The DEA Raids the Offices of My Friend and Colleague, Dr. Tennant

DEA Raids Offices of a Prominent Pain Physician

According to Pain News Network, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has conducted a raid on the offices of Dr. Forest Tennant, “confiscating all of his patient records, appointment books and financial documents.”

A prominent California-based pain physician, Dr. Tennant is a valued friend and colleague. Unfortunately, I know what he is going through. It happened to me, too.

A DEA Raid on Another Pain Specialist’s Offices

I tell the whole story in my book, The Painful Truth, but here’s the abbreviated version. On Friday, August 27, 2010, nine men and women — some carrying guns, and all wearing black jackets emblazoned with either “DEA” or “POLICE” — trooped, unannounced, into the Lifetree Clinic’s offices. It was a raid.

A woman with a subpoena signed by a judge handed me some papers that included a list of some of my former and current patients: those taking unusually high doses of opioids because of their severe pain, those who had exhibited symptoms of abusing drugs and had been discharged for that reason, and those who had overdosed despite our warnings.

The DEA wanted information, but even more, they wanted to exhibit a show of force to intimidate my patients, employees, and me. While I’m not easily intimidated, I was disturbed. I knew the DEA was bearing down on other pain specialists around the country, and I had suspected my turn would come. I worried about what the investigation would do to my ability to help my patients.

The pain medicine community all live with the horror of how pain destroys lives and robs people of their joys. We understand the hell that others — even our fellow physicians and nurses — can only imagine.

So I received the support of my colleagues while the case against my clinic languished, and I was the recipient of their well wishes when, four years later, the U.S. Attorney General’s office finally dismissed its case against me. They never admitted they had made a mistake or apologized for disrupting my life. They simply stopped their investigation and redirected their energies.

The Welfare of Pain Patients

As I wrote in my book, I was not the first doctor practicing pain medicine who was targeted by the authorities, and I knew I wouldn’t be the last.

Now the DEA has raided the offices of Dr. Tennant, and they will do their best to undermine his reputation, threaten the welfare of his patients, and jeopardize his ability to help people in pain. Dr. Tennant has said that part of the reason why the DEA is trying to discredit him is to intimidate other doctors who prescribe opioids to pain patients. I agree.

As Pat Anson, Editor of Pain News Network, points out, “Tennant is a revered figure in the pain community because of his willingness to see patients with intractable chronic pain who are unable to find effective treatment elsewhere or have been abandoned by their doctors. At the age of 76, Tennant could have retired years ago, but he regularly sees about 120 patients at his small pain clinic in West Covina, California.” In my mind, that makes Dr. Tennant one of the heroes of pain medicine. It takes enormous courage these days to prescribe high doses of opioids to patients who medically require it.

When Authorities Do Harm

It is certainly true that the DEA and other government agencies have a role in protecting the public from the inappropriate distribution of opioids and other drugs. In some cases, they have arrested medical professionals who were guilty of misusing their power to prescribe medication, and they have brought them to justice.

But it is also true that the authorities often do harm. They hurt innocent doctors, but they also hurt vast numbers of people who are in pain. The regulators’ actions can have the effect of reducing the ability of pain patients to obtain the medication they need. In some cases, this forces patients to either find the drugs illegally, and risk ingesting potentially tainted street drugs, or committing suicide.

When doctors go to prison, lose their licenses, or voluntarily withdraw from treating pain because they are frightened of repercussions, they suffer a nightmare. But that is not the worst of it.

What is far more difficult to live with is the knowledge that they can’t help the patients who relied on them. They have unwillingly abandoned the people who needed them the most.

Photo by Nicolas Barbier Garreau on Unsplash


  1. Kelly on November 18, 2017 at 6:25 pm

    Dr Webster, how do we stop this travesty? How does a physician receive a lifetime achievement award in pain medicine by his peers one week, and be raided by the DEA the next?
    Dr Tennant has dedicated his 50yr career to chronic pain research and saved countless lives.
    I am alarmed and saddened!
    Physicians, clinicians, pharmacists and patients must band together to fight this government overreach.

