From the Chronic Pain Community: Shame on You, NBC Nightly News

From the Chronic Pain Community: Shame on You, NBC Nightly News

Friday night I watched the NBC Nightly News because most nights I do. While I don’t generally get wrapped up in “are the media telling the true story”, I know that media credibility is an important issue.

I have all sorts of thoughts on the “fake news” narrative from the Trump Administration. But those are comments for a different time.

(As a former television news director in Montana and in Los Angeles, I’m one of those media dinosaurs who believe that both sides of a story should be told)

So let this dinosaur roar.

As I watched NBC News Friday tell the tragic story on Los Angeles Angels pitcher, Tyler Skaggs… who died of an accidental overdose of fentanyl, opioids and alcohol, I was moved. I live in Los Angeles; Skaggs was a local kid who was a stud and star pitcher who died July 1st, tragically.

Friday, we found out why.

​He choked to death on his own vomit–an example of how young people do some stupid–and often-tragic things when they apparently combine alcohol, illegal fentanyl and opioids as Skaggs is reported to have done.

The Skaggs family was understandably crushed…and said they were “heartbroken to learn that the passing of our beloved Tyler was the result of a combination of dangerous drugs and alcohol. This is completely out of character”.

Fair enough. From all we’ve read, Skaggs was a great young man, who made a mistake–a fatal mistake.

At that point, the coverage seemed fair.

Then NBC pivoted and said that “The Skaggs family, like so many, is being affected by the opioid crisis,” apparently oblivious (or worse) to their own report that Skaggs died from a combination of fentanyl, opioids and alcohol.

And then NBC promoted “an exclusive report”…where NBC has “rare access” from the DEA to “unprecedented raids in Florida”.

NBC (riding along with the DEA) went to a pharmacist that was providing “opioids without a license.” Not sure what that had to do—with well anything—but I was curious.

It was essentially –as NBC breathlessly reported–a DEA “unprecedented and sweeping opioid raid”.

They arrested 290 people and have $3.3 million in assets and 600 pounds of illicit drugs.

Uh, Ok!

Guess what wasn’t reported?

If you’re a chronic patient, you already know.

NBC made the case—unspoken to be sure—that all opioid “takers” are addicts.

​This is another case of NBC—and all the networks and local media—conflating any “opioid case” with addiction and danger.

For the millions of people who use opioids to manage intractable chronic pain, this is an opportunity to tell the media, “WTF”.

So, let us know what you think…and know that I’m going to send the best of your comments to NBC News.a

17 Responses

  1. This is why I no longer watch mainstream news. They’re all owned by big corporations. Can you say fascism?

  2. The corporate media is full of alternative facts. They are complicit in every single death. it was no accident they conflated pain patients with addiction, as they continued to demonize the addicted. They have been misleading the public for 22 years. , The false narratives that the media perpetuated, to deliberately conflate illegal drugs with prescription medications was done deliberately. They had to hide the diversion of pharmaceuticals to the black market, as some of their most profitable advertisers benefited.

    The lies, ignorance and stigma the media is perpetrating is adding to the death toll. The death of a celebrity is a good opportunity for them to spread misinformation,and lies about pain medications and illicit drugs. It is 22 years since the Perdue opioid marketing campaign, and the media gave the corporations cover.

    This collusion between the 4th estate and the corporate profiteers is leading to more deaths. It is really like a criminal conspiracy. Sensationalizing the death of celebrity and misreporting the facts is a good attention getter. It is really no wonder that the suicide rate continues to rise and more senseless deaths like this are occurring.

  3. Medical providers must be trained to, DO NO HARM and to listen to and believe their patients. Period, that is it. I cannot understand how a renowned institution like the Mayo Clinic was bullied by the particular panel chosen by the CDC to write the guidelines. I was unimpressed by the backgrounds of each member of the 2016 panel. We must not let this happen to Chronic Pain patients ever again. The April update has done little to change anything for me or any patient that I know. I have now been diagnosed with CRPS. I wonder if I have had this all along or if the events of the past year pushed it along. I don’t feel the practitioners I have seen need more training. They need the government entities to now BACK OFF and let them get back in the business of helping Chronic Pain patients. There have always been pill mills to be dealt with. However, the DEA needs to go after the illicit heroin laced with fentanyl which actually caused the, ”Crisis” in the first place. And this one truth is still being held from the public. The CDC needs to tell the whole story with the truth about how many Chronic pain victims have been mistreated, including how many have died by their own hand. What was done to me and therefore my family will never be forgiven or forgotten. I intend to make it my life’s work to defend my right and the right of all Chronic Pain sufferers to be treated.

