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Letters: Doctors, drugs and addicts

March 14, 2013

Re "Board urged to use drug data," March 12

In our zeal to address the problems of people who suffer from prescription drug overdoses, we have not heard the voices of those who suffer genuine pain.

Doctors who knowingly over-prescribe addictive medications for financial gain should certainly be disciplined. But physicians should not live in constant fear that the government will punish them for helping those with genuine needs.

I once had a friend who lived in a retirement community for former pastors. She had spent her working life as a nurse. I will never forget her quiet dignity toward the end of her days and her sarcastic comments about her doctor, who would not prescribe effective pain relief because he was afraid that she would become addicted. She was more than 90 years old at the time.

Let not the innocent suffer for the abuses of a few.

Peter M. Tiersma

Goleta, Calif.

Readers may get the impression that prescription drug addicts are innocent victims of evil doctors who recklessly prescribe dangerous medications.

Some doctors do prescribe narcotics inappropriately. On the other hand, the users seek out these doctors to obtain drugs legally and more cheaply than on the streets. They often go from doctor to doctor, emergency room to emergency room, to acquire as much narcotic as possible.

When a crazed person kills people with an assault rifle, no one demands to know who sold the gun and to prosecute that person for murder. Yet that seems to be the direction we're headed in for doctors who prescribe drugs to addicts.

Perhaps the doctors who participate knowingly and recklessly in this activity are drug dealers and not healers, but they are not murderers because a drug addict accidentally takes an overdose.

Michael E. Mahler, MD

Los Angeles

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