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LETTERS FROM WAKE ROBIN FARM

OMG, AstraZeneca's at it Again and Frank's Back!

Apparently handsome actor Mike McGowan did a good job for Astro Zeneca in convincing people to plead with their doctors for Movantik, because they’ve come out with a new commercial featuring him once again as Frank, the construction foreman with opioid-induced constipation.

Absolutely shameless! Commercials like this ought to be illegal! Watch as Astra Zeneca cynically attempts to normalize addiction to opioid painkillers. The theme tag on this one is especially appalling, something about “Standing up to your opioid-induced constipation.” In other words, Don’t back down! Don’t be a wimp! Stand up for yourself! Be a man and bravely march in to your doctor’s office and demand another drug! The drug you deserve and are entitled to!

Please note here: sympathy for your constipation. It's really a bummer! And sympathy for your back pain too. Of course you need to be on opioids. That goes without saying, buddy.

But guess what? Don't be looking for any sympathy from the medical community for the effects of trying to get OFF of these drugs. By then you're an addict, and probably deserve it, right? Your doctor won't be able to wash his hands of you quickly enough.

The whole concept of Movantik is ridiculous in the first place. As an opioid agonist , it actually counters the effects of the opioids people are already taking. This means that one of the side effects is feeling like you’re in opioid withdrawal. Duh! If you’re going to go through all that, might as well bite the bullet, get off the opioids, and win the prize of being clean.

But no, the pharmaceutical companies would rather have you paying to take two different drugs which will fight it out in your brain and your body. This is not going to feel good. So why not be brave in a way that will not involve filling the coffers of Astro Zeneca and whichever pharmaceutical is selling you your narcotic of choice?

Taper off of your opioids. It may take awhile, and it’s not going to feel good, but opioids can actually make your pain worse in the long run, so if you kick them, you’ll eventually have less pain and be healthier.

And you’ll have better things to think about than worrying whether you can go to the bathroom!

I wish you good luck in finding one of the rare doctors who has the slightest clue what patients are being put through in first being prescribed these drugs and then being told to get off.  Read More 
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The Understandable Panic of Those in Chronic Pain

An NBC online headline the other day breaks my heart: Chronic Pain Sufferers Are Scared by Ohio’s New Opioid Rules.

In a nutshell, the state of Ohio is trying to restrict the flow of painkillers in order to help fight the plague of opioid abuse. Those who take the pills for chronic pain are of course freaking out, blaming the government and people they see as the actual addicts for their dilemma.

I feel terrible for them, but this is a false construct, setting up the issue as a three-way fight between government regulatory agencies, the doctors, and the patients dealing with chronic pain. The government tries to stop the problem by turning off the tap of opioid drugs, the doctors fear getting in trouble with the government and try to develop strategies to defend themselves from “addict types,” and the people in chronic pain rail against everyone who they perceive as conspiring to keep their drugs from them, and this includes those they characterize as the “real” addicts.

Having suffered the difficulties of getting off of these drugs myself, I feel like a lone voice, crying in the wilderness. The question is not, are you an addict? It’s are these drugs you’re on helping or hurting you?

Of course those who are addicted (okay, call yourselves dependent if it makes you feel better, but your brain doesn’t know the difference) insist that they can’t even begin to continue with their lives if somebody doesn’t prescribe them these drugs. That’s right, because they’re addicted, and their brains, without the drugs, will rebel.

A crucial fact that nobody talks about much is something called Hyperalgesia. It means that while the drugs initially knock back the pain, eventually, the person taking them actually becomes more sensitive to pain. Got that? It makes the pain worse. This is why opioids are not considered a viable, longterm option for chronic pain.

All the energy that will go into these folks desperately trying to make sure they can still get their drugs should actually be applied toward figuring out a program of getting off of them. Rather than now shunning them as addicts, the doctors who prescribed the drugs in the first place should be helping them, not just sending them off to so-called “pain clinics.” A common line is, “I’m not comfortable prescribing these to you anymore.” Apparently they were comfortable enough with the prescription to get the person hooked in the first place.

