Opiate Verdict Well Intentioned But Wrong And Here’s Why
Karel’s Sassy Six Aug. 27, 2019 Why the Judge in the Opiate Trial is Wrong
Let’s start with the true lead: America does not have an Opiate problem, it has a happiness problem. America does not have on obesity problem, it has a happiness problem. America’s unhappiness is literally killing it.
So, August 27, 2019 as the War on Drugs took an interesting turn when a judge ruled against Johnson & Johnson in a “landmark” opiate trial in which the state of Oklahoma (and now others) contend that drug companies willingly and knowing got people addicted through deceptive marketing, overprescribing, misleading literature to doctors and all kinds of malfeasance I sat back and laughed. Because while well intentioned, the jury and judge couldn’t be more wrong.
Take it from me, I’m an expert on the opiate problem, I lived it. Just before the verdict, August 23, 2019, was the two year mark for me; the day when I awoke and said enough to opiates. I was taking 100mg a day, 10 Percocet, two, every four hours and then two as needed for breakthrough pain. I was taking them with Soma (four a day), two blood pressure pills, two pills for atrial fibrillation, an antianxietal and a stomach pill. I was 310 pounds, fat, sick and dying and medicated. And all of it legally prescribed for very real, very debilitating conditions, with neck and lower back problems topping the list.
Back pain is the world-wide leading cause of disabilities. 80% of Americans will experience it, it costs $50 billion in health care costs per year 265 million missed work hours and my back injuries are so severe that most doctors marvel at my walking. I have had MRI’s, CTs, Epidurals, I have had nerve conduction studies, contrasts, pain blocks. I have had every kind of opiate, from patches to pills to liquids. I have every kind of non-opiate. I have been stimulated with the TENS machines. I have done decades of physical therapy in conjunction with the pills and chiropractic care. And the result was at 55 years of age I was In line for surgeries, on pills, and basically almost unable to walk; sometimes, not able to at all.
The story of quitting the opiates, the weight loss (I became a plant-based eater and lost 110 pounds) all of that will be in my book and tv show The Planted Host in 2020. But right now, the opiate part is the most relevant to the news. And if you don’t think that obesity, food, weight, all of it go in to the opiate problem in America right now, then, you’re not on opiates. Because let’s repeat the opening:
America does not have an Opiate problem, it has a happiness problem. America does not have on obesity problem, it has a happiness problem. America’s unhappiness is literally killing it.
And blaming Johnson & Johnson or anyone else for your unhappiness is a cop-out. It is not their fault you take drugs; it is not their fault you let it get out of control and it is not their fault you are so unhappy you’d rather live in a fog than in reality because of physical or psychological pain (and they go hand in hand). You have to #OwnIt and saying its this corporation’s fault is far too easy.
I counted pills. I “borrowed” drugs. I made up stories that both the doctor, pharmacist and I knew were lies so I could get the drugs Friday instead of Sunday when the prescription was due because I could take a few extra over the weekend. I never doctor shopped, got more than one prescription at a time or bought pills illegally. But I did everything but to make sure I didn’t run out. Because the pain of detox, and then sobriety, I perceived to be too much. And I am/was legitimately broken with real issues, so, I had the “but I need them, this is real” diagnosis to on which to placate myself.
Until I lived through this:
You see, to go down and see the great underground marvel, I had to walk down stairs, and then back up. And entire bus load of journalists had to wait for me as I made it up the stairs. 15 minutes. Yup. They sat, in a bus, for 15 minutes while I walked up 10 flights of stairs, old people passing me, out of breath, a Tourism Ireland rep with me, telling me it’s all OK.
It was far from OK.
And while that was being edited, I went and did this:
I was so excited to see Randy Harrison in “Cabaret” and interview him. Under Trump, the play and movie feel so relevant again. AND, god, is he cute and I’m gay and I thought, well, let me try and impress him. When I got the Pantages theatre and met by marvelous Benny Aguayo who made it happen, I was drenched in sweat. When I got back stage, everyone waiting, I had to remove my shirt, do the interview in a vest, and sweat, holding a rag a-la Whitney Houston circa 2001. I was so embarrassed I simply still have not been able to watch the above video.
The next day I went to the doctor. They said my testosterone was low, and wanted to give me shots. I asked why, they said probably opiates. So, I quit, cold turkey. They didn’t want me to, wanted me to take more drugs. I said no. I went home and Friday Aug. 24, 2017 I began five days of my body turning against me, of hormones suppressed that then rage, legs that won’t stay still, sneezing, crying, pooping from every orifice there is with no relief, no sleep, crying, pleading, bargaining…moods all over the spectrum, yes, even suicidal thoughts because of the intense pain (your body creates more pain when quitting so you’ll take pills, marvelous trick it pulls). Yes, it was horrible.
