OIC Is No Joke, Bill Maher

mocking clown

Those who live with chronic pain may suffer from OIC (Opioid Induced Constipation). That’s not a joke, and it doesn’t lend itself to satire. Yet after the Super Bowl ran a tasteful ad to raise awareness about OIC, Bill Maher weighed in with a tweet that was shameful and offensive.

These are people with serious medical problems. Which of my patients with chronic pain would Maher call a junkie? Would it be the child with bone cancer taking morphine who becomes seriously constipated? Or would it be the grandmother in her eighties who has had severe arthritis in her spine and joints and uses an opioid so she can walk?

Does Maher really call these people junkies? If so, then does he have a similar attitude towards schizophrenics or people with AIDS?

Maher’s attitude, which too many share, is one of the reasons why people in pain can’t get treatment and often feel the only way out is suicide. It was wrong for Maher to share his prejudice against people with chronic pain who require pain medication.

OIC is not a joke, and neither is chronic pain.

Unfortunately, Bill Maher is not alone in condemning the Super Bowl ad. Governor Peter Shumlin of Vermont is asking several national drug companies to retract the Super Bowl.  Dr. Andrew Kolodny, Executive Director of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing, was quoted as saying, “It’s very disturbing to see an ad like that.”

Everyone is entitled to have an opinion. But note that neither Governor Shumlin nor Dr. Kolodny — and, certainly, not Bill Maher — offers an alternative treatment for people in pain.

I can assure you that people in pain would love not to use opioids. And physicians would love not to prescribe them.

It is just cruel for anyone to state that opioids should not be used for persistent pain without acknowledging the horrendous suffering of people with persistent pain. And it is beyond cruel to accuse people with chronic pain of being junkies.

Name calling won’t help. Criticizing a Super Bowl ad won’t ameliorate suffering.

Better and safer options for treating people in pain are the only solutions.


Purchase my book The Painful Truth: What Chronic Pain Is Really Like and Why It Matters to Each of Us (available on Amazon) or read a free excerpt here.the painful truth, lynn webster, md, chronic pain
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Copyright 2016, Lynn Webster, MD




  1. John Burke on February 13, 2016 at 11:02 pm

    Great points Dr Webster! Well stated as usual. Thanks for being there for pain patients.

  2. Janice Reynolds on February 14, 2016 at 9:58 pm

    For those demanding non-opioids, they too can cause constipation (which is not helped by OIC meds). The mere fact someone cannot move about much due to pain contributes to constipation. The fact that the belittling of people in pain has moved beyond comedians, the CDC, and PROP to government officials such as governors and senators is inhumane. It is open season on us.

  3. Becky McClintock on February 16, 2016 at 6:05 pm

    Thank you for having such an educated, sensitive response. I’m a former registered nurse, wife and mom living with RSD, spinal issues, lupus and other things. The meds I take every day allow me to get up every day and be a wife and mom. Too many uninformed people, have far too much influence and too little empathy. You are fighting the good fight though. We fight it with you, all of the people cavalierly labeled “junkies.” I truly hope that all of the loudmouths, who think they know SO much, never face the life-altering path of being a patient in pain. Then they too could end labeled, disrespected and possibly constipated. What then? Will it still be a punchline?

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