Opioids Kill White Americans – Is it opioids or suicide or addiction or untreated pain?


Drug Overdoses Propel Rise in

Mortality Rates of Young Whites

New York Times



Yes, white Americans, headlined yesterday by Gina Kolata and Sarah Cohen, New York Times science writers.  This article points to the highest mortality in young whites. See post early November on the Princeton researchers who reported deaths in white Americans. True, infants and children have severe pain, but this new article is on young white adults.


Those who are anti-opioid and those who lost a loved one from opioids and heroin (an opioid that helps pain), will send in comments to the paper so that everyone can see how bad opioids are. Most patients who take opioids are too disabled from pain to write.


Pain is stigmatized, opioids stigmatized, people in pain are stigmatized, doctors who treat pain are stigmatized. Any wonder 97% of medical schools do not teach pain management?


Is it opioids or suicide or addiction or untreated pain that is killing our youth?


How many suicides have opioids prevented? Americans make up less than 5% of the global population but consume 80% of the world’s supply of opioid prescription pills. What if your cancer pain now becomes severe intractable chronic pain? Cancer has been changing. The survival rate has increased, and many of these cancer patients treated with opioid therapy, survived the cancer but have residual chronic pain from cancer or its treatment. Surely they are among the 18,000 white people who died.



Please read the earlier post this week on the ethics of opioid treatment, on

CDC’s imminent radical cut in opioid doses for 100 million patients nationwide.

Use search function above photo – type in CDC or DEA.

Your pain. Your lives. Their profit.

A thorny problem.

Tell us what happened to you. Doctors, tell us what you are seeing.

Have you been denied disability due to pain? Denied non-opioid treatment?

Chronic severe pain affects forty million Americans.



Some insurers have denied or limited non-opioid treatments yet continued expensive opioids for decades. Has your insurance refused your treatment? Pain specialists have been barraged by denials for years.  Please comment below.


As noted last week, I have spent 15 years developing alternatives to failed opioid treatment for chronic intractable pain and writing about that on these pages since April 2009. But opioids must be available as last resort.




  • Opioids killed almost 18,000 Americans in 2014 – prescription opioids, not street drugs.

  • 40 million American millions with severe pain, millions not thousands

  • 100 million with chronic pain.

  • CDC will imminently, radically cut everyone’s opioid dose

  • Health insurers will oblige, and incidentally show increased profit to shareholders

  • Suicide increases with untreated pain

  • Death rates for “whites ages 25 to 34 was five times its level in 1999”

  • This age group has more injuries from work and play that can lead to disability, job loss

  • Insurance is unaffordable or not purchased by many young adults

  • My own colleagues cannot afford high deductibles – prescriptions are now counted in deductibles, now unaffordable

  • Can you afford $20,000 per month for your opioid or is cheap heroin more affordable? Can you afford your usual drugs on Medicare once you are in the “donut hole.” Can you afford $28 per day, $840 per month for gout, when colchicine was 12 cents a day a couple years ago?

    • Do insurance denials increase liklihood of cheaper alternatives such as heroin or illegal marijuana resulting in death by drug dealer?

    • Do exhorbitant costs of opioids lead insurers to deny your medication?

  • Insurers have refused to pay for abuse-deterrent and tamper-resistant formulations of opioids

  •  Insurers have refused to pay for proven, widely accepted, nonopioid analgesics:

    • Lyrica

    • Horizant

    • Gralise

    • Cymbalta

    • Does it help the DEA and NIH and universities to teach those as nonopioid alternatives when they are not covered and not affordable the rest of your life?

    • Insurers deny every known compounded analgesic though low cost and effective, even for Tricare’s disabled veterans, even 5% lidocaine ointment for nerve pain, dextromethorphan, oxytocin, low dose naltrexone – Stanford published research on naltrexone years ago and now doing research on it again for CRPS, many many others

    • Insurers deny proven analgesics that are used by armed forces, university hospitals, select doctors, for life threatening pain: ketamine

    • Insurers deny off-label analgesics that may work better than opioids, e.g. memantine, an Alzheimers drug – can relieve intractable nerve pain (French publication on CRPS/RSD pain)

    • Insurers deny medications that reduce side effects of opioids, e.g. nonaddicting modafinil popular with students, to increase alertness when opioids cause drowsiness that may cause injury, death – gosh 10 years ago!

