They have the narrative and power. We have clinical data. There shouldn’t be any debate. The data should win by default. Instead, we have a never ending fight between those in positions of power and the seemingly powerless.
It’s an unfair fight. What can a few disenfranchised patients and physicians do against federal agencies pushing an agenda on the overdose crisis that disregards sound clinical medicine?
So we lash out, not to talk about the importance of data, but at the unfairness of it all. This is what they want. The powers that be thrive on this.
When a disenfranchised person lashes out or complains, the societal response is to discredit that person. It’s instinctive. Think of the person affected by poverty who lashes out against corporate greed: a story as old as time. Or the scorned lover who decries all relationships: we have entire libraries filled with such stories. How often have their cries been ignored?
Complaining about the unfairness of it all feels good – as I must confess – but it does little to change the narrative and stop the abuses of the powerful. Only a well-constructed argument can do that. We have one already. It’s the clinical data. Study after study has exposed the failures of the DEA and the CDC opioid prescribing guidelines. But the voices expressing as much appear to fall on hollow ears. So in silence, we react.
But the thing is: they hear us, loud and clear. They just know that by not reacting, we will react. They’re playing a veritable game of chicken, using silence to conjure a response. We think by reacting to their silence, we’re calling attention to their abuses. They know our reactions destroy our credibility. It’s self-defeating fool’s gold. You’re only fooling yourself if you think such efforts are valuable.
Instead of complaining about how corrupt the DEA is, show how the DEA is incapable of adjusting to clinical data that suggests their efforts are counterproductive. Instead of pointing at the outsized voices of a limited few in the CDC, reveal the undisclosed conflicts of interest that would invalidate their policy recommendations.
The science is with us. The clinical data consistently proves us correct. We have to stick to the message, regardless of whether we feel we are speaking into an eternal void. It’s frustrating, maddening even. Believe me, I share your sentiment. But it’s the most effective way to fight. More importantly, it takes away their strongest weapon.
The overdose crisis is a modern manifestation of the ongoing war between power and science. It’s no different from what Galileo experienced centuries ago. Throughout history, the ones who were successful were those who never gave the powers-that-were an opportunity to discredit them.
They crafted simple messages in respectful ways. It was their simplicity that made them so effective. Funny how that works: Power is only effective against those who lash out against it. But it’s powerless against those who stand up to it without reacting.