The CDC and the DEA Want to Be Your Ghost Doctor

The CDC and the DEA Want to be Your Ghost Doctor, The Painful Truth, Doctor, Pain, Lynn R Webster, MD

What Is a Ghost Doctor?

It is not uncommon for politicians, celebrities, and other ordinary people to hire a talented writer — who is called a “ghostwriter” — to compose a story or book. Ghostwriters are supposed to write in the author’s words, voice, and style, and they do not take credit for their authorship. In other words, they are the actual writers, but they are as invisible as ghosts.

This concept of a third party — in this case, a ghostwriter — standing in for the author is a collaboration that requires special talents and understanding of the author’s intent. The content that results from the partnership is not intended to be a vehicle to convey the third party’s views.

The ghostwriter’s job is to convince readers that they’re reading the words of the author. In other words, the ghostwriter has to pose as the author so that readers won’t know the difference between the voice of the ghostwriter and the voice of the credited author. It is a mutually rewarding relationship, and both parties agree to it.

There appears to be an analogous relationship developing in the area of pain medicine, but it is not a consensual relationship. Worst of all, nobody — least of all patients — benefits from it.

Determining patients’ medical problems and what the treatment should be for those problems customarily has been within a physician’s wheelhouse. However, lately, it seems as if the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) want to sit in the physician’s chair and make decisions regarding treatment. In my opinion, they are usurping physicians’ decision-making responsibilities.

In other words, the CDC and the DEA want to be your ghost doctor.

Like a ghostwriter, a ghost doctor has certain abilities. But, these ghost doctors usually lack physicians’ training and expertise in pain medicine. Traditionally, most people would agree that most physicians have more information and knowledge to make medical decisions about their patients than the CDC or the DEA, but that perception appears to be shifting.

New CDC Opioid Prescribing Guideline

For example, in March of 2016, the CDC released its CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain. It blamed the opioid epidemic on doctors and condemned them for prescribing opioids for nearly any patient who hadn’t been diagnosed with cancer or a terminal illness. The CDC deemed itself better equipped than doctors to decide how patients with pain should be treated using opioids.

The DEA is the other regulatory agency that is interpreting what is, and what is not, a legitimate medical reason to prescribe an opioid. But they do not list these conditions. Physicians are left to guess what the DEA and their experts consider to be a legitimate medical purpose to prescribe an opioid.

This puts chronic pain sufferers in an impossible situation. Instead of receiving treatment from doctors who know them and care about their needs, patients are now at the mercy of ghost doctors — faceless regulatory agencies that have never met the people they are often condemning to pain, frustration, fear, and hopelessness due to actual doctors’ fear of sanctions if they do not comply with the government views.

A doctor’s first responsibility is to the patient.

But, due to pressures by law enforcement and the new CDC guidelines, doctors cannot fulfill this responsibility.

As Orlando, Florida’s WESH reported, pharmacies in Florida were forced to deny medication to patients with legitimate prescriptions beginning in 2010 when the state decided it was necessary to address the opioid epidemic. Pharmacies blamed the DEA when patients couldn’t get the painkillers they needed, and the DEA blamed the pharmacies.

And, in the meantime, patients suffered.

Even Pam Bondi, Florida’s attorney general at the time, admits that the crackdown on painkillers went too far. But Jeff Walsh — DEA assistant special agent in charge of Central Florida — disagrees. “It’s tragic, but it’s an issue between the patient and the pharmacist, not the DEA,” he opines.

In other words, the DEA doesn’t understand how they have become a ghost doctor. I suspect neither does the CDC.

The DEA and the CDC now Directly Influence Physician Decision-Making 

But the reality is that both the DEA and CDC are directly influencing physician decision making. Their words and voices are replacing those of physicians.

Perhaps that is not all bad. Regulation has its place in medicine. However, it isn’t all good, either. Guidelines and standards of care must be established by practitioners who understand the needs of their patients. There cannot be a formulaic approach to care, because one pain treatment will not work for all pain patients. That means ghost doctors can’t design treatment plans. Trained doctors must do that.

