By Taylor Knopf

For Courtney Cates, pain medication is the difference between taking short walks or staying in bed.

It’s the difference between talking with her 8-year-old son or passing him notes.

Cates, 37, suffers from chronic pain in her back, leg and jaw resulting from car accidents, failed surgeries and a painful jaw disease. She relies on strong pain medications for simple activities, like eating breakfast or washing dishes.

Yet now, Cates is one of 34 patients who cannot find treatment for their pain because their doctor can no longer prescribe pain killers. More broadly, the Raleigh woman is among many pain patients affected by a nationwide crackdown on opioids aimed at stopping drug overdoses.

Her doctor, Thomas Kline, 76, who specializes in chronic, painful diseases, said he was asked to sign over his DEA license to prescribe controlled substances during an impromptu visit from the N.C. Medical Board last month.

The board launched an investigation into the Raleigh doctor last spring after receiving a complaint from Julie Roy, whose 26-year-old son died from a heroin overdose. She lives in rural New York and doesn’t know him personally.

Their paths crossed on Twitter, where Roy became concerned about some of Kline’s tweets.

Roy uses Twitter to share her son, William’s, story as a cautionary tale, while Kline uses the platform to rebuke what he believes are misconceptions about opioids.

Kline claims that only 1 percent of people have the genetic makeup to become addicted to opioids and that the addiction rate has not changed through the years.

Roy, 54, takes exception to that claim.

screen shot of Julie Roy and Thomas Kline's tweets
Julie Roy lost her son to a heroin overdose and has since become an advocate for addiction recovery in her community in New York. She came across Thomas Kline’s very active Twitter account and reached out with concern to the NC Medical Board. Photo credit: Twitter screenshot

“Then why are all these people dying?” Roy said in an interview with NC Health News. “I saw opioids spill into my community. I live in a very small community. We’ve had over two dozen deaths of 20-something-year olds, one being my son.”

To Roy, Kline’s tweets were a sign of reckless behavior — the kind that could result in death.

So she filed a complaint with North Carolina’s medical board. Kline “is giving out information regarding opioids that is not correct and could cause harm,” Roy wrote. “He uses Twitter to do this. I’m very concerned that his pain patients believe what he says.”

Lone, defiant voice

Kline is very active on Youtube and Twitter. His following has grown to 31,000 in recent years, as he’s become an outspoken advocate for chronic pain patients.

Since Kline lost his DEA license, pain patients around the country are rallying around him, raising money for legal fees so he can fight to reinstate his license.

As more and more doctors become reluctant to prescribe opioids, some patients have become desperate for pain management. Some have taken their own lives because they couldn’t find relief from their pain.

a group of people with posters stands in front of the old capital building in Raleigh. This is a rally to support Thomas Kline, a docotor who treats chronic pain patients.
Thomas Kline, seated at the blue table, rallies with pain patients for fair treatment in front of the old capital building in Raleigh in January 2019. The group “Don’t Punish Pain NC” will hold another rally for Kline on March 20. Photo credit: Taylor Knopf

Kline wants to help prevent these deaths and help his patients function best they can. Patients travel from as far as Wisconsin and Kentucky to see him. He said he has a specialized practice where he takes what he calls “pain refugees.”

“I have 34 of the hardest cases,” he said. “To get into my practice, they need to have seen at least 10 other doctors and have been turned down for pain treatment.”

Kline frequently criticizes the opioid prescribing guidelines created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2016. He says the CDC and DEA should not be telling doctors how to treat their patients.

But when he got a letter from the medical board last spring, Kline said he cooperated. Investigators came to his office and questioned him. They asked for the medical charts of nine patients and took them away for review.

the old capital building in Raleigh with protest signs in front of it. This is a rally to support a doctor who treats chronic pain patients
Chronic pain patients say they have struggled to find doctors to adequately treat their pain amidst a nationwide crackdown on pain medications aimed at preventing overdose deaths. Photo credit: Taylor Knopf

“I think everything’s going fine with the board, and I got a phone call from the investigators: ‘I’m coming over to ask you to surrender your license,’” he said. “That’s pretty serious. I figure some serious thing is going on with the DEA.”

There were 818 voluntary and involuntary DEA license surrenders in 2018 across the United States, that’s up from 786 in 2016, according to a DEA spokesman. There are 1.8 million registrants nationwide, which includes practitioners, pharmacies, hospitals and analytical labs.

Kline signed a voluntary surrender of his DEA license, meaning he can no longer prescribe controlled substances, including opioids.

“But I didn’t read the form. In the form, it says you’ve committed a crime and this was voluntary,” he said. “But they don’t tell you that, so the doctors are trapped into signing these things.”

Kline said he asked the investigators to see a list of charges against him but was not given any.

How investigations work

“Under North Carolina law, medical board investigations are confidential,” said board spokeswoman Jean Brinkley. She said she could not comment on Kline or confirm the existence of an investigation.

Speaking generally about the medical board’s investigative process, she said if a case stems from a complaint, the doctor or physician assistant being investigated receives a copy of it and is required to provide a written response.

