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Jeff Sessions' Advice to Pain Patients: 'Take Some Aspirin' and 'Tough It Out'

The attorney general thinks people should suffer needlessly, just like John Kelly.

USDOJUSDOJAttorney General Jeff Sessions is a well-known admirer of Nancy Reagan's recommendation that kids "just say no" to drugs. It turns out he applies that advice not only to curious teenagers but also to people suffering from severe pain.

"I am operating on the assumption that this country prescribes too many opioids," Sessions said during a speech at the U.S. Attorney's Office in Tampa yesterday. "I mean, people need to take some aspirin sometimes and tough it out a little. That's what Gen. Kelly—you know, he's a Marine—[he] had surgery on his hands, painful surgery. [He said,] 'I'm not taking any drugs!' It did hurt, though. It did hurt. A lot of people—you can get through these things."

While I'm sure we are all impressed by the White House chief of staff's stoicism, his personal preferences have no bearing whatsoever on whether doctors should prescribe pain medication to people recovering from surgery or whether those people should take that medication rather than "tough[ing] it out." Balancing the benefits of pain relief against the tiny risks of addiction or overdose, I think this is an easy call. But I am not a Marine, and I see no moral or practical value in suffering pain that can be relieved safely and easily.

To this day, I resent the fact that I was given nothing but acetaminophen after an appendectomy when I was 10. I vividly remember the postsurgical pain (although it was not quite as bad as the presurgical pain). At the time, I did not realize that more effective treatment was possible, but in retrospect it pisses me off that none was offered, presumably because someone was worried about turning a fifth-grader into a heroin addict. That kind of irrational stinginess is pretty common, notwithstanding Jeff Sessions' confidence that "the country prescribes too many opioids."

If we extend the attorney general's medical advice to people who suffer from severe chronic pain—people who need opioids to get out of bed in the morning and have something like a normal life, people who may be driven to suicide when they are denied adequate medication—his attitude is not merely cruel but downright barbaric. As a college student with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome told me when I interviewed him for an upcoming Reason feature story about opioids, the right kind of pain medication can be "the difference between wanting to put a bullet in your brain and enjoying life."

Sessions' "tough it out" recommendation is similar to remarks he made after a speech on Tuesday night at the Heritage Foundation. "Sometimes you just need to take two Bufferin or something and go to bed," he said.

Bob Twillman, executive director of the Academy of Integrative Pain Management, says Sessions' comments show he has no idea what he is talking about. "That remark reflects a failure to recognize the severity of pain of some patients," Twillman told the Tampa Bay Times. "It's an unconscionable remark. It further illustrates how out of touch parts of the administration are with opioids and pain management."

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  • IceTrey||

    Will these people just die already!

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    It's tragic that the average age politicians seem to die is like 10 or 20 years more than the average.

  • Elias Fakaname||

    How about we try an experiment. We strap AG Sessions to a metal,chair, bolted into a concrete floor. Chain him securely to said chair. The shoot him in the kneecap with a .40 pistol at point blank range. Then ask him if he needs anything for the lain as I fingerfuck the entry wound.

    I'm sure he could get by on aspirin just fine.

  • Johnimo||

    Oooh .... are you part Comanche? I recommend "Empire of the Summer Moon" as a book you will thoroughly enjoy.

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    By "aspirin", you mean "bullet ant stingers", right?

  • MarkLastname||

    Uh oh. Do I hear Preet coming?

  • croaker||

    Preet isn't in power anymore. Unfortunately he got a job in academia. I was hoping he'd end up a towel boy in a gay bath house.

  • Hugh Akston||

    I see no moral or practical value in suffering pain that can be relieved safely and easily.

    Been a while since you last went to church, hasn't it Sully?

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    The Catholic nations are going to fall upon him now.

  • Eidde||

    You have it backwards, Catholics tend to cite the availability of pain medicine to rebut arguments for legalizing suicide.

    "In spite of the many benefits of good pain relief - such as patient well-being, medical cost savings, and less lost time from work - and in spite of the modern arsenal of weapons against pain, many patients live their last weeks and months in severe discomfort or pain. This can - and must - be changed!

    One positive outcome of the discussion about physician-assisted suicide is that doctors, nurses, and the public are learning more about proper assessment and treatment of pain. Good pain management is a reality, but it requires dedication and time....If a physician does not have the knowledge, compassion or time necessary to assess and treat pain effectively, the patient should seek another doctor!"

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    I was making a joke about kneeling in church hurting.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    After six months of going to Mass my main takeaway is that kneeling hurts.