A ghostwriter may be able to manifest the voice of an author, but a ghost doctor can never replace the personal relationship and decision-making abilities of a personal physician. Ghost doctors can never successfully substitute for trained physicians.

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. Wayne S. Swanson II on June 27, 2016 at 12:30 pm

    I have taken this opportunity to share my heartbreaking story in hopes these witch hunting Opiate ill informed skeptics will read and understand that I would have no life without Medically prescribed Opiates by a physicians care and strictly monitored monthly urine and blood test. Please remember that An Opinion Before A Thorough Investigation Is The Epitome Of Ignorance! And that a little more compassion from the Medical Field and its representatives could have saved my beautiful Stepdaughters life. Let me say this! A person who has a addictive personality will abuse anything that helps them feel better. I have taken Oxycontin for 12 years , I have had 20 major surgery’s in 9 years. I have so much physical pain I can not even get out of bed with ouit pain meds and when I run out I run out and just lay in bed praying the Lord relieve me of this horrible condition and I pray God you pain med skeptics never go through what I go through everyday of my life when the only thing you have to do is threaten what help I get, Shame on you! There will always be drug abuse and as the so called war on drugs has failed all this will! All you do is stoke and aid the drug pushers business to knew heights in the Black Market of Heroin while depriving folks as me to this horrible movement! My Stepdaughter committed suicide 4 years ago because of being treated like a drug addict by her family and doctors when all along she suffered from Lupus and Fibro which I believe was brought on by a deadly car crash at 18 , she told me between that which I was being put through and what they were putting her through she was not going to live her life in such a hell brought on by people like you that are on a witch hunt to out law Opiates and pain meds that give us some sort of a life . As a retired Police officer and worked indirectly close to the DEA, you people do not have a clue how thrilled you are making the illegal opiate trade and think of my Late Stepdaughter as you continue on with this 2016 Version of the ( 1940s Propaganda Film named REEFER MADNESS )movement to outlaw opiates! Just like the slaughter of children at Sandy Hook if there would have just been gun laws , my God they were Gun Laws , the guns that murdered all those 20 children were all registered and owned by a school teacher! You fight Drug Addiction in Elementary education by teaching all children the dangers of Booze and Tobacco which if these witch hunters want for us to know the real truth but they do not. I miss my Stepdaughter a so much and some of us will continue on the fight to protect our right to feel better and function without fear of these witch hunters trying to convince us to commit suicide . And they are trying to do exactly THAT!
    The under line real truth is THESE witch hunters would rather us Chronic Pain sufferers commit suicide are and DRINK all the BOOZE we can drink! The Federals legalized it ( ALCOHOL) knowing its a more deadly drug than Strychnine. And just because the DEA has miserably failed with their witch hunt type movement on drugs why do they deprive us sick people of our Constitutional Rights to be Happy in that pursuit of with Professional Physicians to take meds that give us relief of this horrible malady of Chronic Pain ! May God have mercy on their miserable souls they that seek to destroy us Chronic Pain Sufferers only and little hope of temporary relief of this horrible sickness.

    • Jane Abernathy on June 29, 2016 at 2:24 pm

      You shouldn’t run out. That means you are not taking them as prescribed. Maybe you need a dosage adjustment. You have probably reached your tolerance for the opioid. This is not meant to criticize you, only to help.