Medical records of one or more patients will be reviewed if the investigation involves a quality of care issue. The physician is asked to give a written response explaining their treatment decisions.

What is chronic pain?

The definition of chronic pain varies. The CDC defines it as “pain that typically lasts more than three months or past the time of normal tissue healing. Chronic pain can be the result of an underlying medical disease or condition, injury, medical treatment, inflammation, or an unknown cause.”

The CDC says that about 11 percent of American adults report feeling pain on a daily basis and that between 9 and 11 million U.S. adults were prescribed long-term opioid medication in 2005.

The National Academy of Medicine states that pain is a public health issue that affects more than 100 million Americans.

Most investigations end in a settlement agreement, Brinkley said. The medical board presents the physician and their attorney with evidence of the problem found, and the physician agrees to do some kind of action to resolve it, such as more education or stopping certain practices.

“There are times a licensee doesn’t feel they did anything wrong,” she said. “They can defend themselves at a hearing. A minority of cases go to a hearing. The vast majority are settled.”

Kline believes his case should have gone to a hearing. But he said he wasn’t aware of his options.

“If something is going to affect the patients, there needs to be a different standard,” Kline said.

“Every one of my patients needs their medicine in order to stay alive and functional. It’s no different than yanking medicines from a diabetic,” he said.

Searching for relief

Cates is now feeling the effects of life without her medication. As her remaining pills dwindle, she’s taking a small amount each day to make them last as long as possible. She says the low dose doesn’t do much for the pain, but it helps stave off withdrawal symptoms.

Before Cates became a patient of Kline in 2019, she had trouble finding a doctor to treat her. Cates receives disability and is on Medicaid. After one surgery, the doctor said she should do physical therapy, but Medicaid wouldn’t cover it.

Basic household chores were simply too painful. Cates said pain shot through her back as she leaned over the sink to wash dishes or vacuum the floor. She lives with her mother, who would often do the cleaning.

But on the pain medications, Cates said she could accomplish these tasks more easily, taking short breaks in between. She started taking short walks with her walker around the neighborhood, starting with 10-minute periods working up to 25 minutes.

several bottles of prescription medications for chronic pain on a counter top
Courtney Cates suffers from pain in her back, leg and jaw daily. She takes several strong medications prescribed by her doctor, Thomas Kline, to help her function. Photo credit: Taylor Knopf

“My walks are coming to an end. Playing with my son like I was doing, that’s ending,” she said.

During the snow day in Raleigh last month, she used her last fentanyl patch to build a snowman with her son. She said she wanted to let her pain medication run out “with a bang” and give her son a fun, memorable experience.

“Not only am I physically in pain but emotionally I’m in pain. Because I can’t do anything. I can’t be the fun mom,” she said through tears.

Finding new doctors

Kline said he is working to find doctors to cover his patient load, but it’s difficult. Few will take patients with complex pain issues.

He said he found a doctor in Charlotte and another in Virginia who are willing to see some of his patients temporarily while he fights to get his DEA license back. He’s still looking for someone to cover about 25 percent of his patients.

Kline said he will help reimburse some of his patients’ travel costs to see the new physicians.

N.C. Medical Board Investigations 

The N.C. Medical Board opened 2,680 investigations in 2018, out of nearly 50,000 licenses. Of those, only 586 resulted in any action from the board, according to the board’s most recent annual report.

Nearly half of all investigations stem from a public or patient complaint.

In 2016, the North Carolina Medical Board launched its Safe Opioid Prescribing Initiative. The board investigates prescribers who have many patients on high doses of opioids, and those who have two or more patients die of an opioid overdose in one year’s time.

None of Kline’s patients have died.

But prescribers can also come under scrutiny if they meet several other criteria, such as a significant number of patients who are self-pay, who are on the same cocktail of prescriptions or who travel more than 100 miles for treatment.

Only 15 cases were opened under the Safe Opioid Prescribing initiative in 2018, according to the board.

The physician in Charlotte has a practice treating pain and addiction, Kline said, declining to name the doctor.

“And he was not concerned about prescribing these high doses,” he said. “Out of love for patients, he just volunteered.”

Roy, the concerned woman who filed the complaint, said she hoped Kline’s patients could find new doctors to help them. Roy said she can relate to their struggle because she used to be on long-term opioid treatment for a failed back surgery.

tiny bottles of oils in a box and spread over the counter top
Courtney Cates displays the array of essential oil alternatives she’s invested in over the years to help relieve her chronic pain. She said she is willing to try almost anything for relief. Photo credit: Taylor Knopf

But last year, she decided to get off. Her prescriptions weren’t working anymore, and Roy said she woke up every day with withdrawal symptoms. Her doctor switched her to buprenorphine — typically used as an addiction treatment drug — and Roy said it works well for her.

“I do feel bad for the patients that were affected,” she said. “I’m not against those in need of using them.”

As for Cates? On Wednesday, she boarded a train with her walker to meet a new doctor in Charlotte. She’s not crazy about traveling and putting her body through more discomfort just to get the care she needs.

But for now, it’s her only option.

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Taylor Knopf writes about mental health, including addiction and harm reduction. She lives in Raleigh and previously wrote for The News & Observer. Knopf has a bachelor's degree in sociology with a...