  • Eidde||

    At least you're going.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Yeah, it's good. I find myself looking forward to it and enjoying. Been trying to make Sunday a day of reading and such. Just trying to put myself into as hard as I can. Particularly as someone coming from basically an entirely areligious background there's so much to absorb that it requires a fair amount of effort.

    But it's good. I like it. I like the community.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    But that pain is bringing you closer to God. Or something. I'm not a Catholic so who knows what those rosary rattlers believe.

  • Eidde||

    "Whether we will or not, we must suffer. There are some who suffer like the good thief, and others like the bad thief. They both suffered equally. But one knew how to make his sufferings meritorious, he accepted them in the spirit of reparation, and turning towards Jesus crucified, he received from His mouth these beautiful words: "This day thou shalt be with Me in Paradise. "

    "The other, on the contrary, cried out, uttered imprecations and blasphemies, and expired in the most frightful despair. There are two ways of suffering – to suffer with love, and to suffer without love. The saints suffered everything with joy, patience, and perseverance, because they loved. As for us, we suffer with anger, vexation, and weariness, because we do not love. If we loved God, we should love crosses, we should wish for them, we should take pleasure in them. . . . We should be happy to be able to suffer for the love of Him who lovingly suffered for us. Of what do we complain? Alas! the poor infidels, who have not the happiness of knowing God and His infinite loveliness, have the same crosses that we have; but they have not the same consolations. You say it is hard? No, it is easy, it is consoling, it is sweet; it is happiness. Only we must love while we suffer, and suffer while we love."

    /St. John Vianney

  • Eidde||

  • Stormy Dragon||

    Every time I think, "Hey, maybe Christians aren't SO bad", one comes along to remind me how monstrous they are.

  • Eidde||

    Shocking! Appalling! For reasons which don't even have to be explained!

  • Stormy Dragon||

    The suggestion that someone being tortured to death is expected to be thankful for the "opportunity" to die a slow agonizing death and that failure to do so with sufficient enthusiasm makes them bad is disgusting.

  • Elias Fakaname||

    I'll truck with a devout Christian over a bitter atheist any day.

  • Stormy Dragon||

    I'm agnostic (an apatheist if you want to get super-specific).

  • Eidde||

    I don't know and I don't care.

  • Johnimo||

    I prefer the atheists who don't really give a shit. Some atheists just don't care about god. They don't necessarily believe "there is no god," but they could care less one way or the other. They're simply "without" God. Maybe "heathen" is a better word.

    Use that word in a sentence: "Growing weary of the constant harping on sin, heathen quit going to church."

  • SQRLSY One||

    And some of us (like me) are just totally confused!
    I used to wonder a lot, but I had my agnostic / atheist friends convince me that God, if He does exist, does NOT want us to worship Him, because He does not believe in Himself (He needs self-esteem counseling, I was told. Else He'd make Himself far more visible). If God doesn't believe in Himself, then we obviously shouldn't, either. I was left to wonder, well then, WHO is qualified to give self-esteem counseling to God Himself?!?! Never got an answer to that one…
    Even more confusion set in… My devout atheist friends convinced me, that to get to Atheist Heaven, one had to NOT believe in God, and do that non-believing thing in JUST the EXACT right way… As for example, they'd say, "See, Madalyn Murray O'Hair ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madalyn_Murray_O'Hair ) , SHE is the ONLY one who REALLY quite properly, understood EXACTLY how God does NOT believe in Himself, and only SHE in Her Divine (Anti-Divine?) Perfect Understanding, was fit to be "Ruptured" through the space-time vortex rupture-portal, straight to the Atheist Heaven that She deserved, and all the rest of us… Even the less-than-perfect atheists… Are "Left Behind" after the "Great Rupture".

  • SQRLSY One||

    (Other atheist friends disagreed on the fine points of terminology, saying it's called "rapture" not "rupture", for some reason that I cannot recall). And since Madalyn Murray's body was never found, I had to accept their argument, She was the PERFECT atheist, and only SHE, in Her Perfect Disbelief, had been Ruptured… Her and Her alone…
    …BUT THEN THEY FOUND HER DEAD BODY!!! The arguments of my atheist friends were utterly crushed! (Apparently an ex-employee of hers had murdered her; her body had NOT been "ruptured / raptured" into atheist Heaven after all). I had just BARELY started to think that maybe they were correct! Now, I just dunno WHAT to think or believe any more! HELP!!

  • Bubba Jones||

    Catholics aren't Christians. They worship ancestors and idols.

