Latest Drug War News

GoodShop: You Shop...We Give!

Shop online at and a percentage of each purchase will be donated to our cause! More than 600 top stores are participating!

The Internet Our Website

Global and National Events Calendar

Bottoms Up: Guide to Grassroots Activism

Prisons and Poisons

November Coalition Projects

Get on the Soapbox! with Soap for Change

November Coalition: We Have Issues!

November Coalition Local Scenes

November Coalition Multimedia Archive

The Razor Wire
Bring Back Federal Parole!
November Coalition: Our House

Stories from Behind The WALL

November Coalition: Nora's Blog

August 26, 2005 - DrugSense Weekly (DSW)

In Pain? Call A Cop

By Mike Gray, Chairman of Common Sense For Drug Policy and author of the best selling books, Drug Crazy and Busted, a compilation of essays by leading national voices on drug policy. He has recently joined the newly created DrugSense Drug Policy Writers Group

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

Among many unintended consequences of the war on drugs -- destruction of the inner cities, loss of respect for the law, gang warfare -- there is one surprise about to nail Baby Boomers right between the eyes. And we're witnessing it with increasing frequency over the past 24 months.

As this fabled generation approaches antiquity with the standard compliment of ailments that flesh is heir to, they are discovering the federal government is utterly indifferent to their physical pain, even when the pain is so excruciating you'd rather be dead.

Ever had a toothache over the weekend? You try to focus on Monday morning when the dentist will be back from his fishing trip. But what if the toothache is incurable? "Imagine if you had to grin and bear it for an undetermined period of time," says pain patient Richard Paey. "You can't see straight. You think you'll pass out, and sometimes you do. And sometimes you pray you will."

Mr. Paey was sentenced last year to 25 years in Florida state prison for trying to get enough narcotics to make his agony bearable. No matter that he is wheelchair bound with MS and his back was destroyed by botched surgery twenty years ago. Florida drug cops in combination with the Drug Enforcement Administration busted him because his prescriptions were not in order -- his doctor was out of state.

It seems he couldn't find a local doctor because most physicians these days are terrified of the DEA. Consider the case of Dr. Frank Fisher, a Harvard trained physician who used to run a community health center in Anderson, California. Dr. Fisher caught the attention of the drug police when he began prescribing narcotics at a rate the non-medically educated lawmen felt was inappropriate. They arrested him and charged him with murder -- five of his patients had died after he prescribed narcotics. He was labeled a drug kingpin and jailed under a $15 million bond.

But when the case got to court, Shasta County Judge William Gallagher didn't like anything about it. He dismissed the murder charges yes, the patients had died but Fisher had nothing to do with it. One woman was killed in a car crash -- as a passenger!

This past April Dr. Fisher was finally exonerated on all charges -- after five months in prison and six years in court. Now he's 51, flat broke, living with his parents, and his clinic is long gone. If you ask him for painkillers today he'll likely say, "Take two aspirin and call me in the morning."

The experience was even worse for some of his former patients. Most have been unable to find adequate care, several have died, and two dozen of them had to apply for full disability -- including patients who had previously been earning a living and paying taxes.

"What you are seeing is the clash of the war on drugs conflicting with the war on pain," says Dr. Scott Fishman, chief of the division of pain medicine at the University of California Davis. "It has a chilling effect for health care in the future." This particular shoot-out is essentially a religious war between a federal agency that views narcotics as a tool of the Devil, and an awakening medical profession that has recently re-discovered the value of painkillers derived from the opium poppy.

Traditionally, opiates have been prescribed only for short term pain. Using them over the long haul labeled patients as a 'drug addict'. But recent studies turn that thinking on its head. We now know patients who use opiates to deaden pain do not get high, and fewer than two in a hundred become addicted. Additionally, opiates are virtually harmless to internal organs -- unlike aspirin, Tylenol and ibuprofen which can damage the stomach, liver and kidneys. Most important, patients lucky enough to get sufficient opiates to truly make the pain disappear are often able to forget about suicide and actually get back to life.

At the moment the lawmen clearly have the upper hand. By publicly terrorizing pain specialists like Dr. Fisher, they are forcing the medical profession to abandon the most effective painkillers we've ever known. As a consequence one American in ten may be living with chronic pain when relief should be just a phone call away. Those ranks, however, are about to swell dramatically as the Boomers hit their 60s. The betting is that this huge demographic wave is going to alter the political scenery on pain management just as they have transformed everything else in their path.

Its about time. As Dr. David Brushwood, professor of pharmacy at the University of Florida puts it, "Interference in medical practice by a federal agency is intolerable. If the agency insists on an approach to diversion prevention that misunderstands medical practice and victimizes pain patients, it has outlived its usefulness."

For the latest drug war news, visit our friends and allies below

We are careful not to duplicate the efforts of other organizations, and as a grassroots coalition of prisoners and social reformers, our resources (time and money) are limited. The vast expertise and scope of the various drug reform organizations will enable you to stay informed on the ever-changing, many-faceted aspects of the movement. Our colleagues in reform also give the latest drug war news. Please check their websites often.

The Drug Policy Alliance
Drug Reform Coordination Network
Drug Sense and The Media Awareness Project

Working to end drug war injustice

Meet the People Behind The U.S. Sentencing Guidelines

Questions or problems? Contact