She's in her eighties now.
Her generation has always had a lot of "respect" for doctors and the medical community. I suppose this comes from growing up in the Great Depression in the 1930's when someone like a doctor had a huge standing in the community and society in general. You always "trusted" the doctor because he had "scientific training", etc.
In that era Doctors dealt with whooping cough, TB, and all sorts of other diseases with treatments we would today consider primitive. Penicillin didn't start in common use until about 1945 when its chemical structure was first figured out. Once penicillin was prevalent doctors, at least in the view of my mother's generation, were elevated to god-like status.
Until fairly recently medicine had a relatively narrow focus. What I mean by this is that doctors dealt with concrete things: broken bones, treatable disease, simple operations (appendix, etc.) and so on.
But today things are far different - and that's what I want to talk about. For one, pain is a no-no.
Fortunately mom is reasonably healthy. But that's not the case for he neighbors. So here's one little scenario that I heard about...
Let's take the case of H. This is someone my mom has known since childhood. I talk with my mom frequently and a while back we were discussing pain medication. So there we are, talking away, and she mentions that H. is on 3 x OC-80 a day for her "pain" from doctor A (OC-80 = Oxycontin 80mg), plus more for doctors B, C, D and E and she is constantly shopping for new doctors (H. is also in her eighties).
So I point out that this is very bad - that this much pain medication on a regular basis is bad - its effects are bad - and on and on. I tell her that H. is basically a heroin addict and needs help.
My mother say, yes, she understands because her neighbor B. is using fentanyl suckers for her pain. I ask how that's working out for B. She says "oh, she's a little loopy".
So some time later my mom mentions that H. is going to the "pain doctor". H. has always suffered from a variety of unexplained pain and is always seeking medical treatment. Then she says
"Well, H. got to the pain doctors office. The doctor took a look at all her medications and called the ambulance. The ambulance took her directly to hospital X and checked her in. She's not allowed to get out for a week - and she can't have any visitors." What she meant and didn't quite understand was that H. was in the rehab.
So I explained that this much pain medication was like a 20-bag a day heroin habit. BTW - most street heroin you buy from the local dealer, we'll call him G. for the purposes of this blog, is probably fentanyl as opposed to true heroin - but that's another story.
So about a week later H. gets out of rehab, comes home, and, near as I can tell, goes back to the doctor shopping.
Meanwhile B. apparently figures out that fentanyl suckers are not such a good idea for pain and manages to get off of them on her own.
Apparently in this apartment complex the "little old ladies," as she sometimes calls her neighbors, swap all sorts of these "pain medications" on a daily basis. Now, this is one apartment in one small urban area in the midwest.
So what's going on here?
Well, for one thing it seems pretty clear what the deal is on Oxycontin. Why is this around your child's school, your work place, your watering hole, and everywhere else? Because grandma needs it for her pain.
Sadly, it would appear that doping grandma up to a minimum 5-bag a day heroin habit is the new status quo for medical science. Apparently doctors will happily prescribe as many pills as grandma needs - if grandma needs more than another doctor will cover it. Not enough pills to cover you till next week, then just swap S. down the hall for a few dozen extra OC-80's.
Does anyone, like Medicaid (meaning you and I), bother to check or control this situation? Nope.
Does anyone but me even see this going on?
And most of these folks believe that this stuff is good for them. Not that their pain goes completely away - it doesn't. Is it numbed a bit - sure. But now they suffer all the side effects from opioid addiction like
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Confusion and Forgetfulness
- Runny nose
- Glazed or red eyes
- Anxiety, mood swings
Now, once these good folks a are on this stuff and exhibiting these new symptoms what does the good doctor do? Why prescribe event more pills to address the new symptoms.
Does the drug company making this stuff care - sure they do - that's why they send the profession drug dealers (as opposed to G.) to the local doctor's office to push these pills and offer free samples - so the doctor will prescribe more - not less.
(A comparison of a pro drug dealer to G. will probably make another good post.)
When little Johnny goes to grandma's apartment next time for a visit it will be easy to scoop 10 OC-80's for that next middle school party. Grandma will probably just think she lost them and get more and little Johnny will soon be singing the rehab song...