79 replies on “A doctor’s tweet, a mother’s complaint, a loss for chronic pain patients.”

  1. Your son’s overdose has zero to do with Dr. Kline! The CDCs own data proves scientifically that prescribing has no bearing on addiction/mortality! Does it make you feel any better to have a 76 yr. Old Doctor lose his license to treat rare Progressive diseases? Do you like the fact that 34 patients are now suffering and three are on suicide watch due to his loss of license? The mortality rate of youths has skyrocketed while prescriptions and prescribing has gone down substantially. The fact that your son was an addict and overdosed has absolutely no bearing or anything at all to do with a North Carolina Dr.! You sadly have now caused literally 34 patients to suffer! Your thought process, (watching youtube) that Dr. Klein merely dispelled all the Myths surrounding pain medication and you didn’t like what you heard. Yeah what you heard was that your son is an addict and part of the 0.05% who held the genetic Gene for addiction! Doctor Klein was a practicing Doctor who held high standards, advocated for patients, NOT addicts, and helped patients with rare, chronic diseases and now his patients have been abandoned!

      1. This Roy woman was obviously being compensated by someone to do this…I am sympathetic to her loss…I have been on the front lines and buried people too…that’s if its true…let’s all step back a bit….look at the tactics that they use…..
        This may be all that is…I’m so sorry for Dr. Kline and his patients….I hope he gets found innocent of any wrongdoing and is reinstated. I hope he takes it to the public forum and news media and files a civil suit again NC Board of Medicine AND Ms. Roy. Defamation is a serious thing …

    1. Amen, thank you for saying what I was thinking! What a shame that this lady can’t see that here son was addicted to drugs and it was his own fault!

      1. Or just another illness called addiction,
        Genetic cause.
        ( see the video about addiction from dr Kline )

      2. I think it’s common for people who’ve lost people to overdosed to try and find someone or something to blame. Reading this had me frustrated too. However, I don’t think bringing a defamation case against this poor woman is appropriate. I don’t think that would even work. I do, however, disagree with the reactionary tactics of the state. If anything is harming chronic pain patients and addicts alike it’s prohibition.

    2. I pray this lady does not get cancer or any other disability and can’t get the relief she is screaming for! imagine watching your loved one in so much pain the want to die.

    3. I would caution whichever doctor is prescribing Roy’s own opioid medication that they should be very careful about a person such as her. In all honesty if she were my patient I would drop her like a hot potato least she find some interactions unpleasant and report her protests and lies to the medical board! Not only did she take offense to what he said she also accused him of being a drug addict himself! Very slanderous for a person who has no interaction with him except to be offended by the fact that her son was genetically predisposed to addiction, started his addiction as a result of her obvious own addiction because a normal pain patient doesn’t go through withdrawals constantly unless they are over using the medication and running out before time to refill! Or her son was able to have free access to her pain medication & use it to start his own addiction. Either way it’s not anyone’s fault except for her own and to try to lay the blame on the medical community and a random doctor is truly unstable. I worry for the saftey of her own physician!

    4. i think it would be fair for Roy to surrender her remaining Buprenorphine- and go cold turkey. After all, this is a very strong opioid as well.

  2. So-a grieving mothers with no medical degree gets to question and derail the medical practice of a doctor with years of education and 50 years practicing in the field?
    Yes, people are dying of overdoses. Why? Because they are using illicit, illegal substances that are laced with unknown doses of heroin and fentanyl.

    1. Medical care is at the mercy of this cowardly woman who has preemptively blocked all of the doctor’s followers. Why did she not use this block function when she found she disagreed so vehemently with his posts? How does she even get a voice at the NC Medical board when she is neither a citizen of the state or a patient of the doctor’s? Her son was not even a pain patient. How is this happening when we supposedly have first amendment rights?

      1. If she is so against medications for pain, why does she have so much tolerance she has to take Buprenorphine , its an opioid too. Also, studies say many opiate addicts started using by stealing from parents medicine cabinets. Makes me wonder….

  3. The fact that a person can complain about a doctor and they have never seen bythe doctor or be treated is by and that can cause the state to pull a doctor license is unbealievable. This women lost her son because he had no medical need for opiate and abused them which is a mental illness. Addiction is not about the drug it is about the mental illness of these people using a substance to provide a escape. People can get addicted to food, exercise, stuff, alcohol,sex and drugs. 80% of those who get addicted to opiate never got a prescription from a doctor. But because of this women selfishness of not knowing what addiction is and is not ( maybe she should have listen to his doctors video) patients would not go though this. I am so sick of parent of addict and addicts whining and blaming doctors. They have a responsibility to tell there doctor there full history and if they are having issues with the drug. Instead they keep abusing and looking for better high.

  4. This woman runs with the “Anti-OPIOID” zealotry crowd …ie Kolodny, Juurlink, Chou … and she has NO Case.
    Just because she failed to raise her son properly and he abused heroin doesn’t justify ruining 33 patients . Kline is the utmost professional…a “diamond in the rough.”
    Did 47 patients rallying outside Hebert Hoover DOJ piss em off ??????????????????
    It appears that is so.
    #End the Experiment

  5. An alarmist is either trying to profit financially from a heroin overdose (by harming injured vets and old/disabled people?), or she seeks some sort of bizarre revenge.