  • Eidde||

    Hi there, Mr. Chick!

  • MarkLastname||

    Protestants aren't Christians. They don't even have churches, just these buildings that look like dentists' offices with interiors reminiscent of 1990s high school cafeterias. Or, wait, are those ugly things supposed to be...? Nevermind.

  • SQRLSY One||

    Christians aren't really Christians... They drink Christ's blood and eat His flesh, so they are actually CANNIBALS!!!!

  • MarkLastname||

    Really? "Going to church" is what taught you that kneeling hurts? Uhuh, sure. These euphemisms.

  • Eidde||

    I thought you were referring to the idea that offering up one's suffering, for the right reasons, is of spiritual benefit. This generally involves offering up *unavoidable* suffering, though some voluntary penances go beyond that.

    Note the term "voluntary."

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Basically. Also, I've been reading a book about Catholicism that talked about various styles of prayers a bit, both historically and currently, that go a bit rough.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    Christ, what an asshole.

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    Please stop defaming assholes by associating them with Jeff Sessions.

    Thank You.

  • Eidde||

    I hope some Marine doesn't try to walk on a broken leg, the Justice Department will respond by forbidding civilians from having their broken legs treated.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    I am operating on the assumption that this country prescribes too many opioids...

    I like that phrasing.

  • My Dog Bites Better Than Yours||

    Mr. Sessions, how is it appropriate to set policy-any policy-on assumptions?

  • Mickey Rat||

    "I am operating on the assumption that this country prescribes too many opioids,"

    And what does assuming make you?

  • Eidde||

    A jackbooted thug?

  • Johnimo||

    When you "assume" you make an Ass out of "U" and Me"? Did I get it right?

  • Eidde||

    It's the correct answer, but mine is punchier.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    To this day, I resent the fact that I was given nothing but acetaminophen after an appendectomy when I was 10. I vividly remember the postsurgical pain

    I remember I did nothing but Ibuprofen and it was pretty good. It's interesting how much it differs. Though my surgery was modern and probably much less invasive.

    (although it was not quite as bad as the presurgical pain).

    Oh yeah, fuck that. They were basically keeping me in a coma with the opiates. Shit was awesome.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Ibuprofin is awesome, especially when you're getting old. As an anti-inflammatory, it's a wonder drug.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    I don't even want to imagine a life without ibuprofen, and as someone who used to get migraines, Excedrin.

  • Rat on a train||

    Don't mess with my 800mg ranger candy.

  • silver.||

    Ibuprofen is the bomb. In a clinical trial that I'm too lazy to dig up, it was (at 800mg) as effective as 5/500 hydrocodone for post-operation pain in adolescents with broken arms. I turned my talus (an ankle bone) to dust trying to do parkour; I'd take ibuprofen during the day to prevent drowsiness during class. The heavy-duty painkillers didn't affect my cognition, but it made it harder to stay awake in an 8AM physics class (yes, I should've known the results of my rooftop actions).

    YSK that you can take Advil up to 800mg every 4-6hrs, although you should seriously limit this. My opiate-addicted stepfather gave himself a near-fatal bleeding ulcer popping ibuprofen. Take with/after a meal, and strongly consider taking a proton pump inhibitor (Nexium, Prilosec, et al.) concurrently to diminish damage to your tummy if you're using NSAIDs regularly.

    Naproxen is harder on the stomach and easier on the heart, but more effective in women than men. I have a Y chromosome and Aleeve is about as useless as acetaminophen (Tylenol, APAP) for pain. My doctor: "APAP is only good for breaking fevers." Also you can take 2 Aleeve per dose, although just like with Advil you should be cognizant of the gastrointestinal side-effects and use as little as possible. All NSAIDs will be tough on your kidneys. Be a grownup and use discretion.

    Sorry. I'm a med-chem/biochem geek. Obligatory "always consult with your healthcare professional" disclaimer.

  • Johnimo||

    Thanks for this sliver of advice. You are correct about overdoing it with ibuprofen. I'm very lucky in that I rarely need pain meds, but when I do (such as after an extended day of exercise) I take 800 mg ibuprofen. The net result is that my legs don't ache badly when trying to go to sleep.

  • mtrueman||

    "Be a grownup and use discretion."

    You ignore the 10s of 1000s of us who overdose intentionally. That's why we're talking about an 'opioid crisis.'

  • MarkLastname||

    Well, that's your fucking problem. Everyone else doesn't have to suffer because some of "you" have eccentric hobbies.

