My general practice doctor was arrested on Friday for allegedly running a criminal enterprise to illegally distribute prescription opioid medications, including oxycodone.
He and he his co-conspirator were charged with prescribing the drugs to several individuals who then distributed the drugs illegally for profit.
This is inconvenient for myself and all of his patients who now have to find a new doctor, since as of today his office has been closed and his patients affairs are being addressed by the State Medical Board. But this was tragic since one of the recipients of the drugs ended up overdosing. It is also tragic for my doctor’s wife who recently married him and had their first child.
Unfortunately, his alleged actions aren’t unusual in this day and age. Do an internet search for doctors illegally prescribing pain medications and you’ll find doctors are being arrested all over the country for the same crime.
Drug abuse using prescription painkillers is an epidemic. I don’t normally write about this issue, and finding accurate statistics to better define the scope of the problem is difficult. So I won’t bore you with those statistics. I’d rather describe my experience and let you draw your own conclusions.
I am not mentioning my doctor’s name at this time, or his location. When I left Virginia in 2007 and moved to my new community, my doctor was covered by my insurance plan and his office was within walking distance of my apartment. So I provided him my medical records and I’ve been going to his practice for the past 9 years. Although he wasn’t always the main doctor within his practice who treated me, he had recently gotten rid of all the other doctors. So I had been seeing him for the past year or so. I have had minor health issues in the past, and he has always found the right solution to cure my ailment. So I trusted him.
He never prescribed me pain medication. I have taken only one single prescription pain killer in my life. And when I say one pain killer, I mean one single pill. A severe allergic reaction in 2009 caused me intense pain, and I was prescribed Vicodin. I tried one Vicodin pill and it didn’t alleviate my pain, nor help me sleep. So I didn’t take anymore. A bottle of Vicodin sat on my shelf for a few years with 19 pills left in it. I eventually threw it in the garbage when I was moving out.
When I had knee surgery in the fall of 2014, I was given a prescription for Fentanyl and Norco. Both of these medications are opioids. I never filled those prescriptions and relied instead on generic ibuprofen.
I had heard all the horror stories about these medications and decided they weren’t for me. The only justification I believed for taking such medication was if I had severe pain and couldn’t deal with it any other way. Yet the only time I had pain so severe that taking such medication was justified, it didn’t work anyway. I suppose I was lucky the Vicodin pill was such a dud.
A few months ago during a routine appointment with my doctor, we started conversing about prescription pain killers. I told him that after my knee surgery I was prescribed these drugs and they seemed to me to be too similar to street drugs, and I wanted to avoid them because I had heard they were addictive and dangerous.
My doctor became angry. He is an odd man who often rants and raves about socialism and gun control advocacy which he hates with a passion. Usually his rants and raves are entertaining to me. And yet, this time his anger was far more emotional. He raised his voice, and said “let me show you something!” He found a photo of a patient who had undergone spinal surgery. The photo showed a large incision on the patients back. He said “do you have any idea how much pain this man was in! These aren’t street drugs! These drugs help cure pain! They’re not street drugs!”
Whatever the case, I attributed his rant to his usual fervor and during my next appointment I didn’t discuss it again.
Now I realize that when I called prescription pain medication “street drugs,” he was allegedly illegally distributing pain medication through a criminal enterprise. Obviously he took offense. I was calling him a drug dealer even if I wasn’t aware of his alleged crime.
The bottom line is that prescription drug abuse needs to be addressed. Opioid medication being prescribed is expensive, and when the insurance doesn’t cover it anymore, people are turning to heroin instead, or turning to illegal drug mills on the internet or some other way to get their fix. This is a problem that is costing us billions of dollars a year in health consequences.
Here is a list of actions introduced by Congress trying to address prescription drug abuse. As you can see, no action has yet been taken on these bills. But maybe when Congress is not busy running for re-election, or fighting each other, or attending fancy dinners, or calling rich donors for money, they will get to the business of trying to find a solution to this problem which is rapidly becoming the greatest drug epidemic in our nation’s history.