With this first in a series of posts by Siobhan Reynolds, formerly of the Pain Relief Network, Points inaugurates a guest blogging feature, showcasing voices from inside and outside of the academic and policy worlds. Reynolds founded the Pain Relief Network (PRN) in 2003 in response to her husband’s experience with chronic pain and the stigma attached to its treatment. PRN challenged government restrictions on opioid pain treatment by advocating for and representing doctors in disciplinary proceedings and criminal prosecutions. The organization was forced to close its doors in 2010, after the Supreme Court refused Reynolds’ petition for certiorari in a case that Adam Liptak explains much more succinctly than we could. Reynolds lives in New Mexico with her son Ronan and her partner, attorney Kevin P. Byers, whose legal practice carries forward PRN’s mission.
The people of the United States seem to have mostly recovered from the federal government’s propaganda campaign that accompanied the criminalization of marijuana in the 1930’s. Reefer Madness is now viewed as a hoary, ridiculous example of just how far the feds will go to demonize the benign and medically useful cannabis plant. But as concerns opioids, the vast majority of Americans, including educated people–university professors, members of the press, physicians and anti drug war activists of all stripes–still find themselves emotionally manipulated by the propaganda that was utilized to destroy the poppy’s reputation in order to justify its criminalization. The campaign continues, now cloaked in the guise of a public health and safety message that is premised on “facts” no more factual than those presented to the public by way of Reefer Madness. The only difference between the Reefer Madness campaign and the one currently smearing opioids is one of perception. Americans mostly believe the anti-scientific rhetoric that is said to support opium prohibition. And this is where the trouble lies.