How Mainstream Media Values Lives In the Opiate Crisis

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By R Carter

As a blogger I’m on the internet every day, combing through articles related to the subjects I’m interested in. CERGM covers two topics, chronic non-cancer pain treated with opiates and addiction. If I had it my way, I would only cover one topic, chronic non-cancer pain treated with opiates, but because government and media equate both as one and the same, I can’t speak to one without speaking to the other. And that’s part of the problem facing our nation in the debate on how to respond to the growing number of overdose deaths. Our failure to separate the two has led to other tragic lives lost.

When government got involved through regulations, the response was predictable because government is incapable of acting based on individual need. The results were broad strokes that applied to large groups of individuals numbering in the millions and that’s a problem for healthcare because people are not widgets that can be stamped and pressed out like mass produced commodities. Let’s be honest about this aspect, for we were all taught this in our eighth grade civics class.

In less than a year following the 2016 CDC Guidelines on Chronic Pain Management, a whole new class of marginalized people were created, numbering in the millions. Government is supposed to empower people not marginalize them, this too is taught in civics class. As of 2019 its been estimated by some reports that as many as ten million chronic pain patients have been forced tapered or terminated from the use of pain medication to satisfy the interpretation of these guidelines. But for another group the price has been higher, resulting in complications leading to death or suicides.

You can’t do what I do without coming across dozens of news articles or blog posts talking about a grieving family member who’s lost a loved one to a drug overdose. There have been local and state regulations named after some and more non-profit foundations created in their names than you can imagine. I’m not writing this to find fault with any of those efforts or diminish the good work they are trying to do in stopping the insanity of drug abuse and its consequences.

What does concern me is the growing number of loved ones lost, who had legitimate medical conditions but were forcibly tapered down or terminated off of pain medications and subsequently died because of it.

Are these lives of any less value than those who have died from a drug overdose?

It’s a fair question and one I haven’t seen covered in mainstream media to any great extent. To date I can count on one hand the number of major news outlets who have covered this aspect of the opiate crisis and that too is just as tragic.

It’s a reflection of the attitudes of society, attitudes which have been shaped by a knee jerk response and a rush to judgment on what has been the causes for the drug overdose crisis. That message gets front page exposure on every medical website that anything to do with public policy on treating addiction and pain and in turn the news media picks up those messages and reports them to the public. The media in turn brings it home by reporting the losses of loved one due to drug overdose, but that is only half the story.

If the free press is truly free and is as cognizant as they claim to be, then the lives lost to forced tapers and termination are of no less value than those who have been lost to drug overdose and should be reported with equal clarity and fervor. I challenge them to report the whole story of this tragedy, recognizing that as a society we have gone too far and now there are innocent lives being lost to irresponsible actions taken by government agencies in trying to do the right thing and this too has to change.

I want to give a shout out to Pharmacist Steve for his recent post that listed these names we in the chronic pain community know of, but there are still others we don’t know about.


Hosking, Rory G. – 50, US Army – Feb. 9, 2019

Watts, John – 58 – Air Force – June 26, 2018

Cole, Lee – 38 – US Army – April 23, 2018

Baroda, Jesse Schmaltz , 31 -USMC, Oct 23, 2017

Ingram III, Charles Richard 51 – US Navy – Mar 2016

Kaisen, Peter – 76 – US Navy – July 25, 2014

Keller, Kevin – 52 – US Navy – July 30, 2014

Lawrence, Jay – US Navy – March 2017

Murphy, Thomas – Veteran – May 2015

Patterson, Travis “Patt” 26 – US Army Jan 27, 2017

Somers, Daniel – 30 – US Army – June 10, 2013

Spece, Brian – 54 – US Marine – May 3, 2017

Tombs, John – US Army – November 2016

Trunzo, Ryan US Army – 2012

Williams, Zack US Army – 2012


Civilian Losses

Anderson, Dawn, 52 – Indiana – Civilian – March 2019

Anderson, Larry – Civilian – June 2017

Howard, Carla – Tennessee – March 2019

Bales, Debra 52 – Civilian – Jan 10, 2018

Beyer, Donald Alan – 47 – Civilian – May, 8, 2016

Bloem, Michelle – Civilian – January 29, 2017

Christman, John – Civilian – August 2016

Cochran, Jennifer Marie, 34, – Civilian – December 22, 2016

Coggins, Warren Earl, 63, – Civilian – 2018

Goddard, Katherine 52 – Civilian – June 30, 2017

Graham, Bruce – 62 – Civilian – Jan 20, 2015

Hale, Doug – 53 – Civilian- Oct 11, 2016

Hamilton, Harold – 96 – Nov 2010

Hartsgrove, Daniel P – 62 – Civilian – May 19, 2017

Jonsson, Sonja Mae – Civilian – Aug 25, 2016

Kershaw, Sarah  – 49 – Civilian- Feb  23, 2016

Kimberly, Allison – 31 – Civilian- June 2017

Kuykendall, Phillip – 63 – Civilian – Dec. 29, 2016

Lichtenberg, Steven – 32 – Civilian, May, 2005

Little, Sherri – 53 – Civilian – July 7, 2015

Markel, Robert – 56 – June 2016

McGuire, Mercedes – 25 – Civilian – August 4, 2017

Paddock, Karon 43 – Civilian – Au 7, 2013

Peck, Denny – 58 – Civilian – Sept 17, 2016

Peterson, Michael Jay Civilian – Nov 22, 2005

Reid, Marsha 59 – Civilian – Nov 2, 2016

Simpson, Jessica – 28 – Civilian – July 17, 2017

Trickle, Richard “Dick”- Civilian- May 16, 2013

Unruh, Amanda – Civilian – January 14, 2018