Dear Bill Maher:
Wait, perhaps I should explain. On your HBO series, Real Time with Bill Maher, episode 238, after your opening monologue, you conducted an interview with Dr. Drew Pinsky.
For the most part, it was the standard off-and-on funny middling self-help celebrity interview. I had some hope that this would be good stuff when Pinsky called "bullshit" right away on some of the standard thought processes regarding celebrities and addition. Even better, when you both touched on how street drugs seem to, regarding addition in general, have different, less fatal outcomes than prescription drug addition. This is not part of current common wisdom and needs more discussion and scrutiny. I thought it was useful that you two delved into why celebrity addiction deaths seem to follow a pattern regarding "downers." It was really poignant when you two mentioned that sleep is the one thing that no one, no matter what their wealth and status, can order up on demand (particularly once one has built up a resistance to Benzodiazepines , etc...).
But you and Dr. Pinsky talked a bit about painkillers, and you went so far off the rails you crashed the train in to the station. You quoted a statistic stating that while USians are a small percent of the world population, we use 56 percent of the painkillers and asked "What is it about Americans that we cannot cope with pain?"
Deep breath, here we go...
So just starting out you make a gross generalization (and I do mean gross) and make me wonder what the hell is wrong with you. You give that statistic without citation, and with a number of assumptions. Have you even thought about what may be contributing to that statistic? That perhaps, with our extended lifespans that people are living longer in bodies that become more and more prone to conditions that cause pain? That there are numerous conditions out there that can not be cured, used to be fatal, but now are at least partially manageable and that one of the things that needs to be managed is often pain?
What is really important here is that you are feeding a stereotype of Americans using painkillers that itself can be deadly. Chronic pain is a vicious thing that uncoils into every aspect of your life, poisoning it. It does not just harm, it kills. Chronic pain kills enjoyment. Chronic pain kills serenity. Chronic pain kills relationships. Chronic pain kills self esteem and self reliance. Chronic pain drives people to suicide.
Do you have any idea how many people I hear from that live their lives in more pain than necessary, not out of deprivation but because of the stigma of pain killers? It is all I can do to not stop right now and sob just at the thought of the needless pain that I personally know is out there this morning. I am now, right now, needlessly suffering because my current pain killer and dose is no longer effective, but I just do not want to wrestle with my health care network. I just do not have the mental and emotional stamina to face being treated like a criminal because I have the misfortune to have a body that hurts.
Mr. Maher, please quit feeding the stereotype. There is genuine suffering out there, in here, that should not exist. If nothing else, in this modern age, we ought to be able to alleviate suffering. Our willingness to do so is part of our measure as human beings.
I will toast you, Mr. Maher, the next time I take my nearly criminalized, carefully measured and monitored, and now rapidly approaching useless pain killer dose. If you cannot speak of those in pain or chronic pain with some humanity, compassion, and education, then please do not speak of us at all.
Edit: spelling error, 2/26/12