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Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Ultimate Stoner Retirement: US Medicaid's Debt-fueled Opium Dens

 Over the last few decades our society has seen a significant rise in prescription rates for opioid pain killers.

Six years ago when I broke my wrist I witnessed this first hand when doctors refused to treat me without administering these drugs.  The first instance was when they reset my broken wrist.  I was required to accept a 1mg (the absolute minimum) of morphine before they pulled my wrist to reset it.  Note that the pain of the injection was greater than the pain of the reset.

Clearly 1mg of morphine for a 200 lb adult male isn't going to make a damn bit of difference as far as pain is concerned - which the the doctor all but admitted - but it seems that this drug was a hospital policy dictated prerequisite before a reset.

Ultimately the wrist was operated on.  In the recovery room I woke to find an IV with a syringe hanging out of it.  The cheerful nurse said "let me give you your pain killers!"  I replied I did not want any but she proceeded to begin injecting me with the requisite Fentanyl anyway.

"Stop!" I demanded.

She looked shocked "We don't want you to be in any pain...?"

I told her I didn't mind the pain because that's how I would know I was getting better.

She stopped injecting the Fentanyl after about half was gone.

An hour or two later my son showed up to take me home.  "Take your pain killer before you go." the nurse admonished. 

"No thanks." I replied.

"Then you can't leave."


"It's policy - you're not allowed to leave without a pain killer."

I relented and left.

A few days later I was at the surgeons for a checkup.  After he left the room a cheerful girl appeared.

"Here's your prescription for pain killers," she said.  She handed me a prescription for 60 potent opioid pain killers.

I never took one.

At each of several more visits over a few months they handed out these prescriptions like candy.

Since my experience opioid prescriptions in the US have risen about 27% between 2007 and last year. 

The increase of 32.4% among the elderly leading the way (see above chart).

In my case the use of these drugs was totally unnecessary yet in total they prescribed some 120 oxycodone (the stronger of the common hydrocodone doses).

While the nurse's excuse of "we don't want you to feel pain" was well meaning the truth is far worse.  (See the original Journal  Sentinel article here and here as well as this). 

As a nation are we really in this much pain?

No, of course not.

Instead the drug companies (big pharma) have created the ultimate stoner Nirvana: opioid-fueled retirement homes where you can sit staring at the wall or sleeping in your plate all day long on a government Medicaid-fueled high paid for by US government debt.

In the case of the elderly we need look no farther for the cause than the American Geriatric Society:

This group has a panel of ten (10) experts on use of opioid pain killers in the elderly - a panel recommending new more extensive uses of these pain killers for everyday uses.

Surprise of surprises!

At least least six according to the Journal Sentinal have or work for in some capacity companies that sell these products.

A conflict of interest - plain and simple.

Yet we as a society accept this.

In my case the lack of pain killers helped me with rehabbing my wrist which today is very close to 100%.  Had a gone the pain killer route I might be an addict, or never worked my hand because it hurt too much, or worse...

My mother is 82.  Her neighbor is today a drug addict at 86.

The neighbor, once on these pills, is completely unable to function and falls asleep in her food.  The state sends someone into her apartment each day to "help her."  Prior to her involvement with these pills the neighbor was at least functional.

And this is a common problem today.  Little wonder given that the equivalent of 69 tons of these opioid pain killers are prescribed each year (average doses are measured in milligrams).

I guess the over 55 home is the ideal stoner retirement destination when coupled with routine trips to the "pain clinic."

Yet 15,000 people a year are killed by these products.

The baby boomer stoners and their drug company paid doctors have created the ultimate retirement destination - the modern opium den.

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