  • mtrueman||

    "Everyone else doesn't have to suffer because some of "you" have eccentric hobbies."

    Everyone isn't suffering. The whole point of opioids is to relieve suffering.

  • fafalone||

    That "ibuprofen is equal to hydrocodone" study is wicked anti-opioid propaganda. 5mg of hydrocodone or oxycodone, the highest dose in the study, is an extremely small dose for 'I'm going to the emergency room' level pain. It's being cited as reason to deny opioids all together, because it's as good as a inappropriately small dose of a weak opioid. Severe acute pain should start with a dose *double* what they gave, even by conservative standards (before the hysteria). The goal is to restrict dosages so far that they can go ahead and ban them entirely because they're "not any better".

  • MarkLastname||

    Having once had some horrendous pain concomitant with constant vomiting, I wish it were legal to own a small amount of morphine or something intravenous. I remember going to the ER but, the issue being intestinal in nature, didn't have a broken bone or gash to prove I wasn't just some addict. Spend 5 hours in the middle of the night in agonizing pain in some hallway and they wouldn't even give me water until a doctor saw me, let alone aspirin. One of the worst days of my life.

    If I'm ever in that kind of pain again and can't keep down any pills, I'd just like to be able to shoot up some morphine so I'd at least be in a stupor during the 5 hours of waiting.

  • JeremyR||

    Or more accurately, people with or without pain should be able to take whatever they want

  • Microaggressor||

    People might start using for pleasure, and how could anything be worse than that?

  • Cynical Asshole||

    Puritanism: the haunting fear that somewhere someone is doing something you disapprove of for pleasure.

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    The "you disapprove of" in that statement is redundant.

    Technically, the Puritans disapproved of doing anything for pleasure, they just plain disapprove of pleasure.

  • cravinbob||

    If you have not seen this I highly recommend it.: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1LoSgdpHnUk&t=21s

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    "I am operating on the assumption that this country prescribes too many opioids,"

    Is this where the republicans and the democrats play off each other?

    Both recognize opioids are a problem. Both think too many are being prescribed. Republicans beat up on the patient, Democrats beat up on the prescriber.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    This is probably the assumed wisdom for almost all about this issue. Sadly few are pointing out about policy making opioid usage more dangerous over just letting people have safe access to the drugs.

  • Leo Kovalensky||

    It's kind of like the old bad cop, bad cop routine.

  • crufus||

    At least Sessions is no longer in the Senate.

    I can't look at him without thinking that he is probably a pedophile.

  • Jerryskids||

    I've never thought of him as a pedophile, always figured he's only ever had sex once and decided he didn't like it. A joyless little prick to the core.

  • silver.||

    Bullshit. People like him are inevitably the most hedonistic. He might have more socially acceptable vices, or he's a hypocrite / liar. On the 1% chance he is the perfect God-fearing angel, he's still going to die younger than Mick Jagger or Ozzy.

    Dinosaurs went extinct because they couldn't adapt, ergo, he will too.

  • DaveSs||

    About 16 years ago I had a pretty substantial abdominal surgery. Nice 8 inch scar

    Post-op they gave me morphine on a drip and a button for when the pain got really bad which it did for a couple days.

    Man that stuff works miracles.
    I'd have hated to go through that w/o it or something equally as capable.

  • JSR2||

    Morphine is great for pain. Immediately after knee surgery, I was reporting pain at a level of 7 (kidney stone = 10). A small dose of morphine and within seconds the pain was down to about a 3.

  • Elias Fakaname||

    Government authorities should have as little as possible to do with any medical treatment. Sessions certainly isn't an expert on any medical matter to begin with.

  • mtrueman||

    "Government authorities should have as little as possible to do with any medical treatment. "

    Prescribing pay killers is a cheap way to avoid medical treatment. That seems to be part of the problem with these opioids.

  • Elias Fakaname||

    Sometimes there is no medical treatment and pain killers are just a way to ride it out. Vertebrae problems are like that. In my case, surgery will produce dubious results, and likely with drawbacks. So when my back goes out I'm forced to deal with it, often for weeks or months at a time. I still have to function to run my business, so pain medication is not optional, it's necessary. I certainly don't need some politician or bureaucrats telling me what my options are. When people do that, it makes me want to reach out and break their fucking neck.

  • silver.||

    I threw out the Bufferin quote to my friends who are plenty liberal and against the drug war, and I got eviscerated, "silver., opiates are bad and over-prescribed. When X happened I was offered them and didn't need them; when Y happened I was offered them and didn't need them."

