Portrait of Activism: Pain Advocates Meet with Los Angeles DEA

21 Aug

“Advocating for Another” Carnival 2012 – Day 1

By Heather Grace, IPJ Staff Writer

Being an advocate in the pain community can be challenging. Much of the country has a stigma against pain care. The media teaches the public that lifesaving medications are dangerous and addictive–to be feared.
Often, that requires pain advocates to be incredibly brave. We don’t just speak up, and go against the grain by telling people how much our lives have improved by received adequate pain treatment.

We also act. How many people with pain would willingly walk into their local DEA office and openly discuss their pain care with federal law enforcement? I don’t know how many. But, we did.

Myself & 3 other dedicated advocates met with the DEA in Los Angeles to discuss how we could better work with them to build a bridge of understanding between patients & law enforcement.


Pictured are L to R: Heather Grace, Radene Marie Cook, Gina Libby and Doug Cook (members of the American Pain Foundation’s Action Network/Intractable Pain Patients United). Taken January, 2012.

People who live with chronic or intractable pain just want some semblance of a normal life. And the DEA wants to go after bad guys. Why would patients ever be suspects? You’d think it would be simple to tell the difference between a patient and a bad guy. Year after year, the line just seems to become more blurred.

The truth is, law enforcement isn’t taught what a patient is/does. They’re taught to hunt the bad guys-often deceptive, often going to great lengths to get pain treatments that should go to seriously ill people. So how does the DEA see a person with pain like any other sick person?

That’s where advocacy comes in. It’s our job to help them see us as victims in the drug war. And, that’s not exactly an easy task! Good patients, good doctors and even good pharmacies have been wrongly accused. And it can take thousands of dollars to prove your innocence. (In the case of patients, the degree of stress involved can also be life-threatening.)

It’s an important issue with no easy answers, but I’m glad we all worked together and got our meeting with the DEA. I think we made an impression by telling our stories and sharing our concern for other people, just like us. Obviously, a single discussion won’t change people’s hearts & minds. That’s why we never give up!

My fellow advocates are incredibly dedicated–doing all they can, fearlessly and tenaciously, for the benefit of all people with pain. I couldn’t be more proud to be a pain advocate!

The above blog entry is part of a week-long series created by WEGOHealth “Advocating for Another” Carnival 2012. You may follow my blog here, and see me on Twitter @IntractablePain. Check out other entries: #A4AMONTH.

© 2010-2012 Intractable Pain Journal & Heather Grace. All rights reserved.

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