  4. I am a70yr old Chronic Pain Patient who has used opioids since 1998.
    I have several diseases including lung, muscle, bone and nerve diseases. I am not an addict, I am dependent on my pain medication the same way diabetics, heart patients and every patient with a chronic disease.

    The sad part about this whole tragedy is that our government failed to keep these fentanyl laced drugs out of our Country and off our streets
    Which is the real cause of these overdoses. The government, the media, continue to spread the false claims that were spread by the CDC. The CDC corrected their info at a later date but the damage had already been done. Than you have Dr. Andrew Kolodny, a psychiatrist, who wants his own drug okayed by the FDA, works with
    The CDC Board members who have lost family members to drug overdoses and… get and opioid crisis….

    Chronic Pain Patients are suffering & dying for doing nothing wrong, but the media, the CDC, the Government don’t give a crap. They are treating pain patients like addicts and addicts like victims. SAD

  5. I don’t know if this person was a true pain patient, or if he was trying to get high, but under the circumstances it seems to be the latter with everything he was mixing. Everybody knows that these medications are NEVER to be mixed with alcohol, not even a little bit because all it takes is one time, one drink, you never know what will happen. That being said, NBC has their focus in the wrong place. When will the media do their job and actually do some research? Interview doctors and patients alike. The media is the real opioid epidemic, not people who need these medications, like myself. If I did not have these medications I would be bedridden. Everyone is trying to break the stigma on mental illness, which is wonderful, but we need to break the stigma on treating severe chronic pain.

  6. Thank you for giving a voice! My Pain mngmt dr and I talk every single month and often a bit un-between if I updste herbon medicak stuff going on (for unstance 5 surgeries in the past mo, 2 this wk for Brain-Communicating Hydrocephalus and it is appalling how the DEA/Gov’t goes after drs and patients and legit Pharmacies and RARELY the true problems (street drugs).
    Thank you!

  7. I have been a pain management patient for almost 25 years now. At 35 years old, I was diagnosed with a herniated disc that was giving me a great deal of grief. It was “let go” for several months in hopes that it would return to normal. Let go, until I could no longer sleep, operate my small home building business or spend any quality time with our sons, both of whom were in high school, college soon to follow. My spouse and I had never thought of any other course for them but, to attend further education.. I was advised that “about” 70 percent less pain could be expected when it was determined that the vertebra disc was not going to return to normal and surgery was necessary. Long story short, about 3 years later, one discectomy which lead to a vertebra fusion surgery complete with plates, screws, and everlasting pain became a reality. Of course, I was put through fairly intense PT, steroid injections, infusions, and all the then, current remedies to curb the pain yet, I was placed into the failed surgery syndrome. I didn’t really care what you called it, I was in intense, constant, pain to the point my world was falling apart. Of course post surgery pain had been managed with opiate medication, but the reason I was advised to have surgery is to escape “permanent nerve damage” and relentless pain. So started the almost 25 years to a pain management specialist. I didn’t relish the thought of being a pain management patient the rest of my life but, I had to give our children a better way of life than what we had so, I went. I used opiate MEDICATION “way back then” in hopes that I would/could stop using it once I built my body back to full strength. I never dreamed that I would be 61 years old, decreased 80 percent daily dosage in the ONLY medication, therapy that relieved constant, severe, daily pain two years and eight months ago but, here I am. In January 2017, I was advised by my back, pain management specialist that I MUST be reduced 80 percent in medication and that was that. No argument, no appeal, no one to “plead” my success of use of opiate medication to, used for about 23 years. I have NEVER “diverted”, misused, or otherwise considered my personally tailored dosage of opiate medication as nothing but another “tool” in my home building arsenal. By the way, my younger brother overdosed on a cocktail of substances long ago and my father took his own life after all of medical sciences “gadgets” such as a spinal cord stimulator failed….. to adequately manage pain in mostly his feet from severe neuropathy. My Father, did not wish to use opiate medication after his second born son died of a “drug overdose”. I know BOTH sides of the “opioid” debate. I choose to be treated with a tailored for ME, adequate, dosage of opiate medication because that is what has worked WELL for me after all alternative therapy is STILLL failing. The one “maximum” dosage of medication for one and all is simply asinine!

