regulators has led some doctors to choose caution and to overcorrect in their prescribing, lest they lose their ability to practice medicine at all. Kertesz decried these policies as “simplistic” in a definitive new article published last week in the journal Addiction.

In February, Sessions struck a particularly harsh tone by suggesting that the fate of chronic pain patients was not high on his list of concerns. “I am operating on the assumption that this country prescribes too many opioids,” the attorney general said. “I mean, people need to take some aspirin sometimes and tough it out a little.”

Attitudes like that are based on a series of mistaken assumptions about pain, according to Dr. Thomas Kline, a North Carolina-based family practitioner and former Harvard Medical School program administrator. Kline regularly updates a list of pain patients, published on Medium, who’ve killed themselves in the wake of draconian restrictions on pain medication.

“I ask people to imagine the very worst pain they’ve ever experienced in their lives,” Kline said. “And then that they’re denied relief by a doctor with the one medicine proven effective for pain control for 50 centuries.” (Historical records show that people in ancient Mesopotamia cultivated the poppy plant for medical use.)

The CDC guidelines have been weaponized. Dr. Stefan Kertesz

The government’s aggressive focus on doctors and patients is unlikely to address the very real menace of opioid-use disorders and sharply escalating overdose deaths. Fraud ― driven by pharmaceutical company policies ― and diversion ― the phenomenon of prescription medications being sold as street drugs ― initially spurred a wave of opioid abuse in the late 1990s, as some doctors turned their practices into pill mills. But new reports by the CDC and a drug data firm, the IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science, suggest that prescription drugs play a much smaller role in today’s crisis.

The reports show that total opioid prescriptions dropped 10 percent in 2017 ― the sharpest annual decline in such prescribing in 25 years. While opioid prescriptions peaked back in 2010, the studies found that growth rates in opioid-linked deaths, overwhelmingly due to illegal fentanyl and heroin, have skyrocketed in the last seven years.

Indeed, although two-thirds of the 64,000 overall drug overdose fatalities were linked to opioids in 2016 ― the most recent year for which there is data ― more than 80 percent of those opioid drug deaths came from illegal street drugs such as heroin and fentanyl. Prescription opioid drug deaths alone ― excluding methadone ― amounted to less than 15 percent of all drug overdose deaths, or about 9,500 fatalities.

Still, the CDC’s guidelines have triggered restrictive laws in at least 23 states that mandate ceilings on opioid dosage. (Oregon, in fact, is moving to taper dosages down to zero for all Medicaid chronic patients over a year.) That makes relief less attainable for pain patients and threatens the practices of doctors who treat them. These laws have been augmented by the growth of state prescription monitoring programs that use the software NarxCare, which is designed to flag addiction but can also rope in pain patients based on their prescription history and use of multiple doctors.

And in June, the House of Representatives passed over 50 bills that would establish dramatic new restrictions on opioid prescribing, eliciting alarm among patients and some disability rights groups.

The side effects of the current enforcement efforts are disturbing enough, from patients denied relief to drug shortages to suicides.

No health agency has kept track of all pain-related suicides that may be linked to doctors cutting back on prescriptions. But some preliminary findings from Department of Veterans Affairs researchers indicate that VA pain patients deprived of opioids were two to four times more likely to die by suicide in the first three months after they were cut off, compared to those who remained on their pain medications.

“To protect people, you have to take care of the patient, not the pill count,” said Kertesz, who worked on the VA’s April 2017 study but spoke to HuffPost only as an independent researcher. “The findings suggest that the discontinuation of opioids doesn’t necessarily assure a safer patient.”

Even terminally ill cancer patients are increasingly getting less relief, and there are growing shortages of injectable opioids at local hospitals and hospices, spurred in part by DEA-ordered reductions in opioid manufacturing quotas.

Leah Ilten, a 53-year-old physical therapist who lives in Kennewick, Washington, told HuffPost that as her 86-year-old father lay dying of pancreatic cancer in a hospice, the medical staff ignored her pleas to provide appropriate opioid pain relief, even cutting his dosage in half on the last day of his life. A few days earlier, when he was in the hospital, one nurse explained to her that opioids could lead to an overdose or could potentially cause the man, who lay moaning in pain, to “get ad
dicted.”

“I was horrified,” Ilten said.

In mid-April, the DEA responded to the injectable opioid shortage by lifting production quotas. An agency spokesman told HuffPost that it was “a manufacturers’ problem, not the quotas,” while asserting that progress is being made.