  2. Terri Marsh on November 18, 2017 at 9:20 pm

    They are treating this as they did with alcohol prohibition. It didn’t work. It didn’t destroy quality of people’s lives and the ability to function. This prohibition is destroying patients quality of life and there integrity. This prohibition is destroying the Physicians lives who believe in their path to do no harm, and do a job THEY were trained to do.
    Suicide will become the only option, especially with the banning of Kratom which saves lives when patients are thrown away with nothing to help with the body’s withdraws. Notice I say bodies, it’s because I believe addicts are addicted to looking for a high and need more and more where as I never did using out as intended.

    • Sara on November 20, 2017 at 7:58 am

      You are so right, us pain patients on opioid are “opioid dependent” not opioid addicts. There’s a huge difference. An addict will fill an rx and take it all in one day, more more more, just trying to get high, where us opioid dependent will take our rx as prescribed, we never miss an appointment, a pill count, or fail a drug test, yet we’re treated as if we have a drug addiction, not as pain patients. Something needs to change!

    • Dr. Michael Schatman on November 20, 2017 at 9:03 am

      Not so fast with Kratom, which carries the same dangers as MAOIs. Potentially deadly, although somehow still legal. Drug-drug ineractions art problematic. Just because a drug is “natural “ does not necessarily make it safe!

      • Ben on November 20, 2017 at 3:22 pm

        Please give citations and proof of what you say as far as kratom being DEADLY! All 36 deaths recorded were in combination with other drugs…

        • Kelly M. on November 21, 2017 at 1:26 am

          Kratom: A lot less deadly than opioids, a lot less deadly than pain.

      • Mark Ibsen on November 22, 2017 at 11:21 am

        My patients abandoned by the montana board of medicine
        Are using Kratom
        It has saved many lives.

  3. Danyce on November 18, 2017 at 9:28 pm

    I’m with you. We do need to band together. I’m all for suing the CDC for their irresponsible and tainted study, the DEA for this travesty, that harms Drs like Drs Tennant and Webster, but mostly, for allowing pain patients like you and me to suffer and die.
    My Dr does prescribe what’s needed. But he will not subscribe enough, and I’m on a very low dose. Every single modality has been tried, some successfully, and some not so much.
    HOW do we band together? Will it take one or two brave patients to start a lawsuit, crossing fingers that many will join?

    • David Cole on November 27, 2017 at 11:20 pm

      There was two guys in, I think Maine that sued the state licensing board, they got the opiates limit raised, because they couldn’t work with the amount that they were going to give them.
      There’s a veteran named Robert who is suing the VA that denied him pain medication, for 350 million, after taking them for 20 years or something. This is the case to watch. Robert has a GoFundMe page he’s the only one suing the VA in this country for denial of opiates. Good luck to you.

  4. Steve on November 19, 2017 at 6:34 am

    Why when your website opens in a reputable browser does it list your site as a “Insecure Connection”?

  5. Lexie on November 19, 2017 at 12:07 pm

    So what do we do? Our phone calling and letter writing campaign has obviously not done any good. There must be some way to stop this witch hunt!

    • Sara on November 21, 2017 at 8:00 pm

      One idea is to set up an appointment with your two senators and one representative. Visit their offices if you can, or make it a phone appointment. But we all need to tell our story to our legislators and/or their staff. There are 100 million of us and we’re not standing up for ourselves!

  6. Lynn Webster on November 20, 2017 at 3:30 pm

    I have no idea but will check.
    Thank you

  7. Annette on November 21, 2017 at 7:32 pm

    I have been dismiss from PC because failed drug test for weed.I have depression, anixnty (misspelled), and bi-polar disease,which I could get my PC to treat or take seriously. Now I’m suffering and paying price. I feel for doctors who try to do right thing.