    • Is drowsiness the cause of some of those 18,000 opioid deaths?

  • Health insurers have refused coverage for treatments such as P.T., psychotherapy for coping skills, blocks.

  • Insurers deny medications that relieve the withering side effects of opioid withdrawal, making it impossible for many to taper off, e.g. Adderall, Wellbutrin (dopamine)

  • Cannabis, a nonopioid, classified by US Congress as Schedule I, illegal federally for human use, illegal to take on a plane or cross state/national borders, found on meteorites, made by sponges and some of the earliest living species on the planet, used for thousands of years for pain, while cocaine and methamphetamine are classified as Schedule II for prescription purposes.

  • Opioids, even vicodin, require monthly doctor visits, costs, monthly for sixty years

  • Why whites dying of opioids? People of color are denied prescription opioids. Stark data published for decades.

  • Heroin is an opioid, cheap and available; its “unAmerican” – used in England for pain, used thousands of years for pain

  • Untreated pain is one reason people turn to heroin, affordable is another

  • Violence and drinking and taking drugs can begin with chronic pain and job loss, not always the other way around, chicken egg

  • Opioids cost pennies to make, patient’s cost is $20,000 per month for Rx. Insurers paid what the market would bear… in the old days. Who is trapped in the middle of this fight for shareholder profit?

    • How many of us would take 2 or 4 extra pain pills when pain spikes to extreme for days?

    • If you are disabled, can you afford insurance or expensive prescription drugs?

  • “Poverty and stress, for example, are risk factors for misuse of prescription narcotics,” Dr. Hayward said.

  • When you are not getting enough sleep and rest, working too many hours overtime or 3 jobs, inflammation and pain spikes

  • Misuse of opioids in > 33% (perhaps 48%?) of cancer patients at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in high resource settings when insurance was better, published 1990’s.

  • Cancer pain – usually time limited. Intractable chronic pain – forever.
    .How many jobs will be lost and how many suicides when CDC imminently imposes strict cuts in opioids?

  •  DEA recently requires every pain patient taking opioids, including those with cancer, to be diagnosed “Opioid Dependent” — not only addicts – the same diagnosis for pain patients includes addicts. The term “addiction” has been equated to dependence by most psychiatrist over the past 30 years. It may be interesting to see what criteria are used to define “addiction” if any, in DSM V. Some important members acknowledge that the addition of dependence into addiction in DSM-III was a mistake….the DSM-V criteria will get rid of “abuse”, and will include craving. it will also apparently eliminate the legal/criminal criteria. DSM comments are extracted from here, with many good arguments on this epidemic, such as: “The US is leading the way in eradicating pain, but in doing so has created an unwanted byproduct: painkiller addiction.”

    What would you want if you had intense chronic pain?


    “For too many, and especially for too many women,” she said, “they are not in stable relationships, they don’t have jobs, they have children they can’t feed and clothe, and they have no support network.”

    “It’s not medical care, it’s life,” she said. “There are people whose lives are so hard they break.”




Opioids kill – or is it untreated pain?


Pain kills, a maleficent force.

No one can help you. Only you have the tools to do it


Alarms went off for me on radical opioid cuts in October and I posted when

DEA suddenly held conferences across the nation on sharply cutting opioid doses.


How many of us especially seniors and male persons refuse to learn or use coping skills that

reduce pain without medication?

How many of us refuse to diet and lose weight to reduce pain and/or disability?

Politicians are sued if they tax sales of sugar loaded soft drinks.

One single can of soda per day exceeds acceptable sugar limits for entire day.

Snacks need to say much much time it takes to burn off fat –

quarter of large pizza 449 calories, walk off 1 hr 23 min;

large coke 140 calories, walk off 30 minutes.

Foods can be anti-inflammatory or pro-inflammatory.


Obesity is pro-inflammatory.

So is lack of sleep.

