Over-Prescribing Did Not Cause America’s Opioid Crisis

This is an article by Richard A. Lawhern, Ph.D. I offer it with the author’s permission for informational purposes. The author and I have no financial involvement.



Richard A. Lawhern, Ph.D.

Updated April 5, 2019

As a policy analyst, patient advocate, and moderator in social media support groups for people in pain, I have lost track of the number of articles sent to me which proclaim that America is in the midst of a crisis of opioid addiction and overdose deaths. A central assertion in many articles is that the crisis began with physicians over-prescribing to their patients in the 1990s and early 2000s, in an era of “Pain as the Fifth Vital Sign.”

Almost the entirety of present U.S. public policy on opioid pain relievers at Federal and State levels is founded upon this false claim. Governments are engaged in a vast exercise in regulatory over-reach, seeking to “solve” our opioid crisis by restricting dose levels and duration of treatment for both acute and chronic pain.

However, attribution of blame to doctors is flat-out wrong. How do we know this? We need only look at the data.

If physician over-prescribing to patients was the cause of a lot of opioid overdoses, then we should see a relationship between state-by-state prescribing rates and state-by-state overdose deaths that would look something like Figure 1 below:

Figure 0 - Notional Plot

Figure 1:  X versus Y – Notional Data Relationship Chart

In the notional chart of Figure 1, there is a general upward trend in variable Y (overdose death rate) as variable X (prescribing rate) increases. There is some spread of the data around this trend line. But it would be reasonable to conclude that there is probably some relationship, even if that relationship was through a third variable (call it “Z”) that we don’t see named in the chart.

But do we actually see this kind of relationship in prescribing data collected by the CDC? Not at all!


Prescribing vs OD Rates 2016


Figure 2:  CDC Overdose Mortality vs. Prescribing Rates

In this real-world data drawn directly from the CDC Wonder database, each point shows the number of overdose-related deaths per hundred thousand population, versus the number of prescriptions written by any doctor, per hundred population. Data are shown for 50 U.S. States plus DC. The data plot looks like a shotgun blast aimed at a barn door. There is no consistent upward trend here. There are instead wide variations from state to state. And there is certainly no correlation or cause-and-effect.

Note:  Prescribing data were downloaded in December 2017 from the CDC Prescribing Data Page. The 2017 data set and analysis report are available online.  However detailed prescribing data for the US have since been privatized in a for-fee data service operated by IQVIA .  Opioid-related Mortality data were updated April 3, 2019 for the Underlying Cause of Death database at CDC, codes for accidental death or suicide by any indexed opioid (UCD code X-42, X62, T40.0-T40.6).

Without Correlation, There Can Be No Cause and Effect

We often hear that “correlation is not cause,” but there is a corollary to this rule that is heard less often: without correlation, there can be no cause and effect. There is almost no correlation in this CDC data. Charts for earlier years are quite similar.

There are other inconvenient facts in the CDC data as well. According to the prevailing mythology so widely shouted by anti-opioid advocates, we would expect higher rates of overdose deaths among populations that receive more opioid prescriptions. But this doesn’t happen, either.

Figure 3 shows us the rates of opioid prescription compiled by age group. (Source: CDC Annual Report of Risks and Outcomes, 2016)

Prescribing Rates by Age Cohort 2016


Figure 3:  Opioid Prescribing by Age

Rates of prescribing are highest for seniors by a factor of 300% when compared to young people. This is an expected result. Older people are much more often treated for chronic pain. Now what about overdose-related deaths?

As we see from Figure 4 below, the rate of opioid overdose deaths (both opioid and non-opioid related)  in people above age 51 is the lowest for any age group. Likewise, that rate has been stable for 17 years, as overdose death rates among kids and young adults have sky-rocketed to levels now six times higher than in seniors.

This chart was constructed by downloading age-adjusted data from  the CDC Wonder database by State and year, current as of April 2019. Underlying Cause of Death codes were entered for Accidental and Suicide deaths ( X42, X62) due to all narcotics (T40.0-T40.6). Mortality rates among youth to middle age have soared during the period, while rates among seniors 55 and older have remained relatively stable.

Something is clearly going on in mortality by age group – but it isn’t related to prescribing patterns.


