Surgeon General Call to Action Falls Short

Surgeon General Call to Action Falls Short | Huffington Post by Lynn R. Webster, MD Author of “The Painful Truth”

Law-enforcement seizures of illicit fentanyl have soared, changing the face of drug-related deaths and necessitating new public health strategies to meet the evolving threat.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported an 80 percent increase nationally in synthetic opioid deaths from 2013 to 2014, an increase that coincides with a 426 percent rise in the number of drugs containing fentanyl seized by law enforcement.

The country is being overrun with truly deadly drugs that are killing increasing numbers of people, yet the CDC remains focused on prescriptions for pain patients.  

The mortality increase isn’t all linked to fentanyl, but much of it appears to be.

Illegal channels in China and Mexico are funneling the powerful and deadly drug into the United States from clandestine labs

At the same time, the quantity of prescriptions written for fentanyl and other opioids to treat pain are flat or falling.

Yet, rather than warning physicians of the growing illicit market, a new call to action from the U.S. Office of the Surgeon General targets instead the prescribing of opioids for pain

Hello CDC: Illicitly produced fentanyl is killing people right and left and has NOTHING to do with prescription opioids.

See the Surgeon General’s letter sent to ALL doctors in the US: Anti-Opioid Letter from Surgeon General to All Doctors

The pocket guide entitled “Turn the Tide: Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain” contains some good instructions but, unfortunately, also perpetuates the CDC’s one-size-fits-all dosage limits that may not suit all patients and sets criteria for continued prescribing — “clinically meaningful” improvement of 30 percent from baseline in pain, pain interference and activity scores — that appear mostly opinion based and lacking in solid underpinning science.

See the scientific evidence that the CDC is hiding: CDC Guidelines Refuted with Scientific Evidence

The truth is patients differ in medication requirements due to genetic and other factors, and chronic pain, by its very nature, fluctuates.

The CDC’s fixed dose limits are absurd in the light of common knowledge about variations in pain and effectiveness of opioids.

How could tapering patients from medications that are helping them and which they did not misuse be seen as progression toward societal harm-reduction goals?

If every exposure to an opioid resulted in addiction, just as if every drink of alcohol led to an alcohol-use disorder, no one would be free from the disease of addiction.

That is not how the disease of addiction works: exposure is necessary but not sufficient to trigger it.

Apparently, the CDC understands little about addiction and knows even less about pain.

Furthermore, if merely reducing the quantity of prescribed opioids across-the-board also reduced opioid-related overdose deaths, the numbers of the latter should be dropping, but they are not.

This is proof positive that the drug war’s method of trying (and not succeeding) to limit the supply of addictive drugs simply does not work.

No matter how long the DEA tries to deny this truth, historical and current data show their approach is ineffective, triggers even more death and violence, and does nothing to reduce addiction.

These problems are complex and need precisely targeted measures. Commonly prescribed opioids are still associated with more deaths than synthetic opioids. But cutting out or reducing needed medications to patients who are suffering is not a sufficiently targeted response.

Making the target too broad could double the harm, not only in denying access to necessary medications, but in failing to acknowledge the shifting sources of the illicit drug threat, causing more people who suffer from addictions to fall through the cracks.

It is past time to treat chronic pain as the illness it is, not a moral failing, and that includes not blaming patients for all of society’s problems with opioid misuse, particularly when the evidence indicates otherwise.

The DEA and CDC show little interest in evidence and insist on promoting ineffective policies and laws that are contrary to even common knowledge.

Author: Lynn R. Webster, MD, is a past president of the American Academy of Pain Medicine and author of the award winning “The Painful Truth: What Chronic Pain Is Really Like and Why It Matters to Each of Us.” Visit   


14 thoughts on “Surgeon General Call to Action Falls Short

  1. Doc Anonymous

    I tried to open the original article by Dr. Lynn Webster (Link at top of page). Instead of the article there is a note: “This post from The Huffington Post Contributor Platform is no longer available on our site.” Is this censorship? Why is the original post not available.Zyp Czyk, your summary may be the only publicly available remnants of the full article. Great info an I wholeheartedly agree!