There have been production issues, including Pfizer’s foul-ups with a plant in Kansas. But the DEA’s delay in taking action ― shortfalls were flagged in February in a letter from the American Society of Anesthesiologists and other health groups ― definitely contributed to the shortage, according to Dr. James Grant, president of the ASA. He told HuffPost that quotas were among the factors creating the crisis.

I’m not willing to go back to the state I was in before I started treatment. Anne Fuqua

Faced with the hardline national crackdown on opioid prescriptions, people with chronic pain are trying to raise awareness of the suffering caused by the loss of medications. Some are gathering the names of those patients who ended up taking their own lives, both as a memorial to those who died and as a protest against the health establishment that has seemingly abandoned them. Others are seeking comfort from each other on social media.

Lelena Peacock, who declined to name her southeastern city of residence for fear of retaliation from doctors, is struggling with how to treat the pain associated with fibromyalgia. The 45-year-old found that her social media posts drew other pain patients who turned to her for help.

By her own count, Peacock has thus far convinced more than 70 chronic pain patients to call 911 or suicide prevention hotlines instead of killing themselves.

For Anne Fuqua, a 37-year-old former nurse from Birmingham, Alabama, the motivation for compiling a list of chronic pain-related suicides is to track the damage done by what she sees as policies that have left people like her behind. 

“There’s so many people who have died,” she said. “We have to remember them.”

Fuqua has an incurable neurological illness known as primary generalized dystonia that causes Parkinson’s-like involuntary movements and painful muscle spasms. She started taking about 60 mg of Oxycontin a day in 2000. Her doctor began to limit her access to high doses of opioids in 2014, the same year she started chronicling those friends who had killed themselves or otherwise died after being denied pain medications. Her informal list is now up to roughly 150 people, augmented by lists that other pain patient advocates have compiled.

On July 9, Fuqua joined other chronic pain patients at a meeting at the Food and Drug Administration campus in Maryland to express their fears and outrage at the cutbacks. Sitting in the front row in her wheelchair, she told FDA officials about that list and declared, “I’m not willing to go back to the state I was in before I started treatment.”

Anne Fuqua needs exceptionally high doses to manage her pain because of opioid malabsorption.

Courtesy of Anne Fuqua Anne Fuqua needs exceptionally high doses to manage her pain because of opioid malabsorption.

Fuqua’s own difficulties are compounded by the fact that her body does not respond to even large doses of opioids the way others do ― she suffers from severe malabsorption that hampers her ability to benefit from everything from opioids to vitamin D. Since 2012, she has relied on a strikingly high daily regimen of 1,000 MME of opioids, including fentanyl patches, to manage her pain.

But her physician, Dr. Forrest Tennant, was driven to retire this year after a DEA raid and investigation. The Los Angeles-area physician mailed her a final series of prescriptions, which will run out at the end of July.

“It’s terrifying,” she said looking at her future. “If these were people who had asthma or diabetes and weren’t stigmatized because of opioids, this wouldn’t be allowed to happen.”

Another doctor has quietly stepped forward to continue treatment for Tennant’s remaining patients, Fuqua said, although there’s no assurance that this physician won’t also be investigated in the future.

If these were people who had asthma or diabetes and weren’t stigmatized because of opioids, this wouldn’t be allowed to happen. Anne Fuqua

The raid on Tennant’s home and office last November illustrates the hard-line regulatory and enforcement approach that critics say doesn’t distinguish between pill-mill doctors who deserve to be shut down and legitimate pain doctors who use high-dosage opioids. The wide-ranging search warrant served to Tennant essentially accused him of drug trafficking even though he’d earned a national reputation for deft treatment of ― and research about ― pain patients.

“He’s highly respected and prominent in pain management,” said Jeffrey Fudin, a clinical pharmacy specialist who heads the pain pharmacy program at the Albany Stratton VA Medical Center in Albany, New York, and serves as an associate professor at the Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. “Most of his patients had no other options, and they came from around the country to see him.”

Tennant was known for taking on difficult-to-treat patients, including those suffering from pain as a result of botched surgeries and other forms of malpractice. His research included innovations in the use of hormones to alleviate pain and lower opioid use up to 40 percent, as well as work on genetic testing for enzyme system defects that lead to opioid malabsorption.

“The DEA can trigger an investigation every time they misapply the CDC guidelines without paying attention to the population the physician treats or issues of medical necessity,” said Terri Lewis, a patient advocate and a Ph.D. clinical rehabilitation specialist with Southern
Illinois University who trains clinicians on how to manage seriously ill patients with incurable pain.