People who sleep with animals in their bed and their bedroom, I’m talking to you.


Yes, pain is in your mind.

Chronic back pain is no longer in the back, it’s in the brain, the pain matrix.

It’s behavior, not just pills. Pain is an emotional and psychosocial  and spiritual experience.

Work on it! Constantly.

Lord forbid we should teach stress reduction and meditation in grade school

and improve school lunches before kids start looking for heroin for pain.

Yes, kids have chronic pain, are sleep deprived, often obese.


Isn’t this all un-American?

Injuries, pain, habits, pace activities, learn to avoid and treat pain – start young.

Taxpayers end up paying for ignorance and disability.


I will soon be posting published research that documents health insurers have refused to pay for nonopioid treatment and how health care policy aimed at all people with chronic pain leads to suicide when drastic cuts are made to opioid doses – Washington State we are looking at you. Florida you’ve made headlines and 60 Minutes TV specials years ago.


Do please comment below if your health insurer has refused medication, physical therapy, psycho-therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, stress reduction, for chronic pain.


How many of you have been denied social security disability by doctors who don’t know how to diagnose RSD, Complex Regional Pain Syndrome? Let me know. I will pass on that data to researchers collecting information on untreated pain.


I have written many times on these pages, and more often than ever these past years as insurers cut back more and more. This will rapidly get worse. We need your data.


Please send in your stories. You are not alone.


So many issues. Steven Passik, PhD, was interview by Lynn Webster, MD – emphasis in bold is mine. Dr. Passik pioneered in management of chronic pain and pain in addicts. He has read some of Dr. Webster’s book. “You’re calling, the need for love and connection and all those things in the book, I’ve been – what’s largely lacking is outright, at times animosity towards people with pain and I think there’s a lot of projections sometimes because the therapy – the stigmatized disease – treated in stigmatized people with stigmatized drugs and interventions and so, it’s like a hat trick of stigma.  I’ve been to my share of pain conferences lately that people are really talking about, “Okay, well there’s come a realization that opioid-only, drug-only therapy, is really not going to work to the best majority of this population.  It doesn’t [mean] that opioids should be ignored and we’ll get into that later, but that they’re going to work in isolation and should never been expected to.  And then they start advocating things that are a lot like supportive and cognitive behavioral therapy and to be practiced basically by the primary care physician or the pain doctor.  And the idea that, to me that’s in a way comical because as a psychologist myself, we’re dealing with the system wherein cognitive behavioral therapists can’t even get paid to do cognitive behavioral therapy.  And so, I think something’s got to give, and I think one of the main obstacle is that – and this really gets into the next question as well but I’ll come back to that more specifically – but when people have a set of whatever chronic condition that involves psychiatric motivational, lifestyle, spiritual as well as nociceptive elements, and we put a premium only on what you do to people, prescribed to people, put in people, take out of people, and then that’s only going to relegate the other kinds of treatment or the other kinds of ways in which a caring physician and treatment team would spend time with the patient to the very poorly reimbursed category.  You’ll always going to have a problem with people being treated with the kind of respect that should go along with treating that kind of an illness and it’s not unique even to chronic pain.  I’ve seen treatment scenarios with people who are taking care of people with pancreatic cancer, have an afternoon clinic that has 45 people in it.  I mean how you – something’s got to give in our healthcare systems and I do think that patients are going to have to stand up and say, “I don’t want to be on a conveyor belt.  I want to spend some time and make a connection with the people that are taking care of me and it’s not just about the piece paper in my hands, for a prescription or that I walk out the door with.”


Clematis Blue.

 The New York Times article further says:


…This is the smallest proportional and absolute gap in mortality between blacks and whites at these ages for more than a century,” Dr. Skinner said. If the past decade’s trends continue, even without any further progress in AIDS mortality, rates for blacks and whites will be equal in nine years, he said….


…Not many young people die of any cause. In 2014, there were about 29,000 deaths out of a population of about 25 million whites in the 25-to-34 age group. That number had steadily increased since 2004, rising by about 5,500 — about 24 percent — while the population of the group as a whole rose only 5 percent. In 2004, there were 2,888 deaths from overdoses in that group; in 2014, the number totaled 7,558….