I know about pain. I’ve lived through this. I’m not on any of these drugs anymore and I’m not in pain. If you want the gory details, it’s all in my book, Accidental Addict. I should warn you that one reviewer claims I’m not a real addict, I guess because once I went off, I never relapsed. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t have to hang in there and suffer through the months and months of withdrawal.

Also, check out Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing, a group that has been trying to get to the root of the problem by getting doctors to understand that, despite what they’ve been told by the pharmaceutical companies, opioid painkillers can be highly addictive for anyone.

Do I have to remind you that the drug companies do not have our best interests at heart? They want us addicted. What better way to sell the maximum number of pills? Read More 
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Another Drug-Pushing Pharmaceutical TV Commercial

I was completely disgusted when I saw my first TV ad for a new drug called Movantik a few months back. It featured a woman of my general demographic who admitted to struggling with constipation due to her doctor-prescribed opioids. Great! First the drug companies convince the doctors they needn’t worry about addiction in prescribing opioid painkillers to their patients, then, once the patients are hooked, they’re right there to sell them another drug to deal with the side effects. But see, she’s a nice lady. Clearly not an addict. Nice people can take opioid painkillers. You got that message, right?

AstraZeneca’s newest commercial is equally insidious. It’s entitled “Frank’s Moment,” meaning the moment this completely healthy-looking construction foreman—ACTOR PORTRAYAL flashes briefly on the screen—gets the enlightening news from his doctor that his problem with OIC—Opioid-Induced Constipation—can be fixed simply by popping another pill! Yay for modern medicine!

The cynicism of the drug companies and these ad copywriters is breathtaking. They know that a huge percentage of middle-aged men who wind up on opioid painkillers arrive in this predicament by way of lower back pain, something that’s extremely common, especially among construction workers prone to “throwing their backs out.” So Frank’s world, the exposed floors, two-by-fours and staircases of a substantial new house going up, is familiar to them.

Please note though, that Frank is the boss. He’s not carrying anything heavier than his laptop. He’s in a position of power. He points people here and there. But, hey, look what a stand-up guy he is, taking a coffee break with his underlings. Also—this is important—he’s ridiculously goodlooking and fit. Actor Mike McGowan, playing “Frank,” delivers his lines to perfection. Sure, these words flash briefly on the screen: OPIOIDS SHOULD BE USED RESPONSIBLY AND ONLY WHEN PRESCRIBED BY A DOCTOR. But anyone with half-a-brain can see that if a great guy like Frank has no problem taking narcotics on a daily basis, who are they to go beating up on themselves? Nobody’s calling our Frank an addict, right? Hard to picture him going home to a wife who nags him with her concern about his prescribed drugs.

Appealing, affable Frank displays winning comic timing, the way he winces in acknowledgment of the bad puns he has no choice but to deliver, inviting his TV-watching buddies to bond over the essentially embarrassing nature of constipation.

Stop! I can’t take it! Because, people, this is not about constipation. It’s about addiction, which is way more than embarrassing. It’s deadly. An ad like this is quite simply enabling; it tells the viewer that as long as their doctor is still writing their prescriptions, they’re safe.

But they’re not. Opioids are not a good solution for chronic pain, and Frank does not represent the reality of a guy taking opioids long-term. The real guys get fat. Or they waste away. What they don’t do is stay as fit and cheerful as Frank. They go on disability and withdraw from life. Through a phenomenon called Hyperalgesia (increased sensitivity to pain) opioids eventually make their pain worse until their sole daily goal is making sure they continue to get their drugs. These are the guys who eventually contribute to the statistical uptick in deaths among white, middle-aged men in America.

Finally, here’s the real capper about this new wonder drug. Guess what one of the listed side effects is? Symptoms of opioid withdrawal! Isn’t that rich? In an effort to go to the bathroom oftener, you may experience sweating, chills, anxiety, irritability, nausea and stomach pain. Hey, here’s an idea: Why not just bite the bullet, get yourself through the horrors of withdrawal to come out drug free rather than suffering with these symptoms as you continue to layer on even more prescriptions?

I could go on, but I wrote a whole book—Accidental Addict—to explain how I lived through this myself and why I have the feelings I do on the subject. I’m starting to hear from people who’ve read it and who see parts of their own stories or their loved ones’ in mine. Please check it out.

Save yourself. Save somebody you love.

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