Special Agent Timothy Massino, a spokesperson for the DEA’s Los Angeles division, declined to comment on the agency’s approach to Tennant. “It’s an ongoing investigation,” he noted.

Tennant’s isn’t alone. Physicians must now balance their prescribing obligations to their patients with legitimate fear for their livelihoods.

DEA enforcement actions against doctors have risen some 500 percent in recent years ― from 88 in 2011 to 449 last year, according to an analysis of the comprehensive National Practitioners Data Bank by Tony Yang, a professor of health policy at George Washington University. Even though that’s a relatively small number of arrests compared to the roughly one million physicians in the country, such arrests can have an outsized impact.

“They make big news, and they serve as a deterrent for physicians whose specialties require them to use a lot of pain medications,” Yang said. “It makes them think twice before prescribing opioids.”

Meredith Lawrence shows the tattoo she got after her husband'€™s death. The bluejay represents her husband, Jay; a cup of cof

Dustin Chambers for HuffPost Meredith Lawrence shows the tattoo she got after her husband’€™s death. The bluejay represents her husband, Jay; a cup of coffee is the way she loves to start her day; and the quote is “Sail away with me, what will be will be.”

Dr. Mark Ibsen of Helena, Montana, found himself in a five-year battle against the state licensing board that’s still not over ― even though a judge last month reversed the board’s decision to suspend his license because of due process violations. The court has remanded the case back to the licensing board for potential further investigation of his opioid prescriptions, but Ibsen has decided he won’t resume his medical practice.

That’s bad news for Montana, which has the highest rate of suicide in the country, according to the CDC. What’s more, chronic pain-related illnesses account for 35 percent of all the state’s suicides, as a recent state health department study found.

In the course of his fight with the medical board, the 63-year-old doctor said three of his former chronic pain patients have killed themselves after he and other doctors stopped prescribing opioids. The first of those patients died shortly after attending a hearing to show his support for Ibsen.

The deaths of pain patients haunt those who treated them and loved them. Meredith Lawrence, who sat with her husband to the very end, said, “It was as horrifying as anything you can imagine.”

“But I had the choice to help him or find him dead someday when I came home,” she added.

Lawrence was arrested and sentenced to a year’s probation for assisting a suicide. Now her goal is to fight restrictions on opioid prescriptions.

“If we don’t stand up, more people will die like my husband.”

If you or someone you know needs help, call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also text HOME to 741-741 for free, 24-hour support from the Crisis Text Line. Outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of resources.

Art Levine is the author of Mental Health, Inc: How Corruption, Lax Oversight, and Failed Reforms Endanger Our Most Vulnerable Citizens.

CONTINUE READING…

That study isn’t without flaws. Veterans die by suicide at higher rates than average ― currently accounting for 20 suicide deaths a day ― so they are not a nationally representative sample. And the VA study, which was released at a national opioid summit in early April, has not yet been submitted for peer review.

But another study, published last year in the peer-reviewed journal General Hospital Psychiatry, looked at nearly 600 veterans who in 2012 were cut off from dosages after long-term opioid use and found similar results. Twelve percent of the vets showed suicidal ideation or took violent action to harm themselves ― a rate nearly 300 percent higher than the overall veterans community.

Today I introduced my bill to allow cannabis use in public housing…

Today I introduced my bill to allow cannabis use in public housing in DC and states where it’s legal for medical and/or recreational use. I signed the bill with Sondra Battle, a DC resident who lives in Section 8 housing and is prescribed cannabis to treat her fibromyalgia. pic.twitter.com/iyvUzpPMvA

— Eleanor Holmes Norton (@EleanorNorton) June 19, 2018

Congressional Bill Would Allow Marijuana Use in Public Housing

Published June 19, 2018  By  Kyle Jaeger

The signing ceremony took place with two members of the pro-legalization group DCMJ as well as Sondra Battle, a D.C. resident who uses cannabis to treat her fibromyalgia, according to a press release.

“I thank Sondra Battle and our DCMJ advocates for joining me to mark the introduction of what I am calling the ‘Sondra Battle Cannabis Fair Use Act,’” Norton said. “Residents like Sondra should not fear eviction from federally-assisted housing simply for using cannabis to treat their medical conditions.”

“Our bill recognized today’s realities and proven needs. Individuals who live in states where medical and/or recreational marijuana is legal, but live in federally-assisted housing, should have the same access to treatment as their neighbors.”

CONTINUE READING…

See the full text of Norton’s new bill below:

Marijuana Public Housing Bill by MarijuanaMoment on Scribd