But I lived. And when the fog started to clear, and I saw myself…I was huge, and sick, and dying.
Whose fault was that? The doctors’? The drug companies’?
I was 55, single. I was an underemployed entertainer who “was” someone and then, well, wasn’t so much. My partner died in front of me, the state said I couldn’t sue so I changed laws in a long fight, I lived under a huge weight of Southern California expense aging in an industry, entertainment, that completely hates old people, and trying to monetize a life when suddenly the money went out of entertainment with the freedom of streams. I was eating poorly, processed food, restaurants, at all times of the day and night. I couldn’t exercise, I could barely walk. I had been run over, literally, and my dog died (See the Death of Pippa).
I was unhappy. And as we know from a very old study, unhappy rats medicate, happy rats don’t nearly as much. It’s called the Rat Park study, and while it is heavily contested these days, I’ve lived the results first hand.
America’s, and the world’s unhappiness is all around us. Our government is a shambles and our planet is literally dying in front of us. The Amazon is burning, the poles melting, cities and states burning. We eat toxic, tortured food and are unhealthy, obese, unhappy. Being fat is horrible and if you don’t admit that, you’re fat. It’s uncomfortable, you can’t shop, it’s just not fun. Our lives are spent in servitude of money, a man made item, earning money for food that we then give no thought or time. We live in cities that are loud, that have 24 hour light cycles, sirens, stress; we have built a culture of laziness, where exercise is relegated away to a gym for an hour instead of in everything we do; and we turn to pharmaceutical companies for the answers to problems that food, air and sun should be answering. We leave our happiness to corporations, who don’t care about anything except profits.
And then we blame Johnson & Johnson for our swallowing of thousands of pills. Not the poverty in the areas where addiction is the worst. Not the lack of good jobs, of a future, not the lack of community, family of actual joy. We don’t blame the lack of a good diet, of good exercise, eight hours sleep, education and determination and drive, we blame the drug pushers. But they’re not pushing, we’re grabbing.
I was to blame for taking all those pills. I lost weight, and my back stopped hurting so much. Now, I mange it with Tylenol and Ibuprofen, even though I could have whatever I wanted. I walk / run over 200 miles a month with my 13 pound wonder dog #EmberDoes_Vegas Ember Tereese in the most beautiful canyons of Red Rock National Park. I was to blame for my unhappiness, because I didn’t want to see it so I medicated it away. My blood pressure came down and all numbers became normal; but I had to sell my home, leave the place I’ve lived for 43 years, move to Las Vegas, have zero mortgage and start life all over. I did. It worked.
If you need pain relief longer than seven days, don’t take an opiate unless the situation is dire. Never take one longer than seven days no matter what any doctor tells you. Mange the pain some other way. Unless it’s an acute situation, period, otherwise, don’t do it. Those drugs work. They are hugely effective. They take away all kinds of pain. They are good at what they do.
If Johnson & Johnson is responsible for Oklahoma’s opiate problem, then Little Debby and Sarah Lee owe me a ton of cash, I want Ben or Jerry to delivery the check personally and don’t get me started on Polly’s Pies. And as a nation fights to try not one but TWO chicken sandwiches in the latest social media craze, not once did anyone notice each one has 700 calories and enough fat to kill a grown mule. So, I guess Popeye himself or the homophobe that owns Chik-Fillet will need to start cutting checks, too.
The fact is we are responsible for our addictions. We are responsible for our happiness and our unhappiness as a culture, and as individuals. Tobacco, pot, alcohol, food, opiates, they are all ways to make life easier, more bearable and a lot easier than actually solving the problems.
And there’s the thing: Half a billion dollars could make a lot of people happy in Oklahoma, but it won’t. It won’t go for anything that would really change much, just half a billion Band Aids. Because we won’t address the real problem: Us. We are the reason so many people are unhappy. We have set up a culture where happiness isn’t the goal, wealth is. And it’s literally killing us. And it’s not anyone’s fault but our own. It never has been. We are not powerless. We are the power. You regain that clarity, that power when you quit.
To those of you that have never taken opiates, never quit, recuse yourself from making rules, judgements or pronouncements on what needs to be done. And those that have gone through what I have, step up and speak out. You know as well as I do that no drug company was to blame for you taking pills.
You were. And only you, and I, and not the courts or any company, can fix the real underlying problem: we are an unhappy nation.