  8. Becky on November 21, 2017 at 9:37 pm

    They don’t seem to realize that doctors are rarely the villains they are searching fir and the patients are the victims. Drug ADDICTS will always find them somehow, and until the flow of illegal drugs stops cooking into the US, the overdosing and crime will continue.
    Punishing and not recognizing legitimate pain sufferers only results in suicides, higher numbers on unemployment and disability, and eventually, people resorting to the illegal means that they are trying so hard to eliminate. So essentially, they are just ensuring that the “war on drugs” will continue ad nauseum. Portugal made a very different choice, after trying things “our” way for years. And succeeded. Why is it that the government is incapable of trying things a different way? And Sgt are they so allergic to compassion…? Smh…

  9. John on November 27, 2017 at 11:19 pm

    It is simply bad government to conflate efficacious treatment with abuse.

    While it is appropriate to stop criminal abuse, it is criminal to obstruct efficacious treatment.

    Substance ingestion is a freedom and a right of the People under the Constitution.

    The American Founders limited government, not the freedom of People.

    The government in America is not a dictatorship and it has no authority to dictate.

    People are responsible for their own behavior. Substances don’t misbehave. People do.

    Doctors have a constitutional right and freedom to treat patients with efficacious substances and instruments.

    Caveat emptor. People must engage in self-reliance.

    Americans have the freedoms of thought, speech, belief, religion, press, assembly and every other conceivable natural and God-given right and freedom, which existed before government was established, per the 9th amendment.

    Violence and property damage are violations of the law. Behaviors destructive of other people and property are illegal.

    Laws against substance ingestion are completely unconstitutional denials of constitutional rights.

  10. Donna on November 28, 2017 at 11:51 am

    Warning long post. Here goes;

    Well, I sincerely hope this attack on our beloved Dr Tennent is the wake up call to unite ALL expert pain doctors and their Organizations to stand and fight back Now. Isn’t this the time to Go on The offense instead of defense or worse siding with some who are wimping in with the idea that chronic pain patients are addicts or do have an opioid abuse disorder. From scientific research we know the real percentage is very low that they’re addicts but the president doesn’t know. He also doesn’t know the other true facts surrounding opioids for chronic pain.

    Don’t we find it odd that Andrew Kolondny has had the ability to be heard by the CDC, FDA, DEA , all politicians and even the President ?But our pain Experts nor their Organizations have had the same opportunity to get a meeting.

    The addicts and their industry jumped right in while the presidential campaign was running. They were heard but nothing was from the sickest, most weak citizens of America. No one spoke up for them.
    Isn’t it time to demand the same opportunity? So far, this situation has completely been one-sided.
    I pray to God that I’m not alone in realizing were running out of time, We’re all actually looking more guilty than innocent by not demanding this side of the story to be told.
    A few months ago, I thought about how to get this meeting in Washington DC with the President. I personally don’t feel that politicians care at all. They’ve been contacted for years with only form letters returned. In Florida, we had Matt Grant contact many of them to only have them lie saying they’ll look into it but did Nothing!!. Plus they’ve been using the pain community for political gain for so long so would they care? This is why I say skip them and go to the Top like the addicts did.
    Sadly,..I didn’t get much support on my idea. Only a few responded.

    America needs to regain Compassion for the Disabled. It’s been lost in this war on Opioids.

    As for the many patient groups that could help, a postcard campaign could possibly help get this panel into a round table meeting. Think of it, people across the nation sending postcards in unison bombarding the White House with thousands of postcards. Those pass the smell test much faster than letters. Unless someone has a better idea. Besides so many pain patients have now lost their medicine. They’ve become bedridden, housebound because of this so most of them just aren’t able to physically get out to do much more.
    Perhaps Doctor organizations know how they could achieve it. I’m sure they do.
    This coalition panel should consist of not only several Dr experts, but also a few patients some should be Veterans and a few caregivers to tell the other side of the story.

    I feel confident that the president doesn’t no the truth of why 22 Veterans are dying each day. He doesn’t understand or have any knowledge of what chronic pain really is and how many people are really affected by it. The president may be 70 years of age but he’s in good health. He just doesn’t know.

    I’m sorry, I don’t know if placing my idea here on under this posting is the right place?
    But I have no other idea where else it would matter.