ODs by Age 1999-2007


Figure 4:  Opioid-Related Overdoses by Age, 1999 to 2017

A third contradiction to the prevailing policy narrative is that the demographics of opioid overdose death are very different from those of chronic pain patients prescribed opioids. The typical new abuser of opioids is a young male who also abuses alcohol and has a history of unemployment, family stress or family substance abuse, and sometimes mental health problems. But the typical chronic pain patient (by a ratio of about 60/40) is a woman in her 40s or older. It seems plausible that if her life is stable enough so she can see a doctor repeatedly for management of her pain, she will almost never be found to have a substance abuse problem.

There is also strong evidence that policies restricting access to opioids have been completely ineffective in moderating our overdose crisis. From a peak in 2010, opioid prescribing has steadily been driven downward by our hostile regulatory environment. That rate is now more than a third lower than in 2010. However, overdose-related mortality has more than doubled — in large part due to the emergence of illegally manufactured fentanyl into street markets. As noted by the Department of Human Services Inter Agency Task Force on Pain Management (pages 5 and 56), there is now concern that restrictions on medical opioid availability to pain patients are driving increasing numbers into street markets or suicide.

Our Opioid Crisis Is Real

Lest I be accused of glossing over the potential dangers of opioids, let me be clear: the U.S. has a genuine opioid “crisis” in addiction and deaths. But the crisis is not one of over-prescribing except in a very narrow sense. Prescriptions partially unused by legitimate pain patients may find their way into family medicine closets where they may be later stolen by a family member or burglar. Some pain pills are diverted by former patients to under-insured family members who can’t afford to see a physician. Much larger volumes of “corporate diversion” can be traced to relatively few unscrupulous doctors operating pill mills.

Our “opioid crisis” is not an issue of medical exposure to prescriptions.   The real opioid crisis is one of illegal drugs in a “crisis of hopelessness.” Non-patients are made vulnerable to the distractions of opioids by a deadly combination of economic stagnation, hollowed-out communities, and broken families unable to find employment. Meanwhile, doctors are leaving pain management or restricting their practices under draconian and unjustified threats of losing their medical licenses – and deserting hundreds of thousands of patients.

Our opioid “crisis” is self-made. But it won’t be solved by placing restrictions on physicians, pharmacists, or patients. Limiting patients’ access to prescription opioids has led to an increase in overdose deaths. Thus, it is time for a major reversal of these restrictions. It is time for the bureaucratic madness to stop.


Richard Lawhern

Richard A. Lawhern, PhD [@lawhern1 on Twitter] is a technically trained non-physician advocate and online forum moderator with over 22 years experience, communicating with tens of thousands of patients and caregivers. He has published over 70 papers and articles in both popular media and professional medical journals. Several of the charts in this article were published by The Crime Report in a June 21, 2018 article titled “The Phony War Against Opioids – Some Inconvenient Truths.”


  1. Charles Stewart Payne on March 30, 2019 at 4:56 pm

    Very well done! I want to comment more but I have to go for now! I appreciate you correctly pointing out the real issues in overdose deaths and addiction! What is the real cause! Hopelessness in communities destroyed by job loss and unemployment and flooded with illicit drugs! “The forgotten people” of this Country. I am hopeful myself that this is in the process of being turned around! Now, like you showed so well with the Governments own data, the CDC guidelines are making the opioid crisis worse, not better!

    • Tee tee on April 19, 2019 at 9:01 pm

      I can’t express how much my family and loved ones appreciate all the work u and the other wonderful angels do for pain patients and their families. Since the weaponization of CDC guidelines I can’t believe how bad pain patients are being treated! I don’t ever see doctor patients relationship ever being restored and that is devistating. I can’t believe our government was allowing the sacrifice of one group of people for another! And what’s even more disturbing is that our sickest population had to make calls, send letters, stand or sit at rallies pleading for help from our policy makers and media to be ignored for years..I still can’t believe the medical community didn’t stand against this in beginning. They have a lot of power and could have stopped this before it got to this point.But either way I’m happy the tide is starting to turn.My only fear is that the pain patients that have already lost there meds/ function that doctors will refuse to give it back..one step at a time I know..

  2. Jan Poole on March 30, 2019 at 6:22 pm

    Dr. Lawhern, of The Alliance For Treatment Of Intractable Pain (ATIP), has been a tireless advocate for people in pain and has almost single-handedly brought visibility, education and help to those of us who have been forgotten. This evidence speaks for itself, and has been meticulously researched by one of the finest minds in the scientific community. His background is extensive and fascinating for those who care to enquire.