…For young non-Hispanic whites, the death rate from accidental poisoning — which is mostly drug overdoses — rose to 30 per 100,000 from six over the years 1999 to 2014, and the suicide rate rose to 19.5 per 100,000 from 15, the Times analysis found….


…For non-Hispanic whites ages 35 to 44, the accidental poisoning rate rose to 29.9 from 9.6 in that period. And for non-Hispanic whites ages 45 to 54 — the group studied by Dr. Case and Dr. Deaton — the poisoning rate rose to 29.9 per 100,000 from 6.7 and the suicide rate rose to 26 per 100,000 from 16, the Times analysis found….


…Eileen Crimmins, a professor of gerontology at the University of Southern California, said the causes of death in these younger people were largely social — “violence and drinking and taking drugs.” Her research shows that social problems are concentrated in the lower education group.


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It is not a substitute for medical advice,

diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified health care provider.

Relevant comments are welcome.

If any questions, please call the office to schedule an appointment.

This site is not email for personal questions.


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Be the change you wish to see – or walk away. Money at NIH



A Turning Point


$$$$$ MONEY $$$$$


at NIH


May not come this way again


NIH developing

5-year NIH-wide Strategic Plan




Donate to organizations, below

They can provide feedback to NIH via the

RFI Submission site




John C. Liebeskind, 1935 – 1997, distinguished scholar and researcher, past president of the American Pain Society, had the radical idea that pain can affect your health.


Research decades ago by an Israeli team at UCLA and others had shown “that pain can accelerate the growth of tumors and increase mortality after tumor challenge.” Decades ago Professor Liebeskind lectured all over the country: Pain kills.


He wrote an editorial in 1991, summarizing a life’s work:


“Pain and stress can inhibit immune function.”



Quoting John Bonica, the father of modern pain management, he wrote:


“Bonica has long argued that the term ‘chronic benign pain’ (used in distinction to pain associated with cancer) is seriously misleading.  Chronic pain is never benign, he contends; “it is a ‘malefic force’ that can devastate its victims’ lives and even lead to suicide.”



Liebeskind continues, “It appears that the dictum ‘pain does not kill,’ sometimes invoked to justify ignoring pain complaints, may be dangerously wrong.”


Pain mediates immune function




  Opioids mediate the suppressive effect of stress on natural killer cells,


 published in 1984, immune system.


Alcohol increases tumor progression, 1992, immune system.


It used to be news.

He did not live to see change.


People just want to go on doing what they’re doing.

They want business as usual.



After 1991, we saw the great discoveries of neuroinflammation, pioneered by Linda Watkins, PhD, the early understanding of the innate immune system, its involvement in chronic pain and depression, and a few weeks ago, a British team showed neuroinflammation in teens with early signs of schizophrenia and DNA markers.



Major Depression has the same neuro-inflammation found in chronic pain, often responding to same medications, in particular glial modulators – immune modulators. Now, perhaps early schizophrenia will respond to glial modulators, reducing inflammation seen on scan in teens, before they become homeless and burned out by antipsychotic drugs


Inflammation out of control destroys neurons


Fire on the brain



We must be the change we wish to see


It’s not just the Bern. It’s been starting. Forces are finally coming together. We want change. It’s been too much. Too long.


We won’t take it anymore.


I figure if I tell you about it, you might just mention it to someone to pass it on. That is all. One small action may lead to change. Activate inputs to the NIH strategic plan.



~ Action needed ~


Prices of drugs becoming unaffordable

No new drugs for pain or major depression

Research to repurpose existing drugs

Expose the politics destroying our compounding pharmacies


Above all

The #1

Major Priority:

Request NIH to solicit priority call for research on

Glial modulators of the

Innate immune system





Glia modulate

chronic pain, major depression

and almost every known disease


Glia are your innate immune system


Inflammation kills




 Stress kills. Inflammation kills.



Pain kills


In the 1970’s, Professor Liebeskind and an Israeli team at UCLA injected cancer cells to two groups of rats that had sham surgery. Cancer spread much faster and killed far sooner in the group with poor treatment of surgical pain.



