Is the “War on Drugs” as phony as the “War on Terror”?

(Jim Fetzer)   The former Chief Psychiatrist for the FBI, Alan J. Salerian, M.D., of The Salerian Center for Neuroscience & Pain (formerly, The Washington Center for Psychiatry), Washington, DC, has been blowing the whistle on false statistics being disseminated by the Center of Disease Control (CDC), which are being used to justify the “War on Drugs”, which the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has been enforcing by conducting its own “War on Physicians” who are attempting to change the nation’s drug laws for the benefit of the people. The physicians who have dedicate themselves to exposing this charade and to doing something about it by creating “The Pain Relief Network” on-line and by organizing “The Pain Brain Festival” in Washington, D.C., have not been dealt with kindly.  Indeed, there is reason to believe that, this past week end, some of them may have been killed.

The exposure of these false statistics threatens to undermine the “War on Drugs”, which undoubtedly would have the effect of encouraging the legalization of drugs, reduce if not evaporate the vast profits accrued through the sale of illegal drugs, and thereby diminish if not completely destroy the wealth and power of the major drug cartels, including of the CIA, widely regarded as the largest drug dealing organization the world has ever known, which appears to me to have led to the harassment and even death of physicians across America whose only offense has been to assist their patients in coping with pain, where, if treated as a medical rather than a criminal problem, could be dealt with relatively easily and cheaply and improve the lives of millions worldwide.  But it also would dramatically reduce the profits that are derived from the “War on Drugs”, which, alas, appears to be as phony as the “War on Terror”.

The Contrived Statistics

In recent correspondence between us, Dr. Salerian, whose credentials are impeccable, has explained to me that he, too, has become a target of DEA’s dirty war on doctors. On 3 March 2011, his home in Bethesda, Maryland, where I have stayed during visits with Alan and his wife, Judy, was raided by a heavily armed force of DEA agents wearing bullet-proof vests and brandishing automatic weapons, who intimidated his wife and daughter, Chloe, ransacking his home and taking his computers on the fabricated ground that his bank account reflected a $100,000 transaction, which was for medical equipment but which the agents claimed was for dealing drugs, which is quite a stretch for a man who is was the Chief Psychiatrist for the FBI.

The real reasons, however, appear to be much different, where Dr. Salerian has been doing everything he can to expose the fact that, over the past 10 years, 2,000 doctors lost their licenses and were forced to exile or jail. Sadly, DEA’s dirty campaign is based upon false CDC statistics.  And, in collaboration with other dedicated physicians, he has been promoting awareness of more effective ways to cope with pain, which would have the consequence of promoting the legalization of drugs, once the treatment of pain using drugs is properly viewed as a medical problem rather than a criminal offense.  Here are some of the most important points he makes about the fabrication of evidence:

*  The CDC wrongly and unscientifically claims that the U.S. has a major problem with a drug epidemic that is killing all of us. The numbers, however, suggest just the opposite. We do not have an epidemic of prescribed narcotic-associated overdoses, deaths and epidemics. Because of CDC’s misleading statistics, even the New England Journal of Medicine, The New York Times, The Washington Post and other major media outlets have been broadcasting governmental misrepresentations of this phantom epidemic.

* Not a week passes when a group of pain doctors are arrested with their photos broadcast around the world as they are being chained and sent to prison with ridiculous allegations of drug trafficking. On 20 November 2011, for example, Dr. Michael Stanley Johnston and some 18 other doctors and pharmacists in Georgia were arrested and offices raided.

* Statistics reveal that in 2008, which is the last year CDC reviewed the numbers, the number of deaths from prescribed narcotics was 7,500, which represents 0.2% of total deaths and one-third less than motorcycle deaths and about the same or less than accidental drowning and suffocation-related deaths.

A pie chart reveals the relative infrequency of deaths from prescribed narcotics as opposed to deaths from other causes:

Are they Accidental?