    I highly recommend “The Lawhern Files” hosted on the website “Face-Facts.com”, which has exhaustive information about this War On Pain Patients. IMHO I believe the government has put forth disinformation, if not outright lies about opioids for two reasons: money and social control (power). Their goal is the elimination of opioids. The outcome has been a dramatic increase in suicides (veterans and Intractable CPP’s). This enables the government to save $1 TRILLION IN HEALTHCARE, and not be voted out of power when the biggest segment of society finally retires and can’t vote them out of office when they find out that the politicians have spent their Social Security, Medicare and owe $200 Trillion in UNFUNDED LIABILITIES OWED TO these and other safety net programs for the most vulnerable amongst us! Thank God for Dr. Lawhern whose voice is being heard in radio broadcasts, speaking engagements before government agencies, writings, Facebook, and so many other avenues! The Pain Community is indebted to this great man who will never quit fighting for us!

  3. Margaret Spiller on March 30, 2019 at 6:38 pm


  4. Rich Reifsnyder on March 30, 2019 at 7:32 pm

    Hi Dr.Red, Very Well Written.It is simply disgusting and unjustified all the Data you and Dr.Bloom have sent the CDC only to be ignored and brushed aside.Myself Iam waiting for the results of the HHS investigation into the CDC for Malfeasance and Fraud you submitted this past winter.Iam 62 and Disabled from 3 failed surgeries with severe nerve damage and have been stable On Opiod Medication since 1998.Just like millions of us seniors who have been stable on our Opiod Medication till 2016.Myself and 50 million like me have been so severely and forcibly decreased our Opiod Medication it helps my Intractable Pain for 10-12 hours.I was Decreased 63%, from 160mg/day to 60mg/day,so half the day I suffer just like millions of my fellow Intractable Pain Patients Are.My Pain Specialist only prescribes 60mg MME total for hundreds of his patients,that is 60mg Oxycodone=90MME.This country ruined 50 million Veterans and Intractable Pain Patients lives.The Opiod Guidelines did not do a damn thing to help anything,the OD Deaths have never been higher and CDC ignores the truthful data and suicides,Why?

  5. Louis Ogden on March 30, 2019 at 7:54 pm

    Thanks go out to Red for his writing and thanks to Dr. Webster for publishing this vital information.

  6. Teri Pezzella on March 30, 2019 at 10:39 pm

    GREAT article, letter Red. Thanks to Dr Webster as well, for all your hard work and contributions towards helping get this farce turned around, for all American citizens! If we don’t do everything we can to be heard and get change accomplished, government will abuse or abandoned all our rights one by one, until we wind up a communist country back to slave days! Just let us know, how and where, for the next step of fighting for all of our rights! Kudos to you both for your smarts, abilities and willingness to help! I can almost say, I love you that’s how emotionally charged I am or get with your oh so logical, fact based truths!

  7. Charles Bruscino on March 31, 2019 at 12:29 am

    We all hope and pray information like this will sway public leaders to stop abusing and neglecting safe and responsible prescription opioid users by denying them adequate pain control vis-a-vis this class of drugs in an individualized multi-modality pain management program. We cannot and must not “save lives” of addicts by harming safe and responsible prescription opioid patients, many of who are elderly, disabled and or children as such acts are criminal violations in many states: elder abuse, disabled adult abuse and child abuse. The Older Americans Act is supposed to allow persons age 60 and over to remain in their own homes and therefore be included in their communities. The Elder Justice Act highlights elder abuse in its many forms and charges the U.S. Department of Justice to assist states in investigating and prosecuting elder abuse, neglect and exploitation. The Americans with Disabilities Act and the corresponding U.S. Supreme Court’s OLMSTEAD decision likewise intends to keep adults with disabilities in their own homes and communities, protect them from abuse, neglect and exploitation and give them opportunities to interact with non-disabled people. Some adults with disabilities can’t do this if they are persecuted by misapplication and interpretation of the CDC Prescribing Guideline by denying them opioids. Children have had legal protections from abuse, neglect and exploitation even longer than the elderly and disabled. “Omission” is considered abuse and or neglect if any one in these three vulnerable groups don’t get adequate medical care including prescription opioids when warranted. There is a lot of hysteria and irrationality in the “war on opioid patients”. It’s a continuing war on vulnerable Americans that contradicts existing laws and mores. We need balance and compassion and a greater understanding of how millions of Americans never become addicted or overdose on prescription opioids. This “risk reduction methodology” should be one tool in the solution set for the addiction epidemic.

