What Happens When Pain Changes a Cop’s Perspective?

What Happens When Pain Changes a Cop's Perspective by Lynn R. Webster @LynnRWebsterMD


A cop who arrested addicts is now experiencing life as a pain patient and has a much different perspective.  You can read Nick Selby’s first-person account of “what happens when pain meets bad health policy and bad drug laws” in the Washington Post.

He tells his story well, and it’s one that’s familiar to me. I had several police officers in my practice who also received opioids. Some carried guns. None were impaired, as far as I could tell.

Officer Selby’s Journey to Changing His Perspective About Pain

Selby relays his journey from arresting drug abusers to understanding how necessary an opioid can be for someone in severe pain.

He explains that he wanted access to alternative therapies, but they were not available. He saw the role that payers play in limiting doctors’ options to all therapies including opioids.

Pharmacists Fall Short of Expectations

When pharmacists would refuse to fill his legitimate prescriptions for opioids, Selby felt the shame of needing them.  Additionally, he experienced pharmacists’ bias and lack of knowledge when they told him he could not mix hydrocodone with oxycodone.

Like Selby, I wonder why the pharmacist was so uninformed. The lack of understanding by the pharmacist added to the confusion and despair.

His physician wanted to try an alternative and less harmful opioid– burprenorphine. For some people, burprenorphine can provide excellent pain relief. Although it is an opioid, it doesn’t seem to have many of the side effects seen with typical opioids. Here again, his insurance refused to provide coverage for burprenorphine which forced his doctor to prescribe a far more dangerous drug.

Shelby reflected, “My insurance company paid for eight physical therapy sessions and refused more. They’ll pay for buckets of Vicodin. But non-narcotic relief? I’m on my own.”

He knew that physicians were fearful of prescribing and sensed their suspicion of him. That created a barrier to forming a trusting patient/physician relationship.

“Now, like so many other Americans, I find myself in a medical twilight zone where distrust outweighs care, where doctors fear censure and pass me off to another office.”

People in pain are finding it easier, in many instances, to just go to the street, he says.

The Truth About Officer Selby’s Experience with Pain

Selby’s experience leaves us with two truisms. First, pain is hell and inescapable for many. Secondly, opioid therapy is imperfect, but it is the only option for many, partly because payers don’t cover other treatments.

I would not wish pain on anyone, but I have seen many people change their attitudes when they have become a person in chronic pain. Selby saw this for himself, and it could happen to any one of us.

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 @lynnrwebstermd Lynn R. Webster

Find me here:

Amazon and Facebook

Copyright 2017, Lynn Webster, MD


  1. Renee Steiger on January 24, 2017 at 6:34 pm

    See people, don’t know how bad it can be . Your whole life trying surgery , needles, everything made things worse ! In 94 I hurt my back , 99 I did surgery did nothing worse. I did not want to go the med. root, but when I could not get out of bed, and mom. and husband had to help me with bathroom you name it. Legs that feel like they are on fire feels like you have been snapped in half . No one knows how bad the pain is till it is them, they change their tune !!1

Leave a Comment