Enlightened? Compassionate? That Couldn't Have Been Us.


The Drug War Chronicle notes that the Drug Enforcement Administration has removed from its Web site a pamphlet that gave doctors advice about how to prescribe narcotic painkillers. The set of FAQs, produced in collaboration with leading pain experts, was intended to reassure physicians who worry that using opioids to treat chronic pain might attract unwanted attention from the government. Although it was in some respects self-defeating, the pamphlet included several statements that contradicted official anti-drug propaganda and popular misconceptions. In particular, it emphasized that mere exposure to narcotics is not enough to produce addiction, cautioned that patients who seem like addicts may simply be suffering from unrelieved pain, and conceded that misconceptions about narcotic addiction can lead to undertreatment and erroneous enforcement actions. On the whole, it was a surprisingly enlightened document given that it had received the DEA's imprimatur.

Now the DEA, in an odd bit of revisionist history, says it didn't. "DEA wishes to emphasize that the document was not approved as an official statement of the agency and did not and does not have the force and effect of law," says a brief notice on the agency's Web site. "The document contained misstatements and has therefore been removed from the DEA web site."

Doctors are left to puzzle over exactly what those "misstatements" were, leaving them in greater uncertainty than they were before the pamphlet was published.