    I question her motives, because recovery activism – fear mongering about reliably potent LEGAL medicine (or technology generally) – harms people addicted to heroin just as much as it harms cancer patients.

  6. Where do medical Boards get the idea that this makes the citizens of North Carolina more safe?
    Dr Kline treats the sickest of the sick.
    This is like taking out Mother Teresa for kidnapping people off the streets of Calcutta.
    I pray for Dr Kline.
    I pray for his patients
    I was taken out by rumor and innuendo also.
    6 of my patients ultimately died from losing access.
    The Board of North Carolina needs to look again at the Hippocratic Oath.

    Would you take insulin away from Diabetics?

    1. Sorry to hear about the lost of 6 of your patients , but am not surprized about 6 patients dying from loss of access.

      1. Having severe, intractable pain with no known cure is unrelenting torture. It has been shown to be an extreme stress on the body. Heart rate & blood pressure spikes. This can easily lead to natural death by heart attack or stroke. The endocrine system can crash from the constant extreme stress, & people can die of adrenal failure.

        However, the constant horrendous pain & being bedbound, instead of being able to function (& be more of a human being than a human being tortured), leads some to suicide. Especially when these people have spent all they have trying every alternative out there to no avail & don’t want to be a burden on their loved ones.. especially when they are suffering so badly.

        There is a huge difference between intractable pain patients such as these & those with addiction or others choosing to do illegal/illicit drugs on the street. It’s a completely different mindset. Intractable pain patients (IPPs) want so badly to be able to function, work, & be a contributing member of society, while those doing street drugs are looking to escape (& need a multifaceted treatment approach). Also IPPs don’t feel any “high” from their pain meds. They have so much pain that the pain meds just soak up enough of it for them to function. This is totally different from how those without pain or much pain are effected when taking strong opioids. And if they have addiction they will continue to seek out more drugs to get that high.

        IPPs have been not only lumped in with those who have addiction but have been treated way worse, tortured & killed because others are doing illegal drugs (which the DEA hasn’t been focused on). Innocent doctors have been put in prison for 40 years to life, while felon illegal drug dealers are put back on the street. It makes no sense, especially with all the false news & statistics out there.

        Meanwhile severe, intractable pain can & has killed naturally. Unfortunately suicides due to relentless torture have also been rising. Meanwhile the only attention seems to go to those dying (“overdosing”) from doing illicit drugs (meanwhile blaming & severely punishing innocent people).

    2. I followed your case closely being a native Montanan and I was appalled at what happened to you! It was criminal on the part of the medical board. I also took the states letter questioning me about my pain treatment very seriously after what happened to you and gave them a piece of my mind with not only my own, my doctors but your situation in mind! As for the 6 people who were forced into suicide by the denial of treatment, know that their deaths are not your fault but the out of control medical boards and cowards at the DEA who realized they were irrelevant and decided that percucting doctors would be financially advantageous to themselves!

      1. This comment has been edited in accordance with NC Health News’ comments policy found in the “about” section on the home page.

  7. If your son had drunk himself to death would she be going after the alcohol industry? Stupid. Grief makes people do hurtful things

  8. I am one of the #NC34. I am doctorless and no longer have a pharmacy.
    I was with Dr. Kline for over 2 years. I regained my quality of life and function once under the care of Dr. Thomas Kline.
    I feel terrible that this woman lost her child to the “opioid crisis,” but I also feel like she needed someone to blame and she chose to file a complaint against my amazing and innocent doctor that gave life back to all his patients.
    Dr. Kline has never had a patient overdose, commit suicide or divert to other doctors and get medications from other sources.

    Now my life is endangered and I’m scared. I have tachycardia, a heart issue, that occurs when my pain levels get out of control. It’s started up again, and I don’t know when I’ll have a possible heart attack or stroke.

    Shame on the medical board for taking my doctors license away. He’s a great doctor and a wonderful advocate for our community.
    Her son unfortunately had an addiction that took his life, which wasn’t Dr. Kline’s fault, it’s not my fault and it’s not Kline’s 34 patients fault.
    The majority of overdoses are caused by illicit manufactured fentanyl bought off streets illegally, coming in from Mexico and China. Maybe she could’ve focused her anger towards avenues that would actually have made a positive change for the United States instead of taking away one of the good doctors that is innocent and taking care of all his patients correctly.
    She needs to know my life is crumbling down fast. My heart issues are occurring daily again, my rare and painful disease I’ve struggled with for the last 10 years is running rampant.
    I’m scared and I have little NO choices now!

      1. Taylor – thank you for writing this article with this perspective. I had no idea that Dr. Kline was still seeing patients. He is a good man who is trying to help a part of the population already left out of so many conversations. I appreciate you. I am praying for Dr. Kline and his patients. A Chronic pain patient in Montana.

      2. Taylor, when you say that a comment has been edited, WHICH comment? The one above? The one below? Or is it a comment that has been erased? That is not clear to me.