~ Pain kills ~


He lectured all over the country


Forty five years ago



I’m gonna be dead before I see this country do anything but unaffordable opioids and the magical ineffective trio of gabapentin, Lyrica, Cymbalta to treat chronic pain. The devastating, blind, nationwide emphasis does nothing to address the cause: inflammation, the innate immune system gone wild.



Innate immune system in action


Untreated pain suppresses the hormone systems too.


Untreated depression – same inflammation kills lives.


Where’s the money?


We are the change we wish to see. It’s pitiful I am so lazy. Suddenly, too late, we may need something, but, aha, no new drugs in the pipeline.




~ Make a joyful cry to NIH ~


They are soliciting input from professional societies


If your condition has failed all known drugs for pain or major depression, then make a joyful cry to NIH, now, before they give away all that nice new $$$$$money$$$$$.



Follow and join


American Pain Society



International Association for Pain

celebrating 40 years of pain research



Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome Association

help for CRPS/RSD  




The key to CRPS/RSD pain will apply to all forms of chronic pain, in particular the most difficult form, neuropathic pain. RSDSA funds research into all forms of chronic pain, not only Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS/RSD). Their scientific board members are not funded by opioid money.





what is the annual cost of care

as fraction of GDP

for the growing population of Americans on opioids

for one year, for lifetime?



People are dying from prescription opioids and those who need them find they don’t work well enough. Prescriptions opioid costs must be a huge fraction of the medical costs in the United States GDP. You are required  to see a doctor every single month each year, often lifelong, just for one opioid, 12 months a year x 30 years x tens of millions of people and increasing – a growth industry. Not even counting $600 a day for the opioid, what the cost of monthly visits for 30 years? Not counting the army of DEA, FDA, CDC agents watching the opioids like a hawk. We all have to be sharp, addiction is growing. Addiction aside, deaths from prescription opioids are shaking up the CDC forcing urgent change this coming month.




Opioids do not work well for chronic pain

We need better

It’s not just the $600/day price

They just don’t work






Raise a joyful noise at NIH now or write back at us readers with comments and better suggestions. Tell others what you’d like to see. Which politicians do you know would be most interested in this at national levels and organizations?


You may never see this change unless you do it now. Other forces will get this new money.



Turning point now

May not return



We are at a turning point and we will fail to catch the sail that’s coming fast to carry all research money in their shiny big stem cell direction. They never look back.



There is so many medications we can use today, FDA approved drugs that can be re-purposed and applied to recent cutting edge science. Someone must pay to do the work to study this.



Re-purpose old drugs



Stanford just showed a popular generic drug improved recovery of stroke paralysis in mice to begin at 3 days rather than 30. Old drug, new purpose, of course more years of testing to confirm in humans. Brilliant team applying new science.



NIH to solicit a

Special Invitation

for 30 good protocols to

repurpose old drugs



Hundreds of old drugs, already approved, could be involved in mechanisms we have recently learned about. Speak up or money will go to shiny new stem cells. None for chronic pain or major depression. No company will find this profitable – it must be funded by NIH. A popular generic sleeping pill can bring astonishing return from stroke paralysis.



Congress has not opened this new money to NIH in many long years. How often will there be extra money?






Lawrence A. Tabak, D.D.S., Ph.D.
Principal Deputy Director, NIH, solicits you to

Review the NIH Strategic Initiative Plan and their

Request for Information (RFI) and the NIH website

and provide your feedback via the RFI Submission site



This is for “stakeholder organizations (e.g., patient advocacy groups, professional societies) to submit a single response reflective of the views of the organization/membership as a whole. We also will be hosting webinars to gather additional input. These webinars will be held in early to mid-August.




Be the change you wish to see

Donate to those organizations

to solicit the change you wish to be




Happy New Year


There’s money at NIH







The material on this site is for informational purposes only.

It is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified health care provider.

Relevant comments are welcome.

If any questions, please schedule an appointment with my office.

This site is not for email.


For My Home Page, click here:  Welcome to my Weblog on Pain Management!





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