  8. Ed Posey on March 31, 2019 at 1:44 am

    Even though this article is very informative and needed to be published to show it is taken from the government website (CDC) I have to question whether or not the government will acknowledge the informant. As a I did not need all these charts or information to know what this Doctor has put forth as the reason for the majority of opiate mortality rate. I have said from day one that pain patients, who actually follow their doctor’s instructions and recommendations for dealing with their pain problems, are the ones who are suffering the most from the government’s intervention/regulation on how pain doctors are to treat patients. Forcing doctors to reduce prescribing medication for fear of losing their ability to practice medicine that has been giving a patient some sort of quality of life no way to treat a patient. Patients deserve to be treated with dignity and not like criminals or addicts.

  9. Sarah on March 31, 2019 at 2:44 am

    Well written! I am a university statistics professor, and the statistical explanations in this article are incredibly well done and written in an easy to understand, yet accurate, manner. Well done!

  10. Bill Williams on March 31, 2019 at 4:30 am

    Thank you for getting this information out, hopefully it will be noticed by the right people that will stand up and show what’s happening to C.P.P. in this country and most of all the Drs that have been wrongly accused of being drug dealers.
    There’s a lot of data out there if they would just talk to C.P.P. and stop treating them like there the cause. Most of all stop the illegal drugs coming into this country. Again thanks to everyone that worked on this data.

  11. suzette Neal on March 31, 2019 at 6:39 am

    I am enclosing my take on the “opioid crises” and my background as to why I must have them. This was an answer I made to another article discussing how many chronic pain patients have been killing themselves.