    1. Zyp Czyk Post author

      Wow, that’s very strange. I’ve just contacted Dr. Webster to ask him what happened.

      If this is censorship, we must protest to the Huff Post, but I want to wait until I know more.


  2. Charlie Payne

    In a statement, Mr. Marino said, “Until now, clear comprehensive legislation that protected patients’ right to access necessary medication while stopping those who might abuse such drugs did not exist.” I read article after article saying that the Government needs to regulate Americans lives because of something they “might” do. (What the Hell is going on here)! Is this the kind of Government we want to live with? How can that even be Constitutional? You can’t have a car because you “might” crash??? People who believe this is how Government must do things are either some kind of Marxist dictatorial *tyrants”, useful idiots, egomaniacs, sociopaths, ignorant, being used because of their grief or just addicted to power themselves! I am calling this as I see it! But because I don’t agree, I am an addict who is in denial and therefore mentally ill and must be controlled and not provided medications for my health issues that I’m already on disability for. For own good! Can anybody else see that this is nothing more than an attempt at coercive control over Americans lives! 32. Support any socialist movement to give centralized control over any part of the culture–education, social agencies, welfare programs, mental health clinics, etc. 38. Transfer some of the powers of arrest from the police to social agencies. Treat all behavioral problems as psychiatric disorders which no one but psychiatrists can understand [or treat].
    39. Dominate the psychiatric profession and use mental health laws as a means of gaining coercive control over those who oppose Communist goals. (DEA, FDA, CDC, VA and politicians are sitting in your doctors office, (support them) while your doctor/psychiatrist stops your medications because of what you might do and tells you that you are mentally ill, in denial and only they understand it while controlling your life and denying you healthcare when the Affordable Care Act was supposed to provide lower cost or free healthcare. Free Healthcare for Coercive control! Devious Huh!


    1. Dave

      Whether its market fundamentalism of professionals or fascist policies of government it is clear that people in pain have little say in their care as the system has subordinated them to the designs of others.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Dave

    Leaving decisions to government and the market has failed and will continue to fail. People forget that the cdc consists of professionals. Those professionals went from laissez faire market fundamentalism to fascism in no time. They are
    extremists who dont know how to get pain care right. Webster would erroneously restore market fundamentalism as he likes being free to do as he likes with people in pain. Medical consumerism can serve as a check on the extremism if people in pain are vituous enough to get it right.


    1. Zyp Czyk Post author

      I think that both free market fundamentalism AND consumerism are two sides of the same coin. Medical care is fundamentally different than other services and products we can CHOOSE to purchase.

      I think the “consumer” view and general “market economics” are far too limited for such an essential need and got us where we are now. Medical care has been handled as though it’s just a normal “product” that can be sold to the highest bidder, and there’s been a steady shift toward focusing solely on profit as more of the medical industry becomes more generically managed to maximize profits (as with crazy pharmaceutical prices). See Generic Management of Health Care Non-Profits


      1. Dave

        Professionals in pain care and medicine have promoted their economic interests under the guise of professionalism.They made sure consumers of their services believed it was for their own good . The result is cleat high financial costs for people in pain high treatment burden and few rights for people in pain. I have to believe that a Marxist model explains the facts in.Pain care. People in paain are suborrdinate peasant class and are dominated increasingly on a pain care system they didnt create and doesnt mnake them feel they are at home. People in. Pain are semi homeless in the pain care system. Medicine doesnt want them in their hood.
        Medical consumerism will allow people a nnew bundle of rights to counter the many excesses and deficiencies of medicine. Medicine refuses to heal itself and government will continue to serve medicine more then consumers.
        You have offered no solution to the troubled evolution of pain care. And the market and government remain unregenerate. As the saying goes neurotics dont wish to stop being neurotic they just wish to be better at it.

        Liked by 1 person


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