COLUMN: Killer Pain

Harry Caines contributes a weekly column to Harry is a resident of Logan and an alumnus of Utah State University. He can be reached via email at His column is a work of opinion, and does not reflect the views of Cache Valley Daily, the Cache Valley Media Group, or its employees. 

“One pill makes you larger, and one pill makes you small.

And the ones that mother gives you, don’t do anything at all.”

—from the song “White Rabbit”, by Jefferson Airplane

I suffer from gout. I first noticed the problem when I was living back home in Philadelphia in the early 2000’s. In my younger days I was a rub-some-dirt-on-it kind of guy, so I did not know why I was getting this brutal, omnipresent pain in my knee.

Eventually I sought a doctor’s care. Without diagnosing the problem, he wrote a script for oxycodone and sent me on my gimpy way. The effects of these painkillers were fast and profound.

Along with a slight subsidization of pain, I would occasionally—and without warning–experience flares of intense euphoria. It took two days for me to realize that if I stayed on these pills that I could very well be displeased to drop them when the pain was no more. I immediately went to the doctor, gave the pills back and asked for a less potent form of painkiller.

It took a few years, but I found a podiatrist who figured out the magic elixir needed to keep my gout flare-ups to a minimum. If you are interested, I use Meloxicam. It is an anti-inflammatory medicine that alleviates the pain within a day. I swear by its’ effectiveness for combating gout.

More important than finding a medicine that helped me with a debilitating ailment, I learned the power that opioids can have when the human body is not at 100%. It is more than understandable to me how all opioids, legal or no, have become what is often referred to as a crisis in America.

For the uneducated, opioids are a group of drugs that have various degrees of effects that combat pain. The great father of opioids is morphine. The most common way these drugs create an addictive quality for the user is by creating feelings of euphoria and quiet calm. For more timid opioids addiction is created by constant use for even the slightest pain, such as headaches.

For heavy-hitters, like heroin, the effects can consume the entirety of the mind and body. When taken intravenously, heroin has an effect that often turns into unbreakable addiction and, many times, death.

And these drugs are everywhere: some sold on street corners, others easily available at Wal-Mart and Walgreen’s with nothing more arduous than a swipe of a doctor’s pen. So prevalent is this problem that when the words “crisis” or “epidemic” are added to the main word, it is now considered a proper noun.

Opioid Crisis. Opioid Epidemic.

Stern. Somber. Ominous.

This is a real problem. But I must interject a luxuriant amount of cynicism in the form of a rhetorical question. Where was this concern when addiction was killing inner-cities during the 1980’s and ‘90’s?

The question answers itself, does it not? When the drug of choice was crack cocaine and it mostly affected minorities in large metropolitan areas, it was nothing more than a punchline. Or, more pathetically, dismissed as God’s will.

But now, addiction is in Everytown, USA. And the faces of the dead and afflicted are young, smiley and white and they live next door to other faces that are young, smiley and white. Now, it is time to act.

Now that the drug problem has moved out of The Bronx, North Philly and the Southside of Chicago on to more fertile areas like Vermont, Iowa and Idaho, we gotta do something!

And Utah…oh yes, the problem has been in Utah for a long time, but not just with opioids. Two words:

Prozac. Xanax.

The open secret of Utah is finally being discussed out loud. Utah housewives….Mormon housewives…are abundantly involved in the prescription addiction that is now considered a crisis throughout the country.

The staggering amount of pressure a Mormon wife endures to produce a multitude of children, raise them and follow the sometimes stifling rules placed on women by the LDS Church sends them en masse to doctors who are in bed with pharmaceutical companies. Until recently, Prozac and Xanax were as easy to get in Utah as fry sauce.

But in Utah, you just do not talk about it. Prescription addiction is a verboten subject. If addressed, it could lead to a conversation regarding the mind-boggling level of dedication that all Mormons heap on themselves to stay “temple worthy”. Open the door a crack (pun intended) and you shine light on this dark subject.

No, it is better to keep your mouth shut, pop a few pills and pack up Kayleigh, Keagyn and Brysyn into the minivan to make 7 AM seminary in 10 degree weather. I do realize that these comments come off curt and rude. That’s my schtick. I genuinely feel a deep level of sympathy for many Mormon housewives. The obligation to church and marriage is strenuous. I sincerely understand why so many feel the need to be carried a few rounds by stimulants.

And that is why the national conversation about the so-called Opioid Crisis must include the prescription abuse of “happy pills” like Xanax and Prozac. Too many doctors in Utah excuse a big problem with a careless solution.

And now that white people in white towns in white states are dying, the entire pharmaceutical scam is not only being exposed, but openly discussed. The drug companies do not make money if their products stay on the shelves of pharmacies. But if abuse exists on such a massive level, then Big Pharma must be taken to task; and, with them, the doctors and clinics they cut checks to.

Sometimes, pills are necessary to ease pain. Sometimes, pills are necessary to impede mental disorders. And sometimes, abuse of these conditions leads to abuse of pills. It is altogether proper at this time that America–and especially Utah—figure out a way to combat this problem. Because lives are being ruined, and lost, to drug use.

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