        Also, what is edited? Is there a way to see what has been removed? Not the content, but the context? Or is it the whole comment, in which case why say “edited” when it has been removed.

        Thanks for clarifying this.

        Also, thank you for covering this. The opioid crisis response has gotten out of control.

      3. Hi Tom, I’ve been replying directly under the comments that I’ve edited. There have been several that were edited. That means we have simply deleted lines that are not in accordance with our comments policy found here:

        The edits we’ve made on comments for this story are related to rules 2,3,9 and 10. Most have either been much too long or include name calling and/or direct threats to the subjects of the story. This is not tolerated and I’ve done my best to delete threats.

      1. Her son was a junkie, junkies Od
        that’s what junkies do.
        She should have tried to help her son when he needed it.

    1. I’m so very very sorry. We are living during one of the hardest times in history for the disabled. This prohibition is causing more deaths. People in pain desperate for some type of pain relief are trying alternatives that could kill them.
      Dr Forest Tennant has a website with supplements that can help while withdrawing. I know it’s not much, I hope it helps. Here is a PDF from Dr Tennant with supplements listed.

  9. I feel so sorry for the pain suffering of those who needed this doctor’s expertise. I feel sorry for those left behind by an OD. I am a long term pain suffer and after 20 years of being on many different types of meds, & therapy I have a huge problem with uneducated people who think they are helping. Education is the only way to understand the way to reach the optimum outcome for every problem.

  10. Her crusade will make sure more people suffer the same death as her son. When legit pain patients can’t get help from a Dr, & are in bad enough shape to consider suicide with nothing left to lose, some will turn to street drugs, such as heroin. Taking pain relief away from a professional setting, & putting it on the street, won’t help absolutely anyone, real pain patient & seekers alike.

    What happens when no one can get relief, & heroin is the only thing left that people can get a hold of? Will they blame our lack of addiction resources? Will they blame the addict? Or is it just going to be easier to blame the dealer (who wouldn’t exist without the demand) that their poor, precious, grown child who either couldn’t or wouldn’t get help they needed?

    This mom had been a chronic pain patient herself. She must know that even managed, pain still persists, albeit with a far more tolerable ceiling. She wants to deny 33 responsible people because her 1 could not be satisfied with clinical management. How would she have tolerated the worst years of her diagnosis without the relief? She may or may not ever have to know.

  11. I do not understand the lack of compassion nor the intolerance of those who have never dealt with chronic intractable pain due to rare diseases or medical conditions. I understand this mother is grieving however I feel her anger is misplaced. She, instead of being a compassionate human being decided to take her anger out on a doctor who is doing his best to treat patients who have been abandoned. Dr Kline was utilizing his right to free speech to educate those who don’t understand chronic pain and how patients have been abandoned by government. How does she justify ruining the life of a good doctor and jeopardizing the lives of His patients who already are suffering. She has a right to her beliefs and to fight her “demons” but she doesn’t have the right to hurt others because she’s hurt Or angry. Time for people to put compassion and empathy back in their lives. Have a heart, understanding there are 2 sides to every story. My heart breaks for Dr Kline and for his patients.

  12. I would like Ms. Roy to know that I’m 53yo and have 17yo and 20yo daughters and a husband. I’ve suffered 24/7 pain for 20 years, and because of people like her I was taken off a very successful medication regimen 2.5 years ago. No other doctor will treat me. I have lost the will to live. I used to coach two sports and volunteer at school and church. Ms. Roy isn’t just hurting me, she’s hurting my kids and community. I am so sorry for her loss, but she needs to redirect her energy.

    1. The Blame goes to the medical board:
      They should never act on the personal malice of someone with no connection to
      Dr Kline ( not his patient)
      North Carolina
      Chronic Intractable Pain
      Or anything.
      Shame on the board for listening to gossip,
      Pure and simple.

      Greed and ignorance reign in North Carolina,

      1. I agree with you completely and seriously suspect that this vendetta by the N Carolina medical board has everything to do with Dr. Kline being an outspoken advocate for us who suffer from terminal chronic pain. As you’re aware the pain is indeed terminal when treatment is denied! However the anti opioid zealots who obviously are serving on the N Carolina medical board have no compassion for the chronic pain patient’s plight. I myself have become bedridden and a burden on my family. Between the constant suffering and the guilt of being such a drain on my family illegal fentanyl is the only way short of suicide to stop this unending suffering and I fear suicide would cause even more harm to my family but I resent having to use drugs that have zero quality control, no dosage guidelines and god only knows what adultrants when legal safe opioids are available and cheap!

  13. Wow. So a person with no knowledge of what type of patients a doctor treats or the doctor himself, can make a complaint to the state board because she doesn’t agree with the education that he is providing and now a great doctor and 34 of his innocent patients are suffering for no reason other than this lady felt the need to take out her grief on the wrong people. Her son died from illegal drug use, not prescription pain medications that were monitored and provided by a doctor who knows his patients and their chronic illnesses.
    It seems like someone like her can contact the state board and immediate misplaced action is taken on a doctor and his patients, yet a chronic pain patient can contact the state board for being denied proper, humane treatment and nothing is done. Something is very wrong with this system.
    I pray for Dr. Kline and his innocent patients who are now left without the care and medication that let them have somewhat of a life that everyone deserves.
    I dont see Insulin, heart, thyroid, cholesterol and other medications required to treat illnesses being denied and the doctors providing the care being raided and having their livelihood taken away.
    I still can’t believe we live in the United States of America and the torture of innocent people is being allowed to happen.

