From previous cases, the death of Elvis Presley being the most notorious, we know that the rich and famous often "buy" the services of physicians to prescribe them absurd amounts of pain medications and diazepams, most notably Xanax and Valium, so they can quickly get to sleep during tours and events that would make most of us collapse in utter exhaustion; unfortunately, some of these celebrities also use "uppers" to give them the energy to perform these exhaustive schedules and then need a "downer" to make them sleep, a vicious cycle of drug abuse that has caused the loss of some of our most venerated celebrities. Michael Jackson's case was extreme and also included the use of "Propofol," a powerful anesthetic which is used almost exclusively in hospitals. I haven't heard any evidence that Michael Jackson also used uppers, but most of us are aware that when we are stressed and engaging in extreme activities, it's often hard to wind-down, which may explain Michael Jackson's drug abuse, which is still a matter of speculation.
Celebrities who hire their own physicians to prescribe what they "want rather than what they "need" are not anything new, and we've heard about it for years; however, the manner in which the Federal Drug Enforcement Agency has responded to this national problem is not halting the rich and famous from getting their drugs, but instead, is causing more pain and suffering to those who do suffer from chronic pain and are often treated like criminals simply because they suffer from chronic ailments. Some states are plagued with "Pill Mills" and it's a situation that affects everyone, not only those who choose to abuse their medications, but patients that desperately need these medications to have a decent quality of life. A recent situation in the Atlanta area has highlighted this issue again, and from a law enforcement perspective, I can appreciate that something must be done to close-down these "Pill Mills" that are masquerading as Chronic Pain Clinics:
Prescription "pill mill" under scrutiny in Kennesaw
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The city of Kennesaw is exploring ways to block so-called prescription "pill mills" from opening after one local pain clinic began attracting customers from as far away as Tennessee and Kentucky.
The Pain Express clinic on Cherokee Street, which opened about a month ago, was doling out painkiller prescriptions so quickly and in such large quantities that one local pharmacist ran out of a prescription pain medication, according to Kennesaw Police Chief William Westenberger. The clinic temporarily closed last week after federal authorities raided three other locations in Florida that were operated by the same owners.
Georgia is the only state in the Southeast without a program to track dispensing of prescription drugs using an electronic database. The state Senate voted Wednesday to approve SB 418, the Georgia Patient Safety Act, but the bill still has to clear the House.
Rick Allen, deputy director of the Georgia Drugs & Narcotics Agency, said the Georgia Patient Safety Act would allow law enforcement to track "pill mills" and prosecute physicians for prescribing medications illegally. Pharmacists and physicians can also check an electronic database to see if a patient has been doctor-shopping before issuing a prescription.
Pain clinics are not licensed through the state, so there is no way to know how many are operating in Georgia. Allen said his agency is keeping an eye on between 5 and 10 suspected "pill mills." However, he said more seem to be popping up lately because Georgia's regulations are more lax than surrounding states.
The increasing popularity of heavy-hitting opiods like Oxycontin in the Southeast has cemented its reputation as "hillbilly heroin." With a legal prescription, the pills can be obtained in Georgia for $3 to $4 each and resold for up to $60 each in Kentucky and Tennessee, police say.
"These pain clinics don't take insurance and they don't take credit cards, it's all cash," Allen said. "These doc-in-the-box places can open up overnight and unless we get complaints, we don't know about them."
Westenberger wants the city to institute a moratorium of anywhere from 6 to 12 months to prohibit more pain clinics from opening until the city can figure out how to reshape its ordinances to prohibit them. In Kennesaw, arrests related to prescription drug abuse increased by 13 percent between 2008 and 2009, and accounted for over a quarter of all drug-related arrests last year. MUCH MORE
Prior to writing this story, I contacted Andria Simmons to correct what I believe casts a pall on legitimate Pain Clinics, and from a prior experience on a local matter that I was involved with, and also covered by Ms.Simmons, I can attest to her integrity and diligence as a Journalist. However, as she related to me, she can only report upon what she is able to verify and what is relayed to her by her sources within the local community and law enforcement agencies. She also pointed out that she has a limited amount of space to cover a news event, and unlike a private investigative reporters/bloggers, she does not have the luxury of delving into issues that are not mentioned by her sources and must rely upon them to supply the factual aspects of the case. We can appreciate her position, and since we do have the space to add to her excellent reporting, we have chosen to expand upon and dispel some aspects of this story that we believe may be incorrectly associated with other legitimate Pain Clinics throughout the state by the AJC's audience.
Through personal experience as a chronic pain patient, I'm able to offer some insight into this situation and for months have been working on substantiating the "Michael Jackson Effect" that is causing physicians throughout the United States to change how they do business, as they constantly have the DEA looking over their shoulders whenever they prescribe powerful narcotics or diazepams. If the DEA believes that a doctor is prescribing too many of these aforementioned substances, even though their patient load may be representative of patients that need these prescriptions, they often (The DEA) utilize a tactic which causes duress and financial hardship on physicians, which we believe is inappropriate and is affecting the health and welfare of millions of Americans who have verifiable medical conditions that warrant the use of these medications.
If a Doctor doesn't knuckle-under to the DEA's demands to quit prescribing these medications, they send field agents out to pore over the medical records of their patients, scrutinizing each and every patient who is prescribed substances on their "hit lists" and demand justification for each and every prescription they write. This is costly for Doctors who are already struggling under heavy patient loads, who have neither the time nor resources to withstand the inquisitions by DEA agents who use this tactic as a method of intimidating them into violating their "Hippocratic Oath" and cave-in to DEA demands. This practice of intimidation and fear has proven to be remarkably successful, and Family Practice physicians as well as some specialists have quit prescribing medications for their patients who do suffer from chronic pain and refer them to "Chronic Pain Clinics," birthing another "medical specialty" that is costing taxpayers millions, if not billions, of dollars per year. In attempting to corral the majority of those who require chronic pain care into separate medical practices to allow them to monitor these patients more effectively, the DEA has created the "Pill Mills" that now require even more taxpayer money to uncover and prosecute for illegally prescribing dangerous drugs to addicts who illegally "Doctor Shop" and visit multiple physicians to satisfy their own cravings and/or seek these prescriptions to sell on the streets; this is a threat to the health and safety of those who purchase these drugs and do not understand the danger that these substances pose to recreational drug users, who often underestimate their power and, inadvertently, pay the ultimate price for their ignorance by overdosing and losing their lives.
In retrospect, I am able to appreciate the position that the DEA finds itself in as they attempt to curb illegal drug use and "Pill Mills" that do pose a threat to our communities; I believe they have now created their own Catch 22 and we need Washington to create legislation that will halt "Doctor Shopping," which can be accomplished by creating a regional and/or national database(s) that will expose those who travel across state lines, and even within their own states, to illegally obtain these powerful narcotics. I also understand that tying-in pharmacies to this database would solve the issue of "Doctor Shopping," and at the same time, raise valid privacy issues.