    We are fighting an opioid crisis. I hear it every day on the news, online and even in papers I read. I have been fighting Multiple Sclerosis for 43 years. I am now 64 years old. I was not diagnosed correctly until 2016 by the 5th neurologist after 4 months of every nerve tests known to man.
    I started the same way as the “Ones Who Be” is dictating now on how the physician is to treat chronic pain patients.
    I started with Lyrica. Lyrica did not help anything. I was 20 years old in College when I had my first symptoms with optic neuritis. As the years went by, anytime I was stressed or was exhausted, I would have strange symptoms that made no sense but would go away in a few days or weeks. I stayed sick all of the time with upper respiratory infections. I had pneumonia several times. The MS attacked my lungs first.
    Do you realize that there are going to be millions of Americans that will be committing suicide? Just look up the stats right now to see what is happening to Chronic Pain patients. It is happening all over the US. The physicians are afraid of losing their license and they are removing patients from the only thing that allows any kind of limited life. Next, the pharmacies will not be allowed to sell it.
    Let me state the difference in addiction and dependency. My body has been on these opioids for many years. It cannot function if the medication is not put into our system. Addiction belongs to the ones who love the high, and as their body needs more and more for that feeling, they will do anything to keep increasing their drugs. Never have I requested even one pill more. I am on the exact dosage that my pain dr put me on years ago. I have never even smoked a joint much less go and buy pills off the street or steal them from someone’s medicine cabinet. My pharmacy will not refill my prescription until the day I picked it up last month. Not when I get that months prescription, the day it was picked up.
    I have been to 4 different Rheumatologists, 5 different Neurologists and spent 2 years in a pain clinic. I was sent to physical therapy 5 different times. I have gone through 3 endoscopies. In fact, in a 10-year span, I was sent to 35 different specialists. Each one sent me home with medications of one kind or another. I was on 35 different prescriptions as I fought pneumonia for 7 months in 2012 -13. Antibiotics no longer worked for me. One said I needed sinus surgery in the middle of this bout of chronic pneumonia to take care of all my problems. I had the surgery and now my sinuses stay congested. I had post nasal drip before the surgery. My nose wasn’t stuffy.
    Both of my ankles are coming out of the ankle joints. They can not do surgery to repair them. My Orthopedic physician 5 years ago, said I would be in a wheelchair within 12 months. I would not be able to tolerate the pain in the feet to walk. That was after I had appointments with a podiatrist first and then a hematologist who told me he couldn’t tell me why I have the pain in my legs or the long white line that runs down one of my legs now. Oh, the Orthopedic was right. It hurts so much with every step I take as I walk along with my cane.
    I saw 3 different allergists and was given allergy shots for six years and never made maintenance. Neurologist #3 at Vanderbilt, called me a lunatic to my face and in his notes. I know this because the only neurologist (#5) that actually listened to me and my husband for an hour and a half as we went through my 9 pages of symptoms, told me. He said the other drs didn’t realize how very sick I am. I have seen a psychologist and 2 psychiatrists. I was in ASAP(Allergy, Sinus, Asthma Program) at Vanderbilt. They mixed me up with another patient and gave me a diagnosis for a rare, incurable lung disease. In an email. I have been a patient of 4 different pulmonologists. I was able to find a neuro-ophthalmologist and she said she couldn’t see anything wrong with my vision and she said one of my drs said in his notes that I have peripheral neuropathy. That was nice since I do not have neuritis and he ran no tests at all of any kind.
    I now have scoliosis of the spine. And a heart murmur. Both of these caused by long term MS. I have more nerve damage on the right side of my head. My right eye and right ear had more extensive nerve damage than the left in 2016. I can no longer drive or see anything if there is no light in the darkness. My kidney function is going downhill now. I start going into renal failure every few weeks. I force the Gatorade with coconut water and Aloe Vera added.
    I have boxes of notes. Every drs name that I saw and what I said and their responses to me. I have taken the 35 medications down to 13 so far on my own. And now my insurance will no longer pay for my pain medication. What do you think is going to happen to people like me? They tried every pain solution they had available at the pain clinic until I was able to tolerate one. It took me years to not want to sleep all the time. I have missed so much in this life. I fall a lot and must have my husbands arm to walk with me and my cane outside of our home. I can’t even pick up my grandbabies. In 2017, my stomach rotted and split open. I should not have lived to get to the hospital much less the surgery. I was in for 6 days and nights. Finally got home and had to go back in 2 days later with 102 temp. The surgeon had knicked my lung in the surgery to try to repair my stomach and my lung was filling with blood. I have lost partial use of my left hand now. My arms and legs are getting weaker I have numbness in different parts all over my body. It sometimes feels like my head is on fire on the inside or in my back. All of my organs are now damaged as well. My liver, gallbladder, thyroid, lungs, and heart. Every nerve in my body is now damaged. I was told at this stage of MS, there is nothing else that can be done. The pain I have all over my entire body is unbearable even with the pain medication being taken each day correctly. Not for a little while, but every second of every day and night. I now start to pass out when I stand for more than 5 minutes with orthostatic hypotension blood pressure. It drops when I stand up. I try to cook sitting in a chair. I get burned when my arm touches the pan by accident. My husband, who works full time, has to come home and work here to do all that my body will not let me accomplish anymore.
    Pain patients can fake it for about 2 days but no more than that. If you do not hear from us for a while, please know that we are in a bad place with the pain. Anything can set it off. Did you know that MS patients should never get hot? My body starts breaking down if I start getting overheated and I start to vomit while I have zings and zags all over my body. One physician asked me how I could sit and talk and laugh when I am this sick? I answered with “What choice do I have”? When I am sitting, you would never know that I am running out of strength to keep fighting. A Drs appt. puts me in the bed for the next 2-3 days. I have to order online every item that comes into our house. Including my groceries. I can’t go anywhere in the winter because my body cannot keep fighting if I get sick
    This Opioid crisis is destroying the chronic pain patients and their families. Just tell me what we need to do to get this under control before the death rate of withdrawing these human beings from their pain meds becomes off the charts. Help us, someone. Please.

    Thank you for the article. Please feel free to use my writings in any way that might stop what is happening all over the United States.

    • Nancy Robinson on April 25, 2019 at 10:26 pm

      Suzette Neal I’m so sorry that you are suffering like this. My heart goes out to you. I’ve had Fibromyalgia for over 40 years, and have just been diagnosed with ME/CFS. In the past 2 years I have really gone downhill. I feel your pain. I am very lucky I have a wonderful doctor, who has been wonderful in prescribing opiods for my pain. I’m on 10 mgs 3 x a day, and have never used it other than the way it is prescribed. I recently saw her and advised that I was having much more pain than I was just 6 months ago. I also have severe osteoporosis, and have back fractures in my L3 & L4 vertabraes which cause me a lot of pain. I had one specialist tell me that osteoporosis doesn’t cause pain, but I find that hard to believe, when I have fractures in my spine, that can be pressing down on nerves that run along the spinal column. My GP believes me though about my pain, and has actually increased my meds to 4 times a day, instead of just 3, as needed. I expressed my fears about the U.S. anti-opioid laws, or policies, or whatever they are, being copied here in Canada. So far they have not, but there is talk about it. My doctor told me specifically that she would not leave me in pain, no matter what. So I am grateful for that. She is also going to look into medical marijuana for me, to help with my painful muscles and joints. The hysteria in the U.S. is crazy, and the way they are treating doctors like criminals is disturbing.