  14. This is total madness. A person who has zero experience with prescribing pain medication to those suffering horrible, life altering pain, can stop the relief for hundreds with a single complaint??
    I sympathize with a person who has lost a child. I lost my own son when he was 25. Nobody should have to bury their child. Then again, nobody should be suffering so much pain that suicide appears to be the only relief available.
    Before I began receiving pain medication, I could no longer brush my own hair, hold my grandson in my lap, or walk more than a few feet without assistance. I now am able to do the things normal people take for granted. Doctors like Dr Kline are a Godsend for most of us who suffer day after day. I didn’t pick Multiple Sclerosis. It chose me. Now I have to fight not only the disease, but those who should be helping me live with it.

  15. While I feel for her and her grief she is just plain wrong. Her son was an illicit drug addict not a chronic pain patient. Then she says she is one herself and has been switched to buprenorphine! That is itself an Opioid!!! If she is so against narcotics because of her son then why is she herself taking them. I can t even.

  16. Im a 40 yr old retired infantry soldier with degenerative disc disease, knee replacement that’s a nightmare. Im from winter haven Fl but spent alot of time in N.C. My pain dr was suddenly gone this month of 2016, I am actually traumatized from the savage, hellish cold turkey withdrawal as well as over half my body lit up by abject misery of throbbing agony. The few pain drs left would not take me for all kinds of reasons..maybe legit or not dont rightly know to be quite honest. I went about 9 days before my will to live began to wain away so I decided it was either methadone or now I drive 25 mins to the clinic..for a good while everyday too. I am blessed with 100mg of methadone but its 90$ a week and Im on a meager disability living. I pray for the outstanding Dr kline and all the 34..god help us all indeed. Adam o. H

    1. Thank you for your service,
      For your heroic persistence against all

  17. I am a chronic pain patient I have had three major surgeries since 2009. I became disabled in 1997 from a accident in the National Guard at annual training.I had been suffering from back issues for about 2 years prior to getting injured in 97.After the injury I suffered from severe back pain until 2009 I then had my first back surgery then again in 2010 and my final surgery in 2014.I will not allow a surgeon to cut on me again the back surgeries did help but only for a year or two.It’smy experience with back pain that keeps me asking dr for pain medications.I have had numerous trips to the physical therapist and chiropractor they help but for only a short period of time.I have had acupuncture and been to several pain management clinics with epidural injections they also help temporary.I have been on oxytocin,morphine and fentanyl at the same time and found out that some dr really don’t care about how much they give you for pain.I have also found out that some dr do have a following of patients that will travel from Florida all the way to Tennessee to get pain medications(addicts).It’s been my experience that medications are very helpful but not to much and not to little you have to get the right dr.Ever since the crackdown on opioids its impossible to get a dr to give you any kind of pain medications no matter how bad you are hurting and it’s not fair for those of us who need them to get through the day.Im a veteran and it’s even harder now to get the VA dr to help you with pain there scared of loosing there licenses to practice medicine.It’s taken me four years to get back to pain management to try and get something to help me all the while I have suffered and have gotten worse as I get older.It’s not my fault that people are dying and abusing medications,selling there medications and trading

    1. This comment was shortened in accordance with our comments policy, which limits comments to 350 words.

    2. Thx u 4 yur service but please know yur circumstances are far from special ie not every1 that needs certain doses of meds are addicted! We are all unique! By pitting one group against another solves zero! Try & be empathetic towards others pain circumstances or your actually just as bad as this woman that turned onbDr Kline or evenPROP members!

  18. The woman who complained about lovely Dr. Kline prescribing opiates…..drum roll….Takes Opiates Herself. Ha. Buprenorphine is a strong opiate and an addictive controlled substance.

    1. Bup is no more addicting than any other drug! Remember it’s not the substance rather the person using it! Yes it is primarily used 4 addiction however is used & approved 4 pain! My concern as this pain pt who complained regarding Dr Kline, stated she was constantly going through with/d! My question is why? My thinking is she didn’t use them as rx’d & would run out early causing w/d!

  19. As a mother that’s lost a child I get so badly you want someone to blame. But I’d never in a million years go around recklessly accusing and reporting all OBs that didn’t listen to their patients (as my previous OB didn’t listen to me) when they reported something didn’t feel right during their pregnancy (like I did) because that would be insane of me and it would be even more ludicrous for the medical board to take such a report seriously, as they did in this case. I’m flabbergasted she ended her interview with statements such as she understands pain as a result of her failed back surgery and she wants those truly in need to have access to pain meds because her actions caused the exact opposite to happen. At the same time, I’m so sorry for the loss she has experienced, no one should ever have to bury their baby.

    I’m sorry she went public with her name and info. I believe the world is full of many crazies and she’s going to get more than she bargained for after this article makes its rounds. I urge all to leave this lady alone.

