Opioid Denial: My Own Harrowing Experience

Opioid Denial: My Own Harrowing Experience


Talk about irony. Who could have possibly known that one week after my New York Post op ed warned that our new, deeply flawed strategy to combat the opioid overdose epidemic would end up harming innocent patients, that I would become one of them?

I have asthma, and it can get pretty bad, especially following an upper respiratory infection, which I contracted a month ago. This time it was really bad, which means exactly one thing: prednisone, the go-to drug for serious asthma. But it’s not fun to take, and not all that safe either. Recently I explained why (see: Prednisone:Satan’s Little Helper). Prednisone carries with it an astounding array of side effects, one of which is dangerously high blood pressure. After three weeks on the drug, my normally-textbook readings hit 190/90. You bet I was scared. Still am.

And if there’s one thing that asthmatics know it’s that coughing is bad news. The coughing exacerbates the asthma, which in turn causes more coughing, forming a very unhealthy cycle. And guess what else coughing does?

It raises your blood pressure. 

Fortunately, coughing can be controlled, and I ended up with a bottle of vile but effective syrup that contained codeine, an opioid. Opioids are known cough suppressants, and it worked quite well. Until it ran out before the cough did. What follows may be difficult to believe, but it was all too real. 

Both my pulmonologist and GP were away, and were unable to refill the prescription because of new procedures that are required for prescribing controlled substances (1). No one in either office would or could do so. I even tried a very good friend—one I’ve known for 20 years, who is a physician at a New York Hospital. He’s called in prescriptions for me from time to time. Not this time. He could only do this for patients who had medical records on file at his hospital, and suggested a walk-in clinic.

This is where things got really crazy. 

I was able to manage the cough for a few days after the syrup ran out with Vicodin, (hydrocodone) which is considerably stronger than codeine. I hate it, but it worked. If you’re asking “where did he get the Vicodin?” that’s easy: leftovers from old dental procedures. No—I did not turn them in like the DEA wants you to, because you could see this coming a mile away. More accurately, three years ago. In 2013 The Post published my first op ed on the topic, which warned about the consequences of the escalating opioid crackdown  (see: New painful casualties of the drug war). 

The physician at the walk-in clinic was competent and caring, but not allowed to write prescriptions for any controlled substances. Alice in Wonderland. She gave me a prescription for something else. Maybe it will work, maybe it won’t. Damn good thing I kept the Vicodin, no?

Let’s summarize and see if there is even one iota of logic here:

1. I am ill, already on a dangerous drug that has raised my blood pressure to a high enough level to cause a heart attack or a stroke.

2. Coughing makes it worse. 

3. Instead of using a weaker opioid (codeine) cough syrup, I was forced to use a stronger one leftover from years back. You might want to think about that on the next “drug give-back day.”

4. This took place in the middle of New York City, where you can get top notch health care. Or at least you could, until the CDC stuck its incompetent nose into your personal life, scaring the hell out of doctors, and tying their hands as physicians. This has already caused immense harm to people who legitimately need powerful medicines, but can no longer obtain them because of the abuse by others (1).

5. I would like to stay alive long enough to get well. Better not cough. 

6. This could be you some day. Coughing yourself to death because of a ill-conceived, simplistic, and barbaric policy that won’t even do what it was clumsily intended to. I Think I’ll hang onto those pills a little while longer. 


(1) These vary from state to state. New York requires electronic filing.

(2) The CDC regulations are completely misguided, and will do essentially nothing to curb addiction, since the overwhelming majority of people who become addicted become so by using opioids recreationally, not therapeutically. Sorry, it is wrong to say that the restrictions have done nothing. They have driven addicts from pills to heroin and fentanyl, and they are dying in record numbers. Nice job. 


11 Responses

  1. It is another PENNHURST SCENARIO again,,,led by a shrink!!!!maryw

  2. Unfortunately the DEA and CDC are also pushing legitimate patients who no longer have access to legally prescribed medications to the streets for relief. Just another government sponsored action to create a hysteria based on false documentation and poor scientific research that has ended up causing more harm than good, GO FIGURE.

  3. Today
    Medicaid refused to fill an rx for a patient I just recently saw.
    Said there is a black box warning on the combination of meds she is on.

    Her Doctor, Carlos Sullivan
    Died recently and suddenly.
    I have seen her to save her from withdrawal

    There is a black box warning against use of opiates and benzodiazepines
    There is no evidence for this,
    Other than the fact that people who die of OD often have mixed meds in their systems

    In the actual pain patient,
    The rx of the combination actually facilitates lower doses of each. This patient is likely an ultra rapid metabolizer of opiates,
    Because Dr Sullivan took care of her for years, she had been oblivious to the sea change in prescription policies.

    The fact that I can no longer make independent decisions for the well being of patients is something that I find
    Morally and ethically reprehensible:

    I now operate with huge responsibility
    Diminishing authority to do the right thing for each individual patient.

    When agencies interpret warnings as evidence,
    It is a very blunt instrument,
    People are harmed.

    I predict another suicide.