  12. Holly on March 31, 2019 at 10:12 am

    Thank you Mr. Lawhern!

  13. Donna on March 31, 2019 at 3:09 pm

    These are the FACTS ?. But the Government and they’re agencies are ALL out to cause Harm to citizens, mainly the seniors, chronically ill and elderly. It leads me to believe that there is a population control taking place here. The Government Blew/ Spent instead of investing all of the money they received by these older citizens and now they want to eliminate these sick people who paid into the Social Security system all they’re working years. Can anyone else see this besides me?
    Mr Lawhern is right, if there were diversion in masses going on it was coming from the manufacturer or distributor, not patients!
    Thank you for sharing the TRUTH. Americans must fight this to the End. We have a tyrannical Gov out of control trying to eliminate us. This is my opinion.

  14. Zypczyk on March 31, 2019 at 4:58 pm

    Thank you for this clear explanation of what this whole “opioid crisis” is really about – street drugs (opioids), not pain medication (opioids).

    Just because the drugs involved are from the same category (opioids) does not mean they are being used by the same people for the same purposes and with the same results.

  15. Jan Lightfoot on March 31, 2019 at 5:13 pm

    I agree with you Donna. In just over a year I will be 70. Yes we have an out of control tyrannical Government trying to commit passive murder. Why would the Gov. call attention to the Opioid Crisis? As a distraction against their planned elimination of the elderly.And the sick in the last stages of life, as those with cancer, lupus, M.S. etc.

    The general population needs to know that the so called doctors are taking away all pain medications even for what statically show is the lowest age of addiction the elderly in chronic pain.not substituting with others To rip out treatment of any kind, Causes hardship and agony It is bad medicine.. .

    Hospitals hand out Tylenol, over the counter, Anti acid, and a full strength nausea pill. Nearly all over the counter stuff, which does not touch the bad margarine. The patient needs to take off a week of work, rather than being able to go back to work the next day. Doctor should not be threatened with lose of license for good medication, while the CBC enforces guidelines, not considering the character of the person or the chronic pain they endure. Old people are committing suicide due to the unbearable pain.

  16. Kelly Merrill on April 1, 2019 at 7:36 pm

    Thank you, Red and Dr. Webster. This is a wonderful resource with great information. Really appreciate these joined efforts to help the community at large.

  17. Jeanette French on April 1, 2019 at 11:18 pm

    thanks !!!!!!!!!!

  18. Elizabeth Lankford on April 2, 2019 at 10:21 pm

    I’m not a doctor and I’m not sure I understand all the charts and comparisons. I can tell you though unconditionally that after working with a pain management team for over two years with no problems and finally getting to where I could lead as close to a normal life as my illnesses would allow the changes hit. All of a sudden every month there’s a change and they are all detrimental. I am being punished for something that never happened. Most of my life is spent in bed now because it just hurts too much and I have given up. Pleasr keep the research and publications coming.

  19. Jackie L Cross on April 3, 2019 at 11:57 pm

    Thanks Mr. Lawhern and Dr. Webster for this very informative, factual article regarding what’s truly going on. This information will be so helpful to me (I pray) as a fight my Medicare Rx Insurance Company; whose staff assured me 4 times over that the 3 Rx meds I am prescribed, at the dosages and quantities that my Doctors and myself deem necessary and appropriate, would be covered in 2019. I’ve been using these prescription medications for nearly 2 decades, now, to manage my debilitating condition with great success, yet, my Rx Insurance Co. denied my last prescription without warning, despite telling me otherwise. Now, I have to file an appeal. FUN. I’ve been on this CPP ride for almost 20 years and have been prescribed most everything on the market to deal with my disorder. I’ve managed to whittle down the amount of Rx meds from, at one point 14 different Rx’s to the 3 most essential ones that work best for me and I absolutely refuse to go back to square one and be subjected to Rx’s and Tx’s that I’ve already experienced with negative results; I am a HUMAN BEING, an AMERICAN CITIZEN, NOT a GUINEA PIG!!!

