War Against Drugs, or Against Doctors?

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (CN) – A family practice doctor trained to treat addicts sued the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, saying it suspended the certificate of registration he needs to prescribe medication, putting his patients “at imminent risk of harm, injury, and possibly, even death.” Dr. Morris Cochran says he has treated addicts and other patients for more than 22 years, but the DEA suspended his certificate without a hearing – or a reason – on Sept. 22.




     Cochran is licensed to practice medicine in Alabama and is a member of the clinical faculty of the University of Alabama at Birmingham in Family Medicine, according to his federal complaint. He received additional training to get a DEA certificate so he could treat patients with Suboxone, a drug used to treat opiate addition. He also treats patients suffering from chronic pain.
     (Doctors in several states have accused the DEA of targeting them with unjustified enforcement actions because they treat victims of chronic pain. Such doctors may write more prescriptions for potentially addictive drugs than other doctors do.)
     Cochran says the DEA suspended his certificate without due process, stating only that “continued use of said certificate would result in imminent danger to the public.” Cochran says the DEA has no evidence or facts to support that allegation.
     The doctor says the suspension of his certificate has “placed large numbers of patients at imminent risk of harm, injury, and possibly, even death” because if patients do not receive their Suboxone, they may suffer seizures.
     Cochran says he treats other patients who depend on medications and they too are at “great risk for injury in the form of rebound hypertension, stroke, and even death.”
     He seeks an emergency hearing for a temporary restraining.
     Cochran is represented by Mark W. Lee of Birmingham.
     (This lawsuit exemplifies a problem with the DEA’s “war on drugs.” Despite the common, intuitive “understanding” of what addiction means, doctors and pharmacologists do not understand the process of addiction, or even have a good definition of it, one professor of pharmacology told Courthouse News. Some people may become addicted to drugs almost instantly, and suffer agonies of withdrawal, while others may take an addictive drug for years and suffer mild, or virtually no symptoms of withdrawal. Doctors targeted for DEA enforcement have said the agency tars them with a broad brush, and that agents do not understand the medical issues involved in providing compassionate care.)

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