    I just don't get it. The opiate OD crisis - a direct consequence of the war on drugs - is really getting warped in everyone's minds, and otherwise apathetic (or even progressive) people are advocating that the DEA continue clamping down on doctors' prescribing abilities.

    Yes, opiates are over-prescribed, but I don't think having 60 pills instead of 30 for a root-canal is going to change the outcome, and it is going to screw other, legitimate chronic pain patients. Pain management doctors, when they're principled and not script-pushers, are very interested in using synergistic therapy and gradually minimizing opioid doses-if for no other reason than to allow a greater therapeutic window for new/acute pain (and side-effect alleviation).

    I receive no response for the simple question of, "why [should we protect these folks from themselves]," except, "alright, the woman shooting up in a parking lot with her kids in her car is fine with you."

    For the children. Pathos persuasion is always for the children.

  • mtrueman||

    "For the children. Pathos persuasion is always for the children."

    Children are young and innocent and we adults need to protect them.

  • Wizard4169||

    Protecting children is a worthy goal, but it's no reason to treat adults as if they were children. Which is what the drug warriors do.

  • fafalone||

    Since prohibition and clamping down on medical prescriptions *increases* the number of moms shooting up with their kids in the car, I ask them why they hate children so much.

  • Incomprehensible Bitching||

    I remember the time I accidentally cut my dick off making margaritas. I used salad tongues an duck tapea to stop the bleeding while I went to the hospital. Now my pecker is only 2 inches long and it burns whatever I pee, and I feel the constant pain of my phantom phallus. But, I just take aspirin and continue on. You can, too, you dirty hippies!

  • Fuck you, Shikha (Nunya)||

    You lost one inch too?

  • Jerryskids||

    I mean, people need to take some aspirin sometimes and tough it out a little.

    Says the whiny little bitch wearing eyeglasses because his eyesight isn't perfect. And that bastard probably has dentures, possibly a hearing aid, prescriptions for high blood pressure and cholesterol, who knows what all. You're old and your body's going to shit, Jeff, deal with it like a manly man instead of fretting about your physical comfort like a candy-assed little girl, you pussy.

  • JuanQPublic||

    "The country prescribes too many opioids."

    Thanks for the usual nuanced, thought-provoking take on American culture, Jeff.

  • Johnimo||

    Jeff Sessions proscribes opioids all the time!

  • Jacks61||

    Hope ol Doc Sessions doesn't get a few kidney stones the size a BB. Or his gallbladder doesn't turn to stone. Arrogance and stupidity, all in one little man boy.

    If someone is in real pain and chooses not to get relief, that's THEIR choice. I wonder if Doc Sessions has a smartphone or if lugs around one of those suitcase cell phones we had in the 80's. Scary as hell to think this idiot is our AG.

  • JSR2||

    The size of a BB?!! Try 7/16" long by 3/16" across. Wow! That's definitely a 10 on the pain scale.

  • Rockabilly||

    Sessions, I just smoked some home grown.

    I call this batch FcukUSezzons - has a nice buzz. Takes away the harshness of the day -

    And now I'm looking at youtube: I like the music with visuals from the 1980s

    FOE - A Handsome Stranger Called Death (Com Truise Remix)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EAHo7H2ZkNc

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    Poe's Law: IRL Libertarian edition

  • SovereignMary||

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions is not only an idiot, ... he's a full out Constitutionally ignorant idiot!
    He truly needs to do us all a favor and resign.

  • Tamfang||

    Aspirin and acetaminophen, of course, have no side effects at all, amirite?

  • cravinbob||

    Okay I have followed Sessions advice for my young daughter who has had a flu or something like that and a high fever. I gave her aspirins but I need Dr. Sessions to advise how many should I give her at a time and for how many days?

  • MidnightMike||

    It is bad enough that we have an Attorney General--and a president--that are lawless and clueless. It's worse that they repeatedly advertise how utterly ignorant and out of touch they are.

  • tiredoflies||

    DOCTOR SESSIONS, please tell us how safe all these over the counter remedies are, then please, tell us how many people have died from liver failure, or suicide due to chronic pain, and also how many have died from OVERDOSES from being forced to the street dealers with unknown potency . And WHY is it easier to find ANY narcotic pill on the streets, if one has enough money? Seems only the small easy targets are what you mr. sessions go after, never the the rich at the top who are making millions, and more from pain meds. How can licensed pharmacies have more problems getting approved pain meds than street dealers? I believe mr. sessions is way overpaid, because he has the right friends(corrupt like him)

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