  20. Jan Lightfoot on April 6, 2019 at 4:37 pm

    As a 70 year old, I ‘ve been saying doctors – has no reason, to take away the elderly pain pills. Their has been no increase in number of deaths for people, over 51 years; since 2010. Without any correlation, more deaths, “Their can be no Cause and Effect.”

    Charts From Dr Lawhern’s work, updated April 5, 2019 show’s people suffering chronic pain, over 51 years do not get addicted as easily as the 24-50 years old. Over-Prescribing Did Not CAUSE the Opioid Crisis. Its time for the CBC to advance their recommendations, to include removing the cause of suicide, of dying people due to agony when reduced or removed from pain pills due to younger folks liking the high.

  21. Tanys on April 6, 2019 at 9:54 pm

    I’m in Vernon BC Canada
    I’m treated like a criminal here because I have to take opioids . I have been taking them for 11years now without any problems.
    I’ve been made to sign a form saying I can be urine or blood tested anytime .
    Me Dr is not allowed by the coledge of physicians change my dosage
    We ALL know dosage needs to be adjusted
    I’m forced to suffer while I reduce my dose
    Just so when I go back up I can get relief

    THANK YOU. For your your knowledge and commitment to this extremely difficult situation the powers that be have put us in

    Simply put
    With out my pain relief
    I will end my life
    I was in a work accident ELEVEN years ago

    Nobody should have to live like this

    Thank you
    Tanys Braun

  22. Tanya on April 7, 2019 at 6:32 pm

    Thank you so very much for your work on this great article. If I notate the author and Red Lawhern may I print this and give/mail to my ignorant doctor who so nicely labeled myself and husband? Or do you have a link to another article that I could send?

    • Richard A. Lawhern, Ph.D. on April 19, 2019 at 1:03 pm

      You may further distribute this article with author and publication attribution. That was our intention.

  23. Natalie Hudgins on April 10, 2019 at 3:54 am

    In all seriousness, my quality of life at risk, I’m grateful for your frankness on this subject.

  24. Meyllinn on April 10, 2019 at 1:46 pm


  25. Barbara on April 12, 2019 at 11:47 pm

    The facts are being revealed. Great article Red. As always thank you for your tireless efforts.

  26. Letty Obloy on April 18, 2019 at 9:47 pm

    Thank you mr Red Lawhern, and Dr. Webster for publishing the facts on this phony opioid crisis.

  27. Rhonda Favero on April 18, 2019 at 9:55 pm

    Thank you, Red. You show us the facts through science based research. Your work is second to none.

  28. Cathy lynch on April 18, 2019 at 10:01 pm

    Thank you Mr. Lawhern for explaining this situation to us. As a patient, and an RN, I was shocked at the push back i started receiving from my MDs who are part of the very medical group I myself was employed by. Now I get it. However, this treatment was a reason I retired before I wanted to. The fallout and recipricol damage of these draconian changes is far reaching. I pray for we who take our meds as prescribed. Who care for them and lock them up! Who are responsible. We should not be punished.

  29. Michelle on April 18, 2019 at 10:13 pm

    Great article! Thanks for sharing the real facts.

  30. Tammy on April 18, 2019 at 10:14 pm

    Thank you for this very well written article, and all the advocating for patients.

  31. Gary Stein p on April 18, 2019 at 10:25 pm

    When did it become ok for the US Government buracrats to .think they can practice medicine without any education in medicine. Red does a great job in showing how poor a job .they have done during this so called opiate crisis.

  32. Barbara Calabrese on April 18, 2019 at 10:28 pm

    Thank you.

  33. Lesley Hamann on April 18, 2019 at 11:41 pm

    Thank you Red for giving a voice to us chronic pain patients. Keep telling the truth and know how much you are loved for that.

  34. Lesley Hamann on April 18, 2019 at 11:45 pm

    Thank you Red for telling the truth and fighting for the people who fight pain everyday. We love you!

  35. R. Michael Maddix on April 19, 2019 at 12:45 am

    The really SICK thing is that MOST in charge knew these facts all the while feeding the flames of this FALSE naritive. This made up crisis was an excuse to try and reign in medical costs by limiting access to care by the most needy and vulnerable in our society. SHAME, SHAME, SHAME! Dr. Kolodney and PROP as well as power brokers at the CDC should ALL be prosecuted for Crimes Against Humanity!! Thank you Dr. Red for this article and it’s FACTS. How in the World can the piqers that be, IGNORE THESE FACTS any longer??

