Mr. Know-It-All Stubbed His IQ on the Way to the Dream

I guess you couldn’t give the fine Doctor a better name. I kn ow when I can’t breathe, nothing works better at freeing up my lungs better than a Marlboro. As technologically advanced as the US has been throughout its history, there are moments in time where knowledge and common sense separate, or a nice payment to a bank account blurs, obscures or even obliterates the line between right and wrong. I know right now I just had to light up a good old American Spirit cigarette for some reason…I think my breath might smell bad after that sausage and pepperoni slice I just ate.

While the ads featuring Dr. Batty’s smoking cures went the way of the dodo eventually, they were replaced by more not-so-subtle Dr. Everycoolman smoking his Camels. You know, something along the lines of this:

Nothing says Merry Christmas better than a carton of Chesterfields. Maybe a case of scotch, or both if they are really a close friend. Eventually, the evidence grew up, and it was so gigantic, it was in danger of blocking out the sun. In the wake of those lost to cancer came the lawsuits, the loss of true American icons, namely all the kids’ periennial favorite, Joe Camel. Oh, and the Marlboro man also was lost to lung cancer…although if given the chance Philip Morris would no doubt exhume the body, create some ‘proof’ that he in fact worked at the asbestos mill in between horseback riding and cattle wrangling, call up Dr. Batty’s great-grandson and determine the real cause of death was mesothelioma. They then could sue those bastards who killed their star, and recoup some of their loses from those frivolous lawsuits that put a nice sized dent in their corporate wallet.

Thank God for developing third world countries. Indonesia is a real boon, and kids making Nikes in various other countries have a tad more disposable income thanks to Oprah or whoever beginning the exposure process of sweatshops. It’s cool really, this photo here of some employees on their mandatory 15 minute break, enjoying a relaxing moment in the fresh air:

When the 12-hour work day ends, I am willing to bet nothing tastes as good as an ice cold Budweiser. It is refreshing to see the world advancing like this, and somewhere up there, Dr. Batty is grinning between coughing fits.

Back home, at least in Florida, where I get to see and talk to parents and sometimes addicts directly, our young’ins are smoking, albeit little blue pills with enough opiate in them to help ease the pain of an advanced stage cancer patient. In doing some research for some different projects, I found we as a country consume more prescription opiates than any country in the world, while Iran & Afghanistan have the most opiate addicts due to the abundance of opium grown and heroin produced in remote Afghan farms and often smuggled through Iran. Last year, Florida accounted for 85% of the nation’s total oxycodone prescriptions. Don’t be jealous, there have been various crackdowns, and where we once had something like 80 of the top oxy dispensing doctors, we are now down to 13.

The times, they are a changin! Actually, the pill mills are just moving. Hotspot destinations for the indiscriminate doctors include Georgia and North Carolina, however, I am pretty sure you can find a few in your state as well. They may run ads in the local City Paper and use words like compassionate, understanding, and humane. Some are so merciful, that they will even give a discounted 1st visit, and even get you an MRI for a mere $200. The bonus is that the person reading the MRI is half-blind, forgot his/her glasses, so actual injuries might not even be needed, as long as you have the other word that is in the ad, CASH. 

This is the reality. Now the doctors know that as long as the patient has an MRI showing injury, there is a way they can keep prescribing the one drug everyone seems to be addicted to. When I was involved with my sympathetic (i.e. greedy) MD, I would only get one prescription. As our relationship bloomed, the state passed a law that the offices could no longer dispense the narcotics at the office. By the time we were on the rocks, I had to have him write another prescription just to get a pharmacy fill my opiate.

The current state of affairs is this: the owners of these pain clinics are now opening up pharmacies. To keep their percentages in line with the law, the doctors are now instructed to write up to 5 prescriptions. The chain drug stores add to the problem by carrying very little oxycodone, while the “independent” pharmacies stock up on them. Funny thing is, that word, CASH carries over into the apothecary. Since the patient now gets scripts for ibuprofen, a muscle relaxer like Soma, some OTC stool softener, maybe some Neurontin to deal with nerve pain, basically, anything that will ower the percentage of narcotics dispensed, both by the doctor and the pharmacy. 

The other fun fact that I have yet to see reported is this: these pharmacies that do stock oxycodone are charging drug dealer prices — $9-12/pill. When the doctor dispensing ended, I used mail order through my insurance. 210 tablets, cost me a $25 co-pay, and my insurance picked up the other $89. That is $114 for 210 pills. Can you say price gouging? So, Florida’s solution to the problem has been to limit the supply and rightfully, get rid of the most egregious offenders. However, NOTHING has been done to address the demand, and if the drug dealers have to pay $2000 for prescriptions that not even a year ago would cost $150, prices go up. Worse, what about the legitimate pain patient, who will not go out and sell his pills to make up for the thousands of dollars laid out? We are after all a capitalist society, we should have a very firm grasp on the concepts of supply and demand.

I talked with a friend who sponsors guys (his youngest is 15!!!!) and he told me people are paying $30/pill on the street. His newest student he will hopefully guide through the 12-steps just got out of jail for….yes, theft. Crime is going to go up, and an even uglier consequence is no doubt going to be the migration of Miami heroin coming to the streets of Boca and other Palm Beach communities that have never dealt with that whole scene and the host of debauchery and outright danger it brings. I spoke with a mom who is in a similar group to MADD & I told her I support their effort, but I am not someone who can pretend that taking away supply is going to fix the problem.

There are so many opiates, many far more dangerous, some even can be made by someone with chemistry knowledge. Yes, let’s celebrate when a doctor that gave out pills for sex, or knowingly saw people with no detectable problems and handed out incredibly high doses of opiates, ruining countless lives, snuffing out others completely, they do deserve to pay for their greed.  That someone with legitimate pain, looking for relief was prescribed a dose meant for people with severe, end stage cancers, and is now physically dependent on the drugs…lives get ruined, loved ones get hurt. The Hippocratic Oath, do no harm, might as well be sold as toilet paper.

Greed. Quick fixes do not exist for this problem. So far the punishments doled out to doctors seem minor. 5.5 years for prescribing almost 1,000,000 oxycodone 30mg tablets. For prescribing in a clinic that lost 30+ patients, and by lost, I mean they overdosed and died. The owners are getting more time, but how a state can allow a convicted drug trafficker to open a pain clinic baffles me as well. That they pitched this idea and licensed physicians agreed to be willing participants, also leaves me befuddled. An irony is that many of these doctors came out of retirement and probably appeared in a Camel ad in the 60’s or would have if given a big enough check.

I need another smoke.


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