Are these CDC errors accidental? Unfortunately, the CDC has consistently disseminated wrongful information. The message from CDC, our guardian of public health with vibrant drawings, charts and numbers, have been alarming. “My God, I can’t believe doctors would be so irresponsible,” Chloe, my daughter, uttered in response to the November 2011 issue of CDC’s “Policy Impact Alert“ about prescription painkiller overdoses. The headlines of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control were probing on their face:  “What do we know of painkiller deaths?” and “What does CDC recommend?” Two unmistakable CDC messages were therein conveyed:

A.   A deadly epidemic of pain medications, ODs and deaths evidenced by the tripling death rates in the last 10 years.

B.   The culprits were mostly bad doctors prescribing too much and too often pain medications.

This CDC publication appears to be consistent with the message of the New England Journal of Medicine, 18 November 2010, authored by Susan Okie, “A Flood of Opioids, a Rising Tide of Deaths,” and similar stories that have appeared in The Washington Post April and November 2011 and in The New York Times April 2011. The truth and CDC message clash. The following is the reality:

* Prescription pain medications are not associated with 99.9% of U.S. deaths totaling 2.4 million in 2007, which is consistent with the total number of 12,000 deaths attributable to painkillers. Prescription pain medications, moreover, are not associated with 94% of 194,000 manmade sudden deaths or human behavior associated deaths, where these numbers are actually drawn from CDC’s own statistics, which means that the CDC’s own data, properly understood, refutes the CDC’s conclusions.

* CDC publications, moreover, refers to methadone as addictive and dangerous. Neither is true. Methadone by nature and with its well-documented long half-life is not associated with euphoric influence and, in general, is not subject to abuse. However, its beneficial effects help people with withdrawal symptoms and assist millions who are struggling with addictions to morphine-like substances.

What is going on?

Collectively, the CDC errors are consistent with a major misinterpretation of statistics with a profoundly erroneous and negative impact on Americans who suffer from various painful mental and physical conditions. And this is actually the important point because the same month that CDC publishes and DEA reinforces the November 2011 message of an epidemic devastating United States, a branch of NIH, the Institute of Medicine, has an alert: 116 million Americans have been untreated partly due to an artificially caused shortage of pain doctors.

DEA’s war has been based upon CDC’s statistics disseminated to the New England Journal of Medicine, New York Times and Washington Post. It is easy to manipulate statistics and to declare phantom wars. Or phantom victories as it happened in London in 1854 during the dreadful cholera epidemic. The determination of the epidemic was wrongly attributed to the removal of a pump on Broad Street in London. Later a more careful analysis would reveal that the ending of the epidemic had nothing to do with the removal of the pump because the decline of deaths had preceded September 8, 1854 when the pump was removed.

There are a lot of lessons to learn from London and CDC errors and a lot of innocent victims to save such as the doctors recently arrested in Atlanta, Georgia some 18 of them or another group of doctors and pharmacists arrested in Florida, some 25 of them earlier. Both groups were accused of narcotic trafficking and contributing to this deadly epidemic.  If we study the numbers carefully, it is not the doctors, but CDC chiefs and DEA bosses who properly should be targets of public inquiry and Justice Department investigation.  It should be borne in mind that, in the last analysis, this is not about blame or investigations. This is about medical science, practice in accord with the Hippocratic oath and what is good for people to create a better world.  Public integrity is of essence of our survival.

The Pain/Brain Festival

One of the most stunning indications that something is drastically wrong was manifest by the subversion—which might more accurately be described as sabotaging—of a public event, “Festival Pain Brain”, which was to last for exactly five minutes and one second on 4 September 2011 in front of the Lincoln Memorial.  This event had been approved by the White House and the District of Columbia and was expected to draw 20,000 or more to recognize the importance of alleviating pain to enhance human health and well-being around the world.  But apparently powerful forces were at work subverting this event by deploying multiple methods that are not normally features of events in Washington, D.C.

The actions that were taken to sabotage this event were extraordinary: 10,000 butterflies that had been ordered for this occasion did not arrive; busloads of citizens who came from distant locations to participate were intercepted and not allowed to enter the city; the tires of the car that was leading a procession to the Lincoln Memorial were slashed.  All of this was truly unexpected for a five minute and one second event to acknowledge the important of the reduction of pain.  But the DEA has also assaulted and harassed Vanessa Mullins, M.D., who along with Alan Salerian was responsible for organizing this event, where DEA agents broke down the door to her home, arresting her and having her incarcerated overnight as an obvious act of intimidation intended to discourage her from participating in any program of this kind.  More severe consequences, I fear, may have been meted out to others who have not “gotten the message”.