    Regardless of loss, this whole thing just makes me sick. Shame on this lady, but most of all, shame on the NC Medical Board for entertaining such an emotional driven complaint. This lady should step forward publicly to restate her beliefs about pain patients getting the medical help they need and deserve with pain medications so the 34 without now, many of which being children, can get their physician back. She should try to explain that she reported in grief (of her son’s death.) One can only hope she’ll step forward and support Dr. Kline and the patients, known as NC 34, going forward since she knows now Dr. Kline is most certainly not a pill mill physician and not a physician that wants to prescribe for everyone in the United States or even in NC. (And again, she should’ve had this info before making a complaint.)

    This, this is why one doesn’t go and make complaints

    1. Thank you for a very articulate, and sane, response. The hysteria and hate needs to end. From both sides. Both sides are being manipulated by the media and politicians, both sides fanning the flames of stigma, grief, agony and suffering between them both. I am a Chronic pain patient and advocate, yet I feel sympathy and compassion for the addict and their family. We want our opioids to stop the pain and have quality of life. What QoL do we have, if we spend all, or any, of that energy on hating or shaming others? What that woman did was reprehensible, but that’s on her. This is not a game, and we aren’t judges. And to answer the inevitable, I’m not judging, I’m asking you to just think about what kind of energy you want to share with this world.

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  20. When is the opioid hysteria going to end? How is it a medical board even investigated a doctor because someone didn’t like the facts he presented on Twitter? Researched, medical facts, no less. I don’t know when, if, or ever anyone in the world of the well (which means every governmental official) will take notice of what is happening to chronic pain patients and their providers. It’s already too late for too many.

  21. “Under North Carolina law, medical board investigations are confidential,” said board spokeswoman Jean Brinkley. She said she could not comment on Kline or confirm the existence of an investigation.

    If true how did the investigation become public knowledge within days? Julie Roy suffers from substance abuse disorder, she lost her son to addiction. I am very sorry for her loss.

    Dr Kline only prescribes medications. I believe the CDC said 85% of overdoses were the result of illegally manufactured fentanyl and heroin which is what killed Julie Roy’s son. She said he began with pills, was he prescribed them or were they hers?

    1. Investigations are confidential, meaning the NC Medical Board will not make them public or comment until they are completed. However, the person being investigated is at liberty to share whatever they want about the investigation.

  22. Finally we know. We now know what happened to hurt millions of pain patients and specifically 34 from North Carolina. And of course a man who has worked over forty years dedicating his life to helping the “sickest of the sick”. As a former RN I have a great respect for Dr Kline, his practice & his patient advocacy. But finding out this all happened due to WRONG FACTS, propaganda if you will & one women’s opinion, is appalling. It’s not really that different from the Salam Witch Hunt days.

    How have we sunk so low as a society that we let injustices like this happen? Opioid hysteria at it’s finest. Am I sorry this woman lost her son? Absolutely. But even so, I have to question her actions. Did she bother to research Dr Kline at all? Did she read his background of Boston, Harvard & Stanford ? How about his studies, research, Median & other articles, YouTube “myth” videos, or the numerous times he’s been quoted or interviewed for his expert opinion? Because I can not phantom how she did and came to the conclusion she knew more than he, from tweets no less?

    But the biggest atrocity is the medical board took action over a grieving mother in denial. A stellar doctor’s DEA license over an difference of opinion. Doesn’t matter Dr Kline has the research to back everything up. Doesn’t matter he follows the strictest of protocols for his opioid pain patients. Doesn’t matter other professionals agree with Dr Kline, or that they left 34 patients without a doctor to suffer unbearable pain for no good reason. That in itself is inexcusable. Pain patients are dying from forced tapering to zero across the country, yet this is how they choose to proceed?

    This is why it’s just like the Salam witch days. It’s like they threw Dr Thomas Kline off a bridge into the deep water and waited. When he floated back up to the top to breathe they said “yep, guilty. If he were innocent he would have sunk.” Hysteria is bad for any society. It killed then

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  23. I am one of the NC34. Let me just say that what Ms Roy has done along with the North Carolina medical board is beyond reprehensible. While I am sorry for the grief she surely feels her misguided crusade against legitimate Drs treating legitimate chronic pain patients has caused untold anguish and pain. Dr Kline’s patients are some of the most chronically ill in the country. Many Drs have never even heard of our diseases let alone know how to treat them. We are palliative care patients who under the care of Dr. Kline had stabilized and were able to eek out some quality of life. Now thanks to Ms. Roy and the. North Carolina medical board we have been thrust back into crisis physically, Mentally and emotionally.why she would feel it appropriate to File a complaint against a doctor who by her own admissionShe has never met is beyond the farthest reaches of logic.Her son died of a HEROIN overdose. How she can find a comparison between his death and the expert care that 34 patients were receiving by one of the foremost experts on rare and chronic diseases is ignorant and to put it charitably misguided. Now because of her recklessness our very lives are in danger. How dare her insert herself into our healthcare. How dare the NCMB interfere with our ability to find adequate medical care. How dare the citizens and the government of our own country place the label of addict on patients who are suffering immeasurable pain that most cannot even comprehend.Most of us(the NC34) had already been overlooked and mislabeled by the medical community when we found Dr. Kline. Now even that relief has been taken from us. MS.ROY AND THE NCMB OUR BLOOD IS ON YOUR HANDS. If any readers know of any legal representatives or advocates willing to help us we would appreciate it more than you know