    We do know though that If Real action isn’t taken now, especially because of what’s happened to Dr Tennent?
    This will probably be close to the end of the line for Americans who Suffer chronic pain. If the DEA is allowed to take down the Expert who just received the lifetime achievement award for being the expert on treating pain. If experts dont get in with the president soon?
    We’re all washed up. No new books will matter, no documentary’s will matter. Lives will be destroyed.
    Are we going to allow Andrew Kolondny to WIN? Allow good, innocent doctors to continue being shutdown, taking away pain relief ?

    Honestly, What do we have to Lose that were not losing now? It’s only a matter of time before No One will have access to proper pain management anymore.

    If anyone decides to ACT?
    Please let me know if I can Help.

    Thank you to ALL doctors who have been advocating. Thank you, Thank you.
    We appreciate you So Very Much.❤️

    • Alta Hanlon on February 2, 2018 at 11:30 am

      Maybe pain patients need to bombard the DEA with phone calls, letters, protesting in front of their headquarters etc. The DEA is what most doctors are afraid of. The public and our lawmakers need to know what is going on and the effects the DEA’s actions are having on the millions of pain patients in this country. Actually, other countries are starting to follow in the footsteps of the US in this crackdown on legal opioid use. The CDC claims their guidelines are not supposed to affect chronic pain patients, but they are!

  11. Bob Dudley on November 28, 2017 at 4:29 pm

    I am a Vietnam War veteran, as is Dr. Tennant; each of us having seen first-hand the resulting pain inflicted upon humanity. He has told me that this fact was central in his career decision to focus on pain management. Sadly, the pain we witnessed was all too often the result of misjudged targeting, “friendly fire” and “collateral damage”. Such events are an ill-thought out product of government efforts engaging large groups to focus massive forces on small targets. Indeed the term, “collateral damage”, continues to be an almost daily reminder in current news reports of just how much of an oxymoron is the term “Government Intelligence”. Today, when our ill-informed government manages to bomb the wrong building or destroy civilian life, the world holds them accountable and demands the due apology for such failures to act responsibly.

    Sadly, it appears that we are now again immersed in another war taken up by our government: the war on drugs. This time against its own people. And rest assured the same ill-thought out process has now produced the same “collateral damage”. My wife, who is now an Intractable Pain Patient of Dr. Tennant, has had dozens of doctors and nearly a dozen pharmacies turn her away because they caved-in to the pressures applied upon them by the DEA. I want to not fault them, because they too have families to protect and provide for and do not want to place their liberties at risk in securing their life in these United States of America. I get it.

    But I am also reminded of the sacrifice given by those ‘names on the wall’ in the Washington, D.C. Vietnam Memorial and of the day I visited that amazingly powerful edifice. I was not prepared for the emotion that overcame me and the immediate next thought in that tearful moment of the countless, ‘un-named’, hundreds of thousands of persons who also sacrificed as much. Only one war; so many lives; so much given and for what purpose? We called it a fight for “liberty” at the time. But we seem to have squandered it all for a new definition of “liberty”. There is no security in this new liberty. I believe it was Benjamin Franklin once said: “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

    Dr. Tennant said it very clearly following the DEA raid on his offices. His concern was not for himself and not for just his own patients, but for all pain patients in this country. My wife and about a million vulnerable legitimate pain patients have become the new “collateral damage” in this war on drugs. It is like any other government war. They might as well all be living in a mud-hut adjacent to a Taliban mosque in Afghanistan, waiting for the next “smart” bomb. The only difference in that event would be that the government would apologize for the civilian destruction. As it now stands, our government has remained unapologetic for the civilian atrocities in its local war on drugs. Shame on them!

    Dr. Tennant is one of the bravest individuals I have ever met. He is the personification of the stuff of which this nation was formed. It doesn’t take another Benjamin Franklin to make a difference. Any person can take up the fight in defense of this war; not by arms, but by the pen, or perhaps more appropriately the ‘keyboard’. Write to your congressman, legislator and or senator.