The Columbus Plan Crash

A plane crash near Columbus, OH, brought about the deaths of Kevin Byers, 54, his mother, Eudora Beyers, 78, and Siobhan Reynolds, 50.  Kevin was piloting the plane, which crashed near the Vinton County Airport. “According to Kevin Byers’ Columbus law firm’s website, he defended physicians, dentists, pharmacists and nurses against state licensing boards, federal agencies and private practice overseers. He also represented pain patients who were having difficulty receiving appropriate treatment. Reynolds was an advocate for chronic pain patients and formed the advocacy group Pain Relief Network.” When I contacted Jeff Barron of the Lancaster Eagle Gazette, who wrote this story, he advised me that he had no additional information about the details of the crash, but suggested that I contact the Jackson, OH, office of the Ohio State Patrol.  I spoke with the outpost commander, who stated it had been turned over the FAA.

Another article from KAKE News in Kansas, mentioned that the plane was approaching the runway but ended up along a road parallel to the airport, while focusing on Siobhan Reynolds.  According to KAKE News,

For the last decade, Reynolds had worked as an advocate for patients suffering chronic pain and the doctors who attempted to treat them with high-dose prescription pain medications. She began her crusade after her husband, a chronic pain patient, died while moving across country seeking a doctor to threat his condition. Reynolds founded the Pain Relief Network to help support others who she believed were victim’s of undertreatment of pain.

When Dr. Schneider and his wife Linda were charged with over-prescribing pain pills, Reynolds moved to Kansas to publicize the case. Reynolds’ actions prompted federal investigators to open a criminal investigation into her and the Pain Relief Network.

Reynolds lost the case and was forced to release her personal communication with doctors, patients and attorneys. The ruling eventually led her to dissolve the Pain Relief Network.

Their report provides a text-book illustration of the “War on Physicians” that Dr. Salerian has been attempting to publicize.  The most telling article about here death, however, comes from American Thinker, which included a passage from an article in Reason Magazine:

She began her advocacy following the death of her husband. She believed that his death was hastened by the inexplicable rules and regulations governing the dispensing of pain medication. She defended doctors who defied the government to prescribe opiates to dying patients in order to relieve their agony. This got her in trouble with a vindictive prosector, Tanya Treadway, who carried out a grand jury investigation of her organization, the Pain Relief Network.

What was it that so offended Treadway? Reynolds organized protests in response to Treadway’s prosecution of Kansas doctor Stephen Schneider. She talked to his patients and urged them to tell their stories. Her group sponsored a billboard in Wichita that proclaimed “Dr. Schneider never killed anyone.” It produced a documentary that dramatized the conflict between drug control and pain control. In short, Reynolds vigorously exercised her First Amendment rights, and she did so in a way that discomfited people in power, highlighting the human impact of their decisions. Treadway’s effort to intimidate Reynolds is a tribute to her courage, persistence, and effectiveness.

No one is saying that these issues are not complicated and that dealing honestly and forthrightly with them isn’t fraught with the possibility of unintended consequences. But the relief of pain, if viewed as a medical problem and not a criminal problem, is relatively easy, cheap, and would improve the quality of life of millions around the world.

Based upon my own investigation of the plane crash that took the life of Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-MN) and gave control of the Senate to the GOP, which enabled George W. Bush and Dick Cheney to pursue their “War on Terror” by invading and occupying Afghanistan and Iraq, the use of a plane crash to take out your political opponents is virtually fail-safe.  Unless the crash site is declared to be a crime scene, it cannot be investigated as the scene of a crime.  In the case of the Wellstone crash, the Attorney General, who was then John Ashcroft, simply declined to declare it a crime scene, where the NTSB only investigated non-criminal hypotheses about the cause of the crash, namely:  the weather, the plane, and the pilots.  As I have explained, although the NTSB never considered the alternatives, such as the use of a small bomb, a gas canister, or a high-tech weapon, the evidence substantiates that this was a deliberate take-down, where in that case a high-tech weapon was involved. The stakes revolving around the “War on Drugs” are no less serious than those revolving around the “War on Terror”.  We have been conned before and this looks to me like another instance in which the CIA bears ultimate responsibility and is using the CDC and the DEA as its instruments of harassment and intimidation—and may now have brought about three more deaths.

Jim Fetzer, a former Marine Corps officer, is McKnight Professor Emeritus at the University of Minnesota where he taught on its Duluth campus.

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