Late Night: Sister Morphine

The War on Drugs is not just in America. Around the world, people are dying in pain because doctors won't prescribe pain medication. Why? The War on Drugs. Narcotics have become the equivalent of a dirty word.

Like millions of others in the world’s poorest countries, she is destined to die in pain. She cannot get the drug she needs — one that is cheap, effective, perfectly legal for medical uses under treaties signed by virtually every country, made in large quantities, and has been around since Hippocrates praised its source, the opium poppy. She cannot get morphine.

That is not merely because of her poverty, or that of Sierra Leone. Narcotics incite fear: doctors fear addicting patients, and law enforcement officials fear drug crime. Often, the government elite who can afford medicine for themselves are indifferent to the sufferings of the poor.

If someone is dying in pain, addiction is the last thing they care about or we should be concerned about. Opium, heroin and morphine are not dirty words. They relieve pain. They should be readily available to those who need them.


The World Health Organization estimates that 4.8 million people a year with moderate to severe cancer pain receive no appropriate treatment. Nor do another 1.4 million with late-stage AIDS. For other causes of lingering pain — burns, car accidents, gunshots, diabetic nerve damage, sickle-cell disease and so on — it issues no estimates but believes that millions go untreated.

....At pain conferences, doctors from Africa describe patients whose pain is so bad that they have chosen other remedies: hanging themselves or throwing themselves in front of trucks.

There is no shortage of opium, the key ingredient in morphine.

Poppies are grown for heroin, of course, in Afghanistan and elsewhere. But vast fields for morphine and codeine are also grown in India, Turkey, France, Australia and other countries.

As long as Governments bust doctors they believe over-prescribe the drug and people buy into the negative portrayal of the drugs as only used for illicit purposes, people will continue to die in pain.

That's a sad commentary on a supposedly civilized world.

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    The war on drugs. What a pain... (none / 0) (#1)
    by aahpat on Mon Sep 10, 2007 at 07:44:47 AM EST
    The drug war, today, is global only because the U.S. has shoved it down the world's throat. We have done internationally what William Bennett promised to do in America when he was drug czar, make drug war policy a major part of every issue and policy controlled by the government. Many right-wingers get bugged at me because I can relate drug war policy to most government related issues but this is simply because Bill Bennett imposed this reality.

    Globally, the issue comes down to the U.S. congress intransigent prohibition against democratic institutions of regulation, licensing and taxation to solve the public health problems posed by addiction.

    Last month the Washington Post ran a cogent Op/Ed, 'The Lost War', by  Glenny, a former BBC reporter, about the national security problems caused by the drug war. One vital observation tucked deep in the article said it all.

    "The trade in illegal narcotics begets violence, poverty and tragedy.  And wherever I went around the world, gangsters, cops, victims, academics and politicians delivered the same message: The war on drugs is the underlying cause of the misery.  Everywhere, that is, except Washington, where a powerful bipartisan consensus has turned the issue into a political third rail."

    This insanity originates in Washington, D.C. on Capital Hill. This war is not maintained to protect the American people from drug addiction or crime. It is for the purpose of imposing a Jim Crow system that keeps white and white pandering politicians and the two party system in control of America.

    About 8 years ago I shared an email correspondence with a Colorado state prosecutor who was torn up because the DEA was pushing him to prosecute terminal care physicians under state law so that the Feds would not be as clearly seen as the progenitors of the policy to go after pain doctors. That prosecutor resigned rather than do the dirty work of the feds.

    The ultimate irony is that for the first ten years of the drug war, the first years that William Rehnquist was on the court, he was addicted to pain killers. According the Smoke And Mirrors a book by Dan Baum a former Wall Street Journal reporter, Rehnquist was also the White House staff attorney who was tasked to pass on the constitutionality of the Controlled Substances Act as it was prepared for submission to congress. Pain med addict Rehnquist, who worked to prevent minority voters from voting in the 1950's, was put onto the Supreme Court where he spent the rest of his life  rubber stamping his own handy work as a White House lawyer.

    "[President Nixon] emphasized that you have to face the fact that the whole problem is really the blacks. The key is to devise a system that recognizes this while not appearing to." H.R. Haldeman's diaries.

    The drug war was then and still is today that Jim Crow "system". Terminal and chronic pain be damned. Well financed terrorism and gangsterism is accepted collateral damage. Jim Crow is all that matters.

    The war on drugs is but one part... (none / 0) (#2)
    by Dadler on Mon Sep 10, 2007 at 12:28:24 PM EST
    ...of the pain management fiasco.  The biggest shame is western medicine's rejection of psychosomatic medicine.  Western medicine fully accepts that stress and repression and anxiety can make an existing condition worse, but continue, for no reason other than our culture of pills and the absurd belief we are nothing but machines and every pain can be explained by citing a broken part.

    The brain can initiate pain, sometimes debilitating pain, for what it sees as protective purposes -- in order to distract the person from noxious unconcsious emotions and feelings.  I was poked and prodded by doctors for years, for pain that laid me low.  And they were useless in treating me because they rejected, for no rational reason, the correct diagnosis.  When Dr. John Sarno provided me that diagnosis, that the subconscious brain (the part of the brain that controls ALL the bodies vital systems BENEATH our consciousness) can initiate pain for what it perceives as protective purposes.  Simply learning the brain can do this cured me.  Completely.

    People should be a able to medicate themselves if the need to, but the definition of that need is being warped by the malpractice of a medical community that treats the most powerful organ in the body as if it's nonexistent.

    Psychosomatic medicine.  Look up its history, and how it fell out of favor.  Hint, it fell out of favor when popping pills became ouf substitute for real medicine, for treating the whole person, mind and body.

    The only dirty words..... (none / 0) (#3)
    by kdog on Mon Sep 10, 2007 at 01:31:30 PM EST
    I can think of when it comes to drugs are addiction, policemen, and law.