An Open Letter to the DEA & DHHS

February 1, 2015

An Open Letter to the DEA and DHHS,

May I ask for a show of hands? How many of you have actually set foot inside a pain clinic? Uh-huh. Thought so. Your dictatorial directive last year that went into effect on October 6, 2014 reclassifying all hydrocodone combination products (HCP) as Schedule II narcotics has sent more than just shock waves through the chronic pain community. So let me take you inside the typical pain clinic, so I can give you an idea of the unintended consequences your action has had.

First of all, as you look around the room, you’ll see that everybody is suffering. It’s not uncommon to hear crying and moaning in the waiting area. Pain is pain, and the audacity with which you have poked these people in the eyes with your thumbs is inhuman. That’s right. It’s inhuman. Secondly, you’ll notice that about two-thirds are elderly, many crippled, in wheelchairs, walkers or canes. These people, for the most part, have made the difficult choice — with the approval of their doctor — to live a life of addiction to pain medication rather than deal with the ravages of chronic pain. These are often the poor and the afflicted, which don’t have the choice of expensive surgeries to perhaps correct the many ways in which they’ve been betrayed by their bodies. They live in an ugly prison, and you, in your suits and ties, have no idea of what I’m talking about. On an emotional level, you’ve made every one of these people feel like criminals just so they can get the medicines that allow them at least a degree of comfort and dignity. How dare you do that to these poor people?

You, of course, will be quick to defend the decision, because, after all, they can still get their medicine, right? You are fools. You have no idea of what you’ve set in place, so let me tell you. Everybody — every single person or profession in the treatment and care of chronic pain — has been negatively affected by this change. You dictate, for example, the inventory a major pharmacy can have on hand. I know an elderly man who was thrown into horrible withdrawal symptoms, because his pharmacy didn’t have enough on hand to completely fill his prescription. Why not give him a few pills to last until they got them in? Because your rules prohibit that. No partial refills. Moreover, you now only allow one 30-day prescription at a time. That means unnecessary travel to the doctor EVERY MONTH, which, if you have chronic pain, is not such a fun thing. You’ve scared the crap out of everybody; especially the big chain corporately operated drug stores, whose attorneys have come down hard on the local pharmacies to insure compliance with your ridiculous rules. That’s right, ridiculous. Independent pharmacies may quietly offer a wee more flexibility, because corporations don’t govern them. The problem is that’s not where most people get their medicine. The entire chronic pain community now functions under the watchful eyes of a seemingly autonomous Federal agency that has unlimited power in the name of “fighting” drugs. Again, what is wrong with you?

Folks, I’m not here to suggest that your motives were evil in taking this step. You certainly have a difficult job. I think you all need to seriously examine your own hearts, though, and I hope somebody from Congress, the Courts or the Administration is listening. Chronic pain sufferers vote, too. We all understand the war on drugs (how’s that going, by the way?), but let me make one simple statement for you to think about:

You’ve severely punished those who have no choice in taking opiates in the name of cracking down on those who do. Why in God’s name would you do such a thing?

I hope the high-5s and the attaboys were worth it. You’re doing SUCH great work!


Terry Heaton
7435 S. Catawba Circle NW
Madison, AL 35757