  12. Samantha on November 30, 2017 at 4:59 pm

    If only people would come together.

    The media and politicians are bring fed misinformation with skewed data.

    If they actually review the data instead of reading the final report, they would realize that when prescription opioids were removed from the calculations.

    The overdoses attributed to prescription opioids were a very low percentage.

    However, that doesn’t fit the agenda of those who are forcing chronic pain patients to live in agony, turn to illegal options or commit suicide.

    I know of many cases where people have ended their lives because they were unable to live with the pain any longer.

    They were “not” depressed. They were being tortured. Being deprived of the medications that were deemed medically necessary.

    But, their medical providers discontinued treatment due to the new CDC rules and fear of the DEA.

    The DEA and CDC say to discontinue opioids, but don’t have a plan in place for Chronic Pain Patients to obtain care.

    Any alternative care that might potentially bring relief is not covered by insurance.

    And since most chronic pain patients are disabled, how are they expected to obtain that care?

    • Withheld on January 13, 2018 at 9:14 am

      I believe they simply do not care. Treating pain is “far to complex for politicians to understand…”says an prominent P.H.d. and teacher at USC Keck school of Medicine.
      Kaiser in OR will match us up with Dr. Kevorkian and a mere 40$ supply of seconal fixes us, permanently.

      • Barbarically Suffering in pain now... on February 5, 2018 at 12:21 am

        Good point, “withheld.” Nobody gives a damn about the CPP’s. If they did, every professional pain organization in existence plus the AMA, the Regs: CDC, FDA, DEA, political arena would have gotten their facts straight and served as a voice to ensure CPP’S were never left to suffer.

        CPP’S are have been left on their own and hung out to dry. All Regs and politicians care about are the number of addicts who know zero physical pain dropping dead primarily from their illicit drugs.

        I wish there was a Dr. Kevorkian left. I’d be first in a long line to have my CP once well managed again, but this time, permanently.
        Instead, I’m on my own, like millions more now left equally suffering and reaching a crossroads dilemma whereby they we will make our own decisions, decide our own fate. Alone. Unencumbered.

  13. Anonymous on January 13, 2018 at 8:43 am

    Can a Supreme Court Declaration or Injunction be filed against DEA for essentially practicing medicine (through imposing lower standards of care) without license or authority?

    This seems to be where we are taking the fight.

  14. deboruth on January 17, 2018 at 2:43 pm

    Postoperative Pain Experience: Results from a National Survey Suggest Postoperative Pain Continues to Be Undermanaged
    Apfelbaum, Jeffrey L. MD*; Chen, Connie PharmD†; Mehta, Shilpa S. PharmD†; Gan, Tong J. MD‡

    Anesthesia & Analgesia: August 2003 – Volume 97 – Issue 2 – p 534-540
    doi: 10.1213/01.ANE.0000068822.10113.9E
    PAIN MEDICINE: Research Report
    In Brief
    Author Information
    Postoperative pain can have a significant effect on patient recovery. An understanding of patient attitudes and concerns about postoperative pain is important for identifying ways health care professionals can improve postoperative care. To assess patients’ postoperative pain experience and the status of acute pain management, we conducted a national study by using telephone questionnaires. A random sample of 250 adults who had undergone surgical procedures recently in the United States was obtained from National Family Opinion. Patients were asked about the severity of postsurgical pain, treatment, satisfaction with pain medication, patient education, and perceptions about postoperative pain and pain medications. Approximately 80% of patients experienced acute pain after surgery. Of these patients, 86% had moderate, severe, or extreme pain, with more patients experiencing pain after discharge than before discharge. Experiencing postoperative pain was the most common concern (59%) of patients. Almost 25% of patients who received pain medications experienced adverse effects; however, almost 90% of them were satisfied with their pain medications. Approximately two thirds of patients reported that a health care professional talked with them about their pain. Despite an increased focus on pain management programs and the development of new standards for pain management, many patients continue to experience intense pain after surgery. Additional efforts are required to improve patients’ postoperative pain experience.

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