  36. Gina on April 19, 2019 at 12:54 am

    One of the best articles I’ve read to date. My thanks to Red Lawhern and to Dr. Webster for publishing this.

  37. Margie on April 19, 2019 at 1:07 am

    Thank you both for your research, great knowledge and bringing to front of this opioid mania, the truth about issues!! Too bad you all aren’t on President’s right hand to advise him on how best to handle matters! I’m thinking he has been poorly advised !! Thank you for your caring hearts in not wanting to see people suffer needlessly and dying , literally, from pain! I’m sickened seeing how insurance companies dictate to hospitals, surgeons the amount of time one can stay postop, so I think that correlates to opioid crisis!

  38. Sharon G on April 19, 2019 at 2:33 am

    Ezcellent article. Finally the TRUTH is being spoken. Too mamy people are suffering and it must stop. Preacribed Opiates are not the problem. Thank you Red Lawhern and Lynn Webster MD.

  39. Chereese Ferreira on April 19, 2019 at 5:17 am

    I can’t thank both of you – Dr. Lawhern, Dr. Webster for helping the pain patients who have suffered and lost so much due to the very dangerously flawed 2016 CDC guidelines.
    My personal experience has been a living hell.
    Pain level 8-10 everyday for 3 years now.
    5 implant device surgeries, no social life.
    Can’t cook, clean, etc.
    I can no longer walk without a walker.
    Need a wheelchair when going to my weekly doctors appointments, and so on.
    I truly appreciate all of your hard work, time and dedication in proving how wrong these guidelines are.
    I will never trust the CDC again.
    If they can’t count, how can they possibly be trusted. In my opinion, the CDC has no business having prescription guidlelines for medical doctors.
    The co-authors of these guidelines can’t be trusted when it comes to chronic/intractable pain patients.
    I’d like to point out that the DEA really be addressed through a congressional oversight committee or just Congress period.
    The DEA is a major factor in doctors not prescribing.
    Who can blame them.
    Patients metabolize pain medications differently.
    How can they tell a doctor they are over prescribing when they have no idea what painful disease and the metabolism of a person thar doctor is prescribing to? They can’t!!
    Chereese – Complex Regional Pain Syndrome +++.

  40. Rebecca Payne on April 19, 2019 at 5:22 am

    The truth is powerful and Mr. Lawhern speaks the truth. This is great information that can be taken to our doctors AND our legislators. Many thanks to all involved here!!

  41. Joan Triplett on April 20, 2019 at 5:49 am

    Thank you for this informative article. Unfortunately even with strong advocates for chronic and acute pain like you the CDC has an agenda to place blame. The DEA has an agenda. They didn’t speak to the people suffering chronic lifetime pain before setting off the media and witch-hunt this agenda upholds. I see it as looking at placing blame for a situation they want control of even more. Yes there are drug seekers, pharmacists selling out the backdoor, immoral and unscrupulous physicians. Sure. But to remove pain relief from those so desperately trying to live a life of some kind of normalcy is just wrong and the wrong target. It concerns me gravely to be forced by bureaucracy into living no quality of life again because all traditional medications and cranial surgery has failed for me and now our govt agencies are grasping for control of my life and the lives of millions of chronically ill patients. It concerns me to see how doctors are being bullied by this group. It concerns me to have such a small voice and no control over my life quality. I have a disease called Trigeminal Neuralgia , Facial Nerve Pain, for which there are drugs designed to cure. Treatments are not designed to help this disease and often cause more problems with very little help, if any. I sought through much research and trial and error to find the most educated neurologist and care team I could put together to help me live my life. These people are renowned physicians who understand my disease and pain levels as fully as possible. The only research foundation dedicated or otherwise to seeking a cure, treatment or medication for this disease has advocated along side the Facial Pain community for years to be recognized by the CDC with no success. We cry out to them for understanding and recognition. Thank you to those who advocate for my situation which is referred to as the most painful disease known to mankind and for all chronic and acute pain patients in this country. We should be allowed treatment by those doctors as they see fit. They spent the time and money to become THE EXPERTS in my healthcare needs.

  42. Lori on April 20, 2019 at 9:34 am

    Great article! I’m so happy to have someone like you in our corner, fighting for the rights of those of us in pain. Thank you for getting the truth out!

  43. KWalters on April 21, 2019 at 4:02 am

    Thank you for these indisputable facts!

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