Friday, November 29, 2013

Why Do We Regulate Pain Killers But Not Antibiotics?

Two points: I just finished watching the PBS|Frontline documentary Chasing The Nightmare Bacteria; I also just read about a massive study showing that access to pain killers is poor. You can watch the documentary below.

The takeaway from the documentary is that we are charging headlong into a massive, global, health crisis the likes of which the post-war era has not seen. We are overusing antibiotics in our food supply, and even with that not taken into account, fifty-percent of antibiotics are unnecessary. We should be regulating antibiotics like crazy, and yet we aren't.

What are we regulating? Pain killers. The study to which I linked above says that the regulations applied to pain killers had good intentions, but now they are causing harm.

No. They never had good intentions, and the intentions that we actually had all but guaranteed the negative outcomes that we now face.

We regulated pain killing drugs because they are "fun" drugs. Any and all fun drugs are bad, because fun is bad. Semi-legal fun drugs are even worse, because we cannot call those who use them necessarily scum. We regulate it because doctors judge their patients and disregard their pain.

My father has diabetic neuropathy in his legs, a type of pain that is known to be resistant to opioid analgesics. He is also opioid-resistent, making the problem worse.. (I am also opioid-resistant, but I'm not in pain, so it doesn't much matter to me.) This means that very few pain killers work for him. He actually had a doctor tell him "this dose works for me, so it will work for you."

Along with that stunning, stunning, display of arrogance, my dad has had to face judgmental stares, questions, and disapproving tisks from nurses and doctors. It took months of pain before a doctor finally listened to him. Months of pain.

I have felt it, especially now that I have to present an ID to get simple pseudoephedrine: guilt. I have been trained by society to feel bad about using particular drugs. This mindset extends into the medical world, but the coin is flipped. Whereas I feel guilty about using the drugs, the person in a position of power, the doctor, feels judgmental about my using and asking for the drugs.

If I am in pain, then I must suffer nobly, otherwise I am a bad person. No fun drugs for me! Because having fun is bad.As I mentioned, semi-legal fun drugs are the worst for a judgmental society, because we cannot automatically label those who use them as deviant. As such, we must put those who do use them through a rubicon of pain, judgment, scorn, and red tape to ensure they feel correctly bad about using them. You may not be scum, but you are almost scum.

We regulate pain killers for the same reason we regulate marijuana, cocaine, and heroin — for the same reason we imprison huge numbers of people every year for victimless crimes. We do it out of sheer, unmitigated stupidity driven by a history of conservative, Christian judgment and racism. And as I said, the problems we now face of unaddressed pain in patients: almost inevitable.

When we base decisions on blind dogma, the outcomes are always going to be bad. Dogma is almost never right, because if it were right, then it wouldn't be dogma. It would simply be knowledge.

If I smoke marijuana (which I do not do, never have done, and never will do) I hurt no one. I barely hurt myself. But if I take an antibiotic, I could theoretically create the germ that kills us all.

So tell me again, why is marijuana the one that gets me thrown into jail?