In this March 27, 2020, file photo, patients line up to pick up medication for opioid addiction at a clinic in Olympia, Washington. Credit: Ted S. Warren / AP

Letters submitted by BDN readers are verified by BDN Opinion Page staff. Send your letters to

Pain patients and doctors beware. This is the message the New England Prescription Opioid Strike Force would apparently like to impart to anyone who relies on opioid analgesics for the treatment of pain for functional wellness.

Dr. Merideth Norris, a well-known and respected physician who treats substance use disorder and pain-generating illnesses, has been targeted by this prosecutorial entity, which I believe has weaponized the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program and effectively criminalized the treatment of pain. Its actions have created an immediate chilling effect upon the pain community, whose reaction has been so extreme that some practices are rejecting any patient who has ever received care from Norris outright.

The blowback is affecting more than Norris’ patients. Tapering clinics are closing, pain patients are being blocked from care and physicians are forcing downward titrations against the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Physicians and patients across the state are reeling from the blowback of Department of Justice targeting. The risk of responsibly treating pain patients has simply become too great. And the state, which was charged with finding continuing care for Norris’ patients with substance use disorder, has in my opinion completely abandoned pain patients to survive life-limiting pain without necessary medical care. Patients are suffering in unmitigated pain, and they are out of options.

After conventional therapies fail, opioid pain analgesics are life sustaining for millions of pain patients. They are an effective and necessary treatment for acute and chronic pain. They help provide functionality and some quality of life for patients who struggle with serious chronic illnesses.

Kelly Merrill