  8. Yea nice. I don’t wish my chronic pain on anyone however I’d love for one of these nbc idiots to experience what I feel 24/7. I guarantee they would not be taking aspirin or Tylenol.

    • I agree wholeheartedly.Whenever someone complains of being bothered by “a little arthritis”, I am tempted to earn them about self fulfilling prophesies. Or tell them how much I miss that “little” discomfort. A month ago I had a 10 -day struggle with arthritis pain in my shoulders that was at least as severe as childbirth, but without the benefit. My movement was so limited for those 10 days that I lost so much muscle strength that I can’t lift a half gallon of milk.My pain docs listen to me, and keep up a scrip for an opiod, a small monthly refill, just got such attacks. Arthritis is not a “little” disease! Now I have to get another couple of joints replaced – which will bring about more pain management decisions. It won’t end till I die. I’ve never once abused opiods!

  9. Scaring people with false headlines and stories only do harm to the American people in pain. Plain & simple , this is done just to sell news. Shameful !!!

  10. So distressing. I have taken opiates for 2 decades and never had a problem. This medicine has saved my life from intractable chronic pain.

  11. It is shameful what “news” shows will do for ratings these days. Instead of being sympathetic to those of us who have a stake in these events, we are left
    Out altogether. Leaving others to assume we are part of the sensational cops and addicts story that they think their audience craves. Legitimate news outlets do not engage in such behavior. I’ll stick with public television.

  12. Every time a news outlet does a story like this on this false narrative that Grandma’s medicine cabinet is fueling a epidemic of overdose deaths they contribute to the deaths of legitimate pain patients. NBC let me please break some news to you that your own Grandma could tell you or in the very least verify. GRANDMA’S MEDICINE CABINET IS EMPTY and you will find Grandma bedridden in agony because no doctor will treat her pain. In part because of fake news stories like yours. Our Grandma’s are not fueling the opioid overdose epidemic but they are most certainly paying for it with their lives. Left in their beds with untreated or under treated pain they they are dying in droves because their tender hearts cannot bear the strain of untreated pain. Worst than that if Grandma has a good heart she has been killing herself in droves to escape the pain. Tell me why would a drug dealer rob Grandma’s medicine cabinet when a kilo of illicit fentanyl from China costs only 1400 dollars and has a street value of 1 million. Did you even bother to ask if Mr Skaggs had an illicit Chinese fentanyl analog in his system before you once again blamed it on Grandma? People like you make me happy that my Grandma has passed away. You see she spent a lifetime on a ranch in eastern Montana raising Black Angus beef and wore out her lower spine. When she finally moved to town when in her 90’s she needed to wear a fentanyl patch prescribed by a doctor to control her chronic pain. Now why would you want to take that away from my Grandma? Why are you trying to make Grandma’s suffer needlessly?
    NBC quit messing with our Grandma’s pain care which they deserve!

  13. I live in Oklahoma, evidently the sue happy state, this unprecedented lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson for supplying every person on earth with pain opiates is a crock. I am a chronic pain patient, 3 yrs ago my pain management doctors started taking/backing down patients from their medications. Making us feel accused of wrong doing/ or being accused of being drug addicts just by taking pain medications .
    First, no anxiety medications were allowed, I was forced 1 and 1/2 yrs ago to stop ativan cold turkey which turns out you can die from the withdrawals. Hummm,
    With no anxiety medications, the ride to doctor appointments had me in tears and my blood pressure was ridiculously high. Add the anxiety of the horrible attitude from the doctors was relentlessly horrific. Then I was forced to stop opiates cold turkey because of a missed appointment . Now that is some jam up health care. Now for a list of reasons for the needed medicines:
    1. Severe osteoporosis neg.4.4 in my spine- neg. 2.2 in my hips
    2. 9 kyphoplasties and vertaplastie
    3. Compound fracture attempting to heal, hasn’t happened in 3 yrs.
    4. Pyoderma gangrenosum (active)
    5. PTSD
    6. Diabetes
    7. Uvitis
    This list really sounds like NOT a chronic pain problem!!
    The manufacturers should NOT be sued and chronic pain patients definitely NOT be punished for what the few do.
    One more thing; I am 55 years old- I knew when i was a kid that if you take pain pills or alcohol- really anything you could get addicted to it. You cant tell me that these people did not know that was possible!! That is another crock.

