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US: As doctors taper or end opioid prescriptions, many patients driven to despair, suicide

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  • US: As doctors taper or end opioid prescriptions, many patients driven to despair, suicide


    As doctors taper or end opioid prescriptions, many patients driven to despair, suicide
    Elizabeth Llorente
    By Elizabeth Llorente | Fox News

    Treating America's Pain: Unintended Victims of the Opioid Crackdown, Part 1 ? The Suicides

    The national opioid crisis propelled a crackdown on prescription painkillers, causing hundreds of doctors to abruptly reduce or completely cut off their patients? prescriptions, leaving many among the estimated 20 million Americans who suffer from daily debilitating chronic pain to consider suicide. This is the story of the overlooked victims of America's opioid epidemic.

    This is the first of a three-part series on the nation's struggle to address a crippling opioid crisis, and the unintended victims left in its wake.

    It happened slowly. The pain caused by a 1980 back fracture, the result of a tractor-trailer crash, crippled more and more of Jay Lawrence?s body and spirit.

    By 2006, the Tennessee native and Navy veteran?s arms and legs were going numb. The excruciating pain reduced him to tears. Multiple surgeries, chiropractic adjustments, and physical therapy didn?t work.

    He finally found solace in prescription painkillers ? 120 milligrams a day of morphine. A high dose, but it dulled the pain enough for him to take walks with his wife, shop for groceries, even take in a few movies.

    But last February, the pain clinic doctor delivered jarring news: He was cutting Lawrence?s daily dosage, first to 90 milligrams then, in short stages, down to 30 milligrams. The doctor said the reduced dosage was in response to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) prescribing guidelines released in 2016 as part of a national anti-opioid push, according to Lawrence?s wife, Meredith.

    ?The doctor said: ?You know these guidelines are going to become a law eventually. So we've decided as a group that we're going to take all of our patients down,?? she told Fox News in an interview.

    Lawrence?s pain returned with a vengeance. He could barely move or sleep. He soiled his pants, unable to make the bathroom in time, Meredith said.

    ?It feels like every nerve in my body is on fire,? he told his wife.

    Meredith said she and her husband went to their primary care physician and asked for a referral to another pain clinic. They were told it would take a minimum of six weeks.

    That was too much for Lawrence. In March, on the day of his next medical appointment, when his painkiller dosage was to be reduced again, he instead went to a nearby park with his wife. And on the very spot where they renewed their wedding vows just two years earlier, they held hands.

    He raised a gun to his chest and killed himself...

  • #2

    Published December 11
    Doctors caught between struggling opioid patients and crackdown on prescriptions
    Elizabeth Llorente
    By Elizabeth Llorente | Fox News

    Dr. Stephen Nadeau received a warning from the Gainesville, Fla., hospital where he worked.

    Their policy on prescribing opioids was changing, to go beyond federal guidelines aimed at the national overdose crisis that has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives.

    The hospital would stop treating pain with opioids. And every doctor, including Nadeau, had to stop prescribing them. Doctors otherwise risked losing hospital admitting privileges ? and perhaps even their medical license.

    In Helena, Mont., Dr. Mark Ibsen was feeling heat from the state medical board ? and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), for the high-dose opioids he was prescribing to patients in severe, chronic pain. An allegation made by what he described as a disgruntled employee charged Ibsen was overprescribing.

    As a result, the state medical board suspended his license. The DEA visited five times, Ibsen said, suggesting he was risking his livelihood and could end up in jail if he kept prescribing.

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    Frustrated opioid patients speak out: 'I now buy heroin on the street'
    Elizabeth Llorente
    By Elizabeth Llorente | Fox News

    One woman spoke of how her mother, at 72 years old, and in pain because of degenerative bone disease, saw only one way out after her opioids were tapered down. She committed suicide.

    A husband whose wife of 50 years suffers from neurological and spinal diseases and who no longer can get a prescription for painkiller patches said, ?A welcome death has become a discussion.?

    Paul Wayman, a 69-year-old veteran, wrote: ?The VA cut my pain meds cold turkey after over 25 years. I now buy heroin on the street.?

    ?You need to talk with veterans. My friend has more metal and screws in him than a robot, but no more pain meds. Suicide is the only light at the end of the battlefield," Wayman said. "I used to do a lot of volunteer work, loved doing it with my wife. Now I get high so I can walk.?

    ?All we?re asking is some relief. And some quality of life," he said. "Ending life now is not on bucket list. I do think about it all the time.?...

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    Published December 12
    Tough new opioid policies leave some cancer and post-surgery patients without painkillers
    Elizabeth Llorente
    By Elizabeth Llorente | Fox News

    Despite protestations that new federal and state hard lines on painkiller prescriptions do not affect cancer patients or people fresh out of major surgeries, many of those in health care?s trenches feel differently.

    Dr. Dan Laird was treating an elderly man in Nevada who, despite efforts by the physicians and other doctors to save his leg, ended up having to undergo an amputation. ?He lost the battle, his leg was cut off,? Laird said.

    A week after the surgery took place, the man called Laird in agony and desperation. He had been discharged from the Valley Hospital Medical Center in Las Vegas with no painkiller prescription...

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    Health experts offer solutions for unintended consequences of opioid crackdown
    Elizabeth Llorente
    By Elizabeth Llorente | Fox News

    Many Americans today will attend several funerals before they get their first gray hair.

    That?s in large part because of drug overdoses, now the leading cause of death among Americans aged 50 and younger. More than 70,000 people in the U.S. last year died from overdoses, most of which involved illegal opioids.

    The overdose problem ? and a rise in suicides, another byproduct of the drug epidemic -- is so pervasive it?s being blamed for a drop in U.S. life expectancy.

    The crisis has led to a rush of public health and law enforcement initiatives at all levels of government. The federal government has vowed to cut prescription opioids by a third. More than 30 states have passed some type of legislation aimed at attacking the opioid epidemic.

    ?Defeating this epidemic will require the commitment of every state, local, and federal agency,? President Donald Trump said in a March speech in New Hampshire. ?Failure is not an option. Addiction is not our future. We will liberate our country from this crisis.?...