There are 16,000 opioid deaths per year in the United States and this is a distinctly American tragedy. Every do-gooder and their brother out of central casting, navy blue suit, white shirt, understated tie, American flag lapel pin, agrees we need to legislate the heck out of this problem. Even if their actions have more unintended negative effects than positive, they cannot stand to stand idly by; cannot stand the inactivity that might go along with the actual thinking and the formulation of a real complex response to a real complex public health problem. The need to do something and appease the angry and bereft families of the lost through government activity – even if it negatively impacts 70 million people with legitimate chronic pain – it’s in the news virtually every day. Rescheduling, state pain laws, state run databases, presidential candidates and politicians dictating medical practice while saying stupid, unproven trash about gateway drugs and heroin – commonplace.
There are 30,000 plus gun-related deaths per year in the United States and this, too is a distinctly American tragedy. And every pandering do-nothing straight out of central casting, navy blue suit, white shirt, understated tie, American flag lapel pin agrees we need to do nothing – that government activity is fruitless and will only hurt the legitimate gun owners and won’t affect criminals and bad guys. The fear of the National Rifle Association and its 5 million members leads to a complete stalemate as they stand idly by watching more and more innocent people get mowed down while they were doing nothing more than trying to better themselves and offer the angry and bereft families of the lost condolences, candlelight vigils, prayers, tears, and Fill-in-the-Blank Strong tee-shirts. Columbine Strong, Aurora Strong, Sandy Hook Strong, Charleston Strong, UMPQUA Strong……Illusions of strength and unity while we stand back meekly as our kids and neighbors are lambs to the slaughter.
There’s strength in numbers – sometimes. And I want to ask ourselves in the pain community – how can 5 million be a stronger political force than 70 million? Is it because the gun lobby and its followers are one issue voters and politicians know that if they misstep on a single utterance they will lose 5 million votes in a twitter second? Can we be? Can we hold politicians accountable for the generation of responsible pain legislation or send the message to lay off when they don’t know what they’re doing? Can we push for the equivalent of open carry of our opioids? Bumper stickers that read “I am a proud opioid user and I vote,” “keep your government hands off my Oxy,” or “My son is an honor student on narcs.”
If you are going to cause people with pain harm, here are some words to live by: Don’t just do something, stand there. Perspective is something required, so you stop doing things that are dumb.
For every granny doing the pharmacy crawl in Florida who can’t get her 3 hydrocodone per day for crippling arthritis because laws meant to protect those misusing opioids have negatively impacted her – I want to ask how did the Oregon shooter amass 13 guns, an assault rifle among them, while the army knew he was nuts, his neighbors knew he was nuts, his mother was equally nuts – because God forbid we stop him from having guns with laws against alienated losers getting guns as they might negatively affect the hunter next door.
And here is the strategy behind their Collective Bludgeoning: Never give an inch. Never.
Compromise = death.
Background checks? Forget about it. Bans on assault rifles? No way. Yet we in the pain community are subjected to a government response that is nothing less than the magnitude of suggesting a complete repeal of the second amendment to the gun toting community. Some people’s rights to gun ownership are trumping others’ rights to the pursuit of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. No response from Big Bother to the owners, dealers, makers. But Big Brother is all over our pain medications, doctors, drug companies. The right of some people for pain control is trampled on daily. The inequities of the government responses, driven only by political expedience is, in a word, unreal.
I am not arguing for anarchy in the opioid space. Two wrongs don’t make a right. But can we learn anything from their tactics? Are we being too reasonable? Are we too pilloried to wear our problems and their unpopular solutions openly? Should we force our politicians to learn what the right positions are and represent us and fight for us or we will throw the bums out? Do we not recognize when we are trying to collectively bargain we are being collectively bludgeoned when we concede ground. Any ground.