Tuesday, January 19, 2010

the lortab cycle continues to spin

Today I am angry. And utterly disgusted with humanity.

This morning my husband learned that a woman in her 60's, whom he supervises at work, had her Nashville home broken into. The intruder demanded Oxycontin at gunpoint. She told him that she didn't have any, but when he searched her purse he found three, yes, count that, three Lortab pills. He proceeded to beat her over the head with his gun, then took one of her kitchen knives and stabbed her through the hand for lying to him. The news story is incomplete, but here's the link:


She was recovering in the hospital and planned to return to work next week, when she suddenly suffered a heart attack. She is now preparing for cardiac surgery.

And if that isn't bad enough, the plot thickens. A health clinic recently opened in the neighborhood where my husband works. They must be handing out narcotics like candy, because groups of downwardly mobile people often come into his store and line up for the pharmacy to get their prescriptions filled. If the wait is too long, they'll stuff merchandise into their pockets to pass the time. My husband, who is security manager of said store, does his job and arrests these shoplifters/narc heads.

The pharmacist there, however, does not want these addicts brought to justice.

He recently pulled my husband aside. "Why do you need to arrest these people for shoplifting?," he asked. "They're good customers for us. We make a lot of money off of them on narcotics. Can't you just frisk them as they're leaving the store?"

I guess ethics in the medical profession is heading out the door.

First of all, the money that the pharmacy is making off of selling the drugs is our money. Most of those prescriptions are paid for with TennCare, which is the public aid form of health insurance in Tennessee. Essentially it is us, the taxpayers, who are footing the bill for the growing dependency on pain medicine.

Secondly, our doctors that so liberally prescribe Lortab and other similar pain medicines are fueling drug habits that are resulting in wasted lives, crime, and death. I'm not sure they always stop to consider this when they're casually scribbling away on script pads just to get patients out the door. They need to. The Nashville City Paper reported in December that "if the country is experiencing an epidemic, Tennessee is a veritable hotbed — with its own startling stats. That’s because the Volunteer State historically issues more prescriptions than any other; it was ranked No. 1 in a 2007 Novartis Pharmacy report on prescriptions per capita, with a rate 1.5 times the national norm. It follows that Tennessee, then, would boast a pharmaceutical drug overdose rate 26 percent higher than the national average."


It is high time for the medical profession to consider the implications of how they handle complaints of pain. In nursing school we were taught that pain is a subjective experience and must therefore be believed. I learned as a nurse in the ER that this is not always the case. People lie and exaggerate to get what they want from the system. It took years for this fact to break through my naive mind.

The medical profession needs to jump off the bandwagon of loose and casual narcotic-prescribing before more lives are unnecessarily destroyed and lost forever. If this doesn't happen soon, the pain we feel as a society is going to trump anything that a bad back could ever inflict.



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