-Kelly F. Merrill


I’m a veteran 15-year pain patient who’s been on the front lines of the war against opioids, developing the advocacy skills to survive a hostile and near-deadly maze of institutional and regulatory hoops, bias and ignorance, as an intractable pain patient and a rapid-metabolizer of opioids.


The challenge of being a chronic pain patient whose pain cannot be adequately treated with NSAIDs, like Tylenol and Motrin, has gotten infinitely worse in response to the current socio-political environment, fueled by fear-mongering and “one-minute media’s” addiction to sensationalism.


However, while public health policies did succeed in reducing the numbers of opioid prescriptions, such reductions did not have the intended effect.
Instead of helping stem the tide of death brought on the wings of fentanyl-laced heroin, these misinformed health policies have reaped their own destruction, adding an exponentially-growing list of suicides due to under- and un-treated pain and patient abandonment.


Meanwhile, the death toll has continued to rise as we patients, as well as our families, march toward a terrifying and torturous end.


Oh, and those with substance use disorder, who were intended to be served by the recent rash of Draconian public health policies, are still dying in the streets of fentanyl-laced heroin and unable to find treatment for their illnesses either.


There is a war being waged against the pain community in America; against pain patients and doctors alike.



Authorities have had the community in an uproar, scrambling, reacting to the incomprehensible news that the foremost intractable pain specialist in the country had been raided by the DEA, who kicked down Dr. Forest Tennant and his wife Miriam’s door…while Tennant was out-of-state providing testimony at another doctor’s trial for murder, a witch-hunt no courtroom should ever bear witness to.


And during all this, fear- and hysteria-driven anti-opioid McCarthyist rhetoric is being perpetuated in the media without a single consideration or musing regarding the pain patient point of view.


How is it that Government Agencies tasked with protecting the public health have managed to create window-dressing policies that serve neither the substance use disorder community nor the over 100 million Americans suffering the chronic, pathological pain of incurable and life-robbing illnesses.
They’ve poorly used the substance use disorder community with promises to take pity, be compassionate and care that the youth of our society were dying in huge numbers by creating legislation to stop the death toll of .  of recovery centers and social support; a failed endeavor without money or meaning for the people it was intended to help.  People are still dying in the streets.
Myself? I want my very complex healthcare decisions to lay between me and my doctor, who must consider my genetic profile, be familiar with my illness and the dangers associated not only with pain medication, but with NOT treating the life-threatening symptoms of my illness.


I know myself to have been incredibly fortunate to be one of the illustrious patients of Dr. Forest Tennant; his cases are  I learned more about managing my illness in those visits to his small office in West Covina, California, than I had in the previous decade.


It was a family affair. My son waited throughout intense days of study, education, medication trials and the logistical nightmare of being a pain patient in today’s socio-political climate; content in the knowledge that someone was finally taking care of his mom. I found a home away from home and the stories of people whose lives had been transformed by this man.


If the DEA can so blatantly smear the reputation of this illustrious physician, what would it take to destroy a lesser practitioner?


Tennant, who has done more to further the advancement of pain management than any single person or entity in the United States, recently won a lifetime achievement award from his fellow doctors. How can the rest of the medical community even hope to combat these cruel and unusual injustices perpetuated against pain patients while retaining the freedom to treat pain patients without fear of reprisal?


I nearly died many deaths when I moved from the D.C. Metro Area to New England; I was a pain refugee for three years, in a desperate search for relief from Maine to California and back again, to Maryland and Massachusetts and the places in between.


The environment had become more contentious, more mistrustful and contentious than it had ever been. The Government had pitted pain patients against doctors and pain patients against people with substance use disorder.


Fantastical figures were used to mislead the public and generate the fear necessary to drive one-size-fits-all public health policies condemning both pain patients and those in recovery; neither problems addressed, neither population served.


I was floundering within the constraints of a flawed system that does little to address chronic illnesses and is eroding medical freedoms at an alarming rate. These tools are quickly being stripped away.


The stress of extended periods of severely under-treated pain caused me to lose 30% of my body weight and caused muscle-wasting, narcolepsy and cognitive dysfunction so severe I nearly committed myself to an institution with pain-induced dementia.


But a combination of Kratom and cannabis changed all that, recalling me to life and allowing me to be a strong advocate for my teenaged son and the pain community. I reinvented myself and our lives without wasting a moment.


And now DEA would like to take my life again; this time by trying, for the second year in a row, to schedule Kratom as a dangerous drug with no therapeutic value after having received 23,000 comments to the contrary the year before. They want to protect me from a plant related to coffee.


Even now, as its touted as a safe and effective alternative to opioids during the opioid crisis. Even as patients are dying in unfathomable pain.



I’ve suffered, lost the most productive years of my adult life, and was subjected, along with my son, to a long and dark road of stigma attached to opioids, the patients who must take them and the physicians who manage these complex cases.


Pain patients and their doctors must have an arsenal of tools to treat the disabling symptoms of many chronic pain patients. Opioids are appropriate for chronic pain that is resistant to other treatments, including interventional pain medicine, physical therapy, nerve root injections, trigger point injections, yoga regimens, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and the like. It is appropriate for the treatment of tenacious pain that cannot be managed by NSAIDs.


If you feel indifferent to the suffering of pain patients and their families or the plight of those seeking treatment for substance use disorder, consider your own health and the health of your family. Chances are, you’ll be visiting the emergency room eventually and good luck when you do.


Public health policies are changing the landscape of Medical Establishment by imposing the biases and judgements of a long list of mediators who police a pain patient’s ability to get medication, even if they find a pain management doctor willing to prescribe it; even if they are a legitimate pain patient, have a well-documented pain-generating illness, take regular toxicology screens and jump through all the hoops our current environment dictates.


Corrosive opioid-bias has also begun to dictate acute pain control in hospitals; many being routinely denied opioid pain-relievers for acute pain events such as post-operative pain, kidney stones, tooth abscesses, broken bones and the like.


This is no longer just the plight of intractable pain patients. This is about the obligations we have to our fellow man to relieve human suffering and wanton misery, the right to pain relief and human dignity.



Please join the Chronic Pain Advocacy Alliance in partnership with “Doctors of Courage” to raise awareness about CVS Pharmacy policies that will hurt millions. Come join us 12pm, Saturday, Dec. 2 at 510 Congress Street in Portland, Maine, the Arts District, in protest of public health policies that are devastating millions.

#painfultruth #chronicpain #painalliances #intractablepain #painpatient #doctorsofcourage #freetennant #boycottCVS #CPAA #ATIP #opioidphobia #opiophobia #opioidcrisis

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