    One of many…

    • jmo,, as a chronic pain person for 20 years,,,,i can say,,99%%% of us don’t want to be dead via a suicide,,,,we just want our physical pain lessen’d or stop,,,,soo when its taken away from us,,,we choose death to stop our physical pain,,,,,we want to live,,,,,,but we just don’t want to live in physical pain all the time,,,,no normal humanbeing would,,,,give us our meds back to effective dosage,,,,no more suicides,,,jmo,,mary

  4. My doctor writes three prescriptions with fill dates on each one. She just started doing this because it is so difficult to get out in the winter between snow and SEVERE cold. I was pleasantly surprised by her willingness to do this! If you look at the list of things that the Nazis made as how to destroy the United States you will see that this taking away of pain meds as well as pushing psychiatry are on it! What the CDC and their cronies are doing to us is wrong on so many levels! I was also pleasantly surprised when knowing that I would be out of state on my refill date I was able to get the insurance,doctor and pharmacist to allow my prescription to be filled 3days early! In the past I just filled them out of state but when I checked into doing that because of all I’ve heard about the difficulty in filling pain meds filled in some areas I found that I wouldn’t be allowed to fill them. Every once in a while you can still find decent people!

  5. For alllll medicines,,ie,,our kind of meds????mary

  6. Thank u again Steve for bringing this issue to the forefront..As u know this was me,,2 weeks ago…Anyone ever hear of a 30 day prescription every 31 days????Neither does/did my doctor ONCE i actually got to talk w/him.See there is this very very mean nurse who has tried 3 times so far w/ out right lies to get me kicked out of painmanagement after 20 years!!!!.and she tried again 2 weeks ago,,,by claiming I was filling my scripts ever 29 days,,a lie,,and this last script was at the 30 day mark,,NOT,, the 31 day mark,,Soo I called my doc,,,This is gonna be long folks,,,
    Let me start at the beginning,,,the friday before my script was due,,I called my pharmacist of 20 years,,said a blizzard was comming in,,and my due date is Sunday,,ie 30 days,,soo Craig will be in to pic it up on Sat…She calls me back and saids no,,,can’t do it,,,said your fill date is monday,,ie 31 days,,and this bitch nurse put on there do not fill till December 12th,,,which is 31,,not 30,,Soooo,, fed up,, I called my Doctors office,,left a message that Kathy was at it again,and couldn’t count,,and ruining my good name by putting on that script do not fill,,,,She calls me back monday,,screaming at me 11/12 thru 12/12,,is 30 days!!!!!!NOOOOOOOOOO,,,,its not,,,count it out on a stinking ACTUAL calendar dahhhhhhhhhhh,,,I said screw it,let me talk to my doctor now,,,He gets on the phone w/her listening,,and I tell him she is at it again,,filling my scripts every 31 days for a 30 day scripts,,,he replies,,,that doesn’t make sense,,,She buds in on our private call again screaming 11/12 thru 12/12 is 30 days,,and u’ve been fillen your scripts at the 29 day mark,,,THAT A LIE kATHY!!!,,SOOOO,, now i am terrified,scare’d and pist-off…Once again this bitch of a nurse is going off of thee computer print outs,,not a actual calendar!!!The scarey part was my pharmacist did the same thing at first..Soo i sat down w/all my print outs,receipts[save your bottles folks,] and went thru all my scripts for 1 year,,,ON A ACTUIAL CALENDAR,,,Every single month this bItch was late ,,1 day,5 days,,,no wonder why it feels like I am constantly STRECHEN my scripts,,,w/my medical issue’s,IE. puking up my meds on occasion etc…Which as Steve pointed out,,,if your puking,,that is exactly why u fill a 30 day script at the 30 day mark!!!This bitch was solely going off the computer print out only,,Which does not take into account,,your actual start date 10 years ago,,it does not reflect odd monthS,,IT DOES NOT REFLECT THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A ACTUAL FILLING OF YOUR SCRIPT AND WHEN U pic it up,,,it does not reflect the day my home burned to the ground w/everyhting we own except the shirt on our backs at 9 below zero &all my medicine in it..Doesn’t reflex the 3 am puking time,,,The computer print out does not count properly thus not thee correct days in-between scripts,nor does it reflex the humanbeing behind the medicine..Steve was 1000%% corrrect,,when he told me,,,a 30 day scripts is filled EVERY 30 DAYS SO THE PATIENT IS NOT HARMED!!!,,Furthermore Styeve also rightly stated,,it is discrimination towards us pain people,,no other script in the world would of ever been filled at the 31 day mark,,,I had to set-up a appointment w/my pain doc for thee 11th to straiten this mess out..Drive 300 miles round trip,,,on top
    of my forced 90 day appointment because a opiate phob nurse,,a psycho nurse who has it out for a patient who has pancreatitis,scarred lung tissue from a chest tube being placed w/pancreatitis,scarred lower left chamber of heart,from undiagnosed pancreatitis for 20 years,and diaphram muscle they do not know how its working,, ohh and now getting tested for diabetes from alll the scarring from miss pancreatitis,gallblader soo full of stones it was all calcified,,point being,,a patient who medically needs her medicine to survive!!!!SICKEING,,,mary

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