  14. I also watched that report on baseball player Skaggs. It is a definite tragedy. What stuck out to me was that the drugs he took…..were NOT his & that he mixed those drugs with alcohol! #DeadlyCombination #Pilgrimages (meaning more than 1 substance! Not prescribed to him.
    I must have missed that it was illegal fentanyl & if that is true. My opinion would lean toward that being the nail in the coffin. Unfortunately, NBC & all media outlets are so focused on legal prescribed medication that they just ate NOT warning the public about the real culprit. The REAL danger of illegal drug use in America.
    As far as the DEA goes…… The story being told 290 folks arrested? Is that story really truth? It’s hard to believe in the media or the DEA at this point when we know that they arrest GOOD, Compassionate, Knowledgable, Smart, Doctors daily. Ones that we know have NOT tried to hurt their patients irresponsibly. It makes their arresting unbelievable especially, when they are discriminating against doctors & their vulnerable patients DAILY!!!! I explore NBC & other media to investigate the most recent arrest of Dr Bauer!!!!!! A 50 year physician!!! He is 80 years old! Are we to believe that all of a sudden he is a drug lord? How about Dr Linda Cheek who already served her sentence? How about Dr Smithers who has 5 children of his own as he sits in prison? Are we suppose to believe this family man was out to hurt patients, or prescribing irresponsibly? How about Dr Couch? How about Dr Tennant? How about Dr Arnold Feldman, an innovator in pain meficine? Doctors ate being warned by the DEA “You can either quit prescribing to the likes of these patients or risk arrest, indictment, seizure of all properties, clinics….all the contents of their clinics, fines in the amounts of $500,000, legal fees etc” DEA is raiding. Even the good doctors not just the bad eggs which is why at this point they are not trusted. Simultaneously, they raid the doctors home. Guns drawn on their wives & children!!!! Is this how a professional good doctor should be treated? How about their families? They are confiscating patient records & the patient no longer has access to important healthcare information. They are monitoring patient prescriptions & using private information to aarrest doctors who prescribe pain medication. CDC Guidelines of 2016 are NOT law but yet the DEA treats it as such. All the while nobody is monitoring them as the recklessly ruin the lives of I’ll patients & genuinely good doctors. So SHAMEFUL!
    Lastly, as a nurse of 21 years I can tell you there will ALWAYS be patients who suffer excruciating pain & require legal medication to achieve a Reasonable comfort level. Under NO circumstance should seriously hurting, suffering patients be left with no hope & no relief. There has been increased suicides due to immense pain by patients abandoned & /or forced to taper off decades long successful treatments for pain. Even if the doctor knew they were not addicts or abusing their prescribed pills, the doctors ate now too fearful to prescribe due to the overstepping of the DEA. Afraid of being arrested for simply treating their patients. This includes our veterans, our heroes, injured in combat. Since when does the DEA hold a medical degree or even meet ANY criteria in making patient/doctor healthcare decisions. We cannot put a blanket of limits forth that is suppose to work for every patient. DEA is not qualified in any shape or form to dictate health decisions. They belong in the streets. Pain pills are NOT the culprit and I pray for humanity that somebody eventually, sees what is happening to this vulnerable patient population & to the doctors who treat them

  15. I also watch NBC/N.Y more for the weather than news,because like “others” have said it is “FAKE NEWS” Until these numbnuts start acknowledging it is the Fentanyl and heroin coming through our border causing these over doses it will be the same “dance” Why is it called “opioids overdose?” There are many forms of “opioids” Saying it is “opioids” is trying to say it is prescription drug opioid that are causing over doses. And that is furthest from the truth. This “crisis” is a made up crisis on pain medication needed by over 100 million Chronic Pain Patients. I don’t know MLB stand on pain medication,but lets say this pitcher injured himself and didn’t want to tell the team. He couldn’t get the legal pain medicine from his team so he has someone get him “illegal” street drug. Same thing govt is making pain patients do. He thought he would be OK in the morning but he bought himself a “life sentence” because of our Govt putting their nose into a field they know. NOTHING about. The Government needs to be sued for these deaths and only then will this nonsense stop. R.I.P. Tyler

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