At the intersection of emotionally charged trains of thought, lies the potential for hyperbole, hysteria, and high drama. Nowhere is this more evident than in our nation’s debate over the utility of prescription pain drugs. Both sides offer sobering statistics. We cringe hearing that more people die from drug overdoses than from motor vehicle accidents. Then in the next breath we’re saddened by the news now one hundred million Americans suffer from chronic pain. This all may be true, yet still I’m reminded of what Mark Twain wrote, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.” Unfortunately, efforts at finding truth can sometimes become sidetracked by blowhards with hidden agendas.
Twain was a fan of satire, so in that spirit I would like to offer my concept of how The Music Man’s dashing huckster “Professor” Harold Hill might have taken on the pain debate. In the movie, this self-proclaimed music teacher/instrument salesman sounded the alarm over “the presence of a pool hall.” Here is what he might have said, had it been a pain clinic instead. Note, if you’ve never seen the musical, I recommend you watch the video clip first.
Friend, either you’re closing your eyes to a situation you do not wish to acknowledge, or you are not aware of the caliber of disaster indicated by the presence of a pain clinic in your community.
Well… Ya got trouble, my friends, right here,
I say, trouble right here in your city.
Why sure I’m a pain physician, certainly mighty proud to say,
I’m always mighty proud to say it.
I consider that the hours I spend, needle in my hand, are golden.
Helps you cultivate horse sense, and a cool head, and a keen eye.
But just as I say it takes judgment, brains and maturity
to place a needle in the spine,
I say that any boob can pull a pad from his pocket.
And I call that sloth,
the first big step on the road to the depths of deg-ra-da–
I say first, medicinal mar-i-ju-ana, then pills from a bottle.
Not a wholesome caring place, no!
But a place where they pay cash right on the spot!
Like to see some screwed up druggie boy sittin’ in your office?
Make your blood boil?
Well, I should say. Now friends, let me tell you what I mean.
You got nine – new – pain – regs - that – were passed by the board.**
Regulations that mark the difference between a specialist and a bum,
with a capital “B”
and that rhymes with “P”
and that stands for PAIN!
And all day long that pain clinic bunch will be loitering around,
I say those addicts will be loitering,
loitering around your up town, middle town, down town too!
Never mind taking too many
so your patients are caught
with the bottle empty
on a Saturday night,
and that’s trouble.
Yes you got lots and lots of trouble.
I’m thinkin’ of the pain pill partiers,
old ones, young ones,
caring not a bit about breaking all the rules.
Now, I know all you docs have the right kinda patients.
I’m gonna be perfectly frank.
Would ya like to know what kind of conversation goes on
while they’re loafing around your halls?
And braggin’ all about
how they’re gonna cover up a bad drug screen with with Clorox.
One fine night, they leave the clinic,
headin’ for a chance at the pharmacy.
Desperate men, enabling women!
Narcotic shameless craving
that’ll make your son and your daughter
defy every decent societal instinct.
Friends, the stoner brain is the devil’s playground! Trouble!
Oh we got trouble. Right here in your city!
with a capital “T”
that rhymes with “P”
and that stands for PAIN!
We’ve surely got trouble! Right here in your city.
Gotta figure out a way to treat and not just go insane.
Doctors of this city, heed that warning before it’s too late!
Watch for the telltale signs of addiction!
The minute after your patient walks into your office,
does he claim to be paralyzed below the knee?
A dime bag hidden in his butt pack?
Is he starting to visit web sites
like “How to Pass a Whiz test” dot com?
We’ve surely got trouble! Right here in your city!
Remember that pain clinic doc is a willing fool!
Oh, we’ve got trouble!
We’re in terrible, terrible trouble!
Those pills for the fifteen hundred cash is the devil’s tool.
Oh yes we got trouble, trouble, trouble!
Oh yes we got trouble here, we got big big trouble!
With a “T”
Gotta rhyme it with “P”
And that stands for PAIN!
*KASPER is the Kentucky All-Schedule Prescription Electronic Reporting system
Spoiler alert… Professor Harold Hill had nothing against the pool hall. He wasn’t even a music professor. He was a con artist with a hidden agenda. He wanted to make a big score selling band instruments then bolt out of town. In the end though, Harold Hill had a change of heart and found true love.
If we can cool down the hyperbole, hysteria and high drama; if we can look beyond the soaring rhetoric and eye-popping statistics; if we can engage in honest and respectful communication; perhaps we can find meaningful solutions to our nation’s pain medication crisis.
Remember my friends,
listen to me,
because I pass this way but once!