  2. Stephen Vasko, Jr. on June 27, 2016 at 8:45 pm

    That is my thoughts as well. I was just refused treatment by 2 doctors because I smoked some Cannabis and this receptionist was able to access that info without my permission. I’m banned from my pain doctor for life! I had to drive to Dallas each month to receive help. Things went well for awhile. I needed to change my meds and put on the sheet I needed to see him. I wasn’t taking my breakthrough meds as prescribed. I was taking less. My urine test showed the level wasn’t correct. I was asked if I was taking them. I stated yes because if I’d said no, according to the DEA forced contract I had to sign or not be allowed treatment States,”you will be discharged if meds aren’t taken as prescribed”. I tried for 3 months to see my doctor, instead I had to see a PA who isn’t allowed to change meds. No one ever bothered to ask for a pill count. I was just discharged. Had to go to another PM. This doctor treated me with total arrogance. I use a wheelchair because I’m not able to walk but a short distance. I informed him of this when he asked “Why, do you use a wheelchair?” This was offensive. I was asked same thing on 2 more visits. I terminated his services! Now I’m living in pain. I go against the law to get just a bit of relief. It’s going to end badly for me but I no longer care. The DEA has scared our doctors so much no one can get good medical care. They have no business in healthcare. No one should be forced to sign a contract just to be treated. We are treated as addicts from day 1.

  3. Lana Kirby on June 29, 2016 at 6:13 am

    Things just keep getting worse and worse for the chronic pain patient. I believe Senate Bill S2204 needs to be enacted right away and the docs who have discharged all CPP’s need to call them back in immediately as some are detoxing alone and some are just bedbound due to pain. When is someone going to listen to the complexity of the problem and what their efforts to curb the heroin epidemic has done to the 100 million Americans who use opioids as a way of coping with the pain. Some are being forced to undergo injections because they’re being given an ultimatum by the doctors. This is contrary to our right to refuse any medical treatment we aren’t comfortable with. America has got to wake up to the fact that in trying to help one group of people, they are hurting, physically hurting, 100 million Americans.

  4. Jane Abernathy on June 29, 2016 at 2:25 pm

    Thank you , Dr. Webster for all you do for us. I appreciate you.

  5. Donna on June 30, 2016 at 1:54 am

    We, as patients need to stand up and take action to get the medication that helps us… I don’t have insurance but I have to pay for mandatory drug testing. The amount of medicine and the kind is different from patients to patients… I am 55 years old and have had injuries from early childhood to feb 2016 along with 7 illnesses, but I’m treated by the government that we all need to take the same amount of meds… Every one is different, levels of pain, etc. I don’t feel like getting out of bed and going to doctor appointment just to be drug tested and have to pay for it on top of everything else… But if I cancel appointment or refuse the test because of cost, I’m considered that I must be doing something illegal!!!! I am a procrastinator and it’s hard for me to write letters that I should to address these issues and advocate for other chronic pain sufferers….

  6. Richard A. Lawhern, Ph.D. on July 4, 2016 at 8:54 am

    As an advocate for chronic pain patients, I daily interact in Facebook forums serving over 15,000 members. In those forums, I observe the direct impact of the CDC “Guidelines”. The Guidelines are far from “voluntary”. They are in fact a highly restrictive legal standard that can be and IS being used to persecute doctors who try to help chronic pain patients. Hundreds of US doctors are being driven out of pain management practice, and thousands of patients plunged into abject agony and unsupervised opiate withdrawal. This amounts to patient desertion and denial of medical care.

    It is long since time and past time that the CDC and DEA were sued for gross malpractice, medical negligence, and collusion to deny care to the 100 million chronic pain patients in America. That’s right: it is time to SUE THE B@STARDS!

    • Stacey Fields on July 10, 2016 at 10:24 pm

      I agree 100% Dr Lawhern, this inhumane treatment is not right and violates many rights. We need an attorney willing to take this suit on. I have actually written to several with response. It seams no one will stand up for the very sickest who need these medications Disgusting!

  7. Stacey Fields on July 10, 2016 at 10:25 pm

    Above comment should have read with NO response

  8. michelle grandell on July 24, 2016 at 5:28 pm

    Psoriatic arthritis / Fibro cause my cronic pain. I am drug tested at every doctor visit ( my rheumatologist prescribes pain meds ). Now the original scripts we need are only valid for 2 months from issue, so if I have a “good” month and don’t take as many as prescribed, there’s a chance that the next month’s will be expired. I really resent being treated like an addict and it doesn’t look very good that that will stop !

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