    1. I am so very sorry for all of you going thru this torturous hell!! That woman has ties to @truthpharm if you’re on twitter look them up and see the attacks on good drs. That Organization is targeting drs who continue to COMPASSIONATELY treat their pain pts with LIFESAVING PAIN MEDICATION! Its disgusting what they are doing. I guess having ties to truthpharm, PROP, Kolodny gets u far in life, far enough to destroy lives of sick ppl.

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  24. Everyone here needs to be calling the NC state medical board to let them know that their heinous decision to pull Dr Kline’s prescribing ability over one random, hysterical woman’s tweet IS going viral!!

    Also, contact the national press about this – the AP, Reuters, Bloomberg, Slate, Vice, the NYT (this woman is from NY), etc. Encourage them to cover this! They need to investigate this woman’s ties to Kolodny, PROP and anyone else who may be benefitting from the sale of suboxone (which she uses.) They also need to subpoena records from the medical board to see if the DEA was involved in this ridiculous, tyrannical decision.

    The medical board needs to feel the outcome of this. And any pain patients who kill themselves – that blood is on their hands.

  25. I am also a chronic pain pt since 2011 due to a tooth extraction that led to permanent mental nerve damage & trigeminal neuralgia. Those are very very painful conditions that are very hard to treat. I have had all the procedures that were recommended to me & none worked & i also tried all the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc line meds that can help with these issues & sadly, none of those helped either. So finally aftr gaining almost 50 lbs on my small frame from those meds & also falling into a deep depression & anxiety ridden state; my drs came up with a regimine that helped me be able to eat, shower, run errends, get to the gym to lose the weight, etc. I was on these strong pain meds for approximately 4 – 5 yrs without any issues & I never abused them – they merely gave me some of my life back. Well fast forward to November of 2019 & my pcp went on maternity leave & the temp refused to do my meds & sent me to a horrible pain clinic where the dr only prescribes by these new “guidelines” & he is a “my plan, my way, if you don’t like it, get a 2nd opinion” dr. Well that is easier said than done – I’ve been trying since then to find a new dr who will take over my care & not having any luck. I live in Pennsylvania so my story doesn’t have to do with this dr, but I wanted ppl to know that this is effecting pts everywhere & it is making us miserable & not wanting to live like this & b in so much pain that we can’t get out of bed. With my issue, it also affects my eating & showering & such as my face/chin/jaw, etc hurt so bad I can’t chew without the pain meds or have the water hit my face there, etc. If anyone knows of anything I can do here to help get to the right caring, compassionate dr that will help me regain some of my life back; please let me know. I feel for

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  26. As a biochemist/molecular biologist,Dr. Kline is right,in and Joy is simply looking for a reason to be able to sleep at night, so she doesn’t have to hold her own son, someone that she loves, for his own behavior.

    What needs to happen is the better access to treatment for addicts and the end of the war against pain patients, and the hardship these patients are enduring having the access to their needed medication deliberately and systematically halted. The perpetuation of the outrageous idea that opioids are harmful to chronic pain patients needs to stop, and this so-called poorly designed study will only add more harm to this already suffering and fragile population.

    As a biochemist I KNOW (as does Dr. Kline, that opioids harm NO body organ systems when used as a medical treatment, and opioids are safer than Tylenol, ibuprofen, aspirin, gabapentin, etc., and yet we are taking the single best SAFEST pain reliever away from patients who need them to survive.

    A mere 3000 mg of Tylenol is hepatotoxic, and was listed as “the most dangerous drug,” by Dr. Aric Hausknecht, yet it is sold over the counter in hepatotoxic dose recommendations on the label. Aspirin and ibuprofen often lead to bleeding ulcers AND kidney damage EVEN WHEN TAKEN AS DIRECTED! Opioids cause no such organ damage or toxicity when taken as directed for pain, yet mass hysteria, caused by the CDC data in 2016, which they later recanted in April of 2019, AND which was pulled back by the AMA, is causing doctors such as these to waste precious research funding focusing on other treatments for chronic pain when it’s completely unnecessary. Also, chronic pain patients DO NOT BECOME ADDICTED TO OPIOIDS!! In fact, it’s biochemically impossible, because chronic pain patients do not ever feel the euphoria that opioids provide.
    The human body produces it’s own opioid factors called endorphins, (which is why opioids dont hurt any organ systems as the body already produces it’s own.) When the body is injured, endorphins go to work reducing the pain. However, in times when pain

    1. This comment was shortened in accordance with our comments policy, which limits comments to 350 words.

    2. ^THIS is called science. Are people honestly using opinion with peoples lives at stake? As soon as Trump came into office our country went to h*ll. For the first time in 50 years I’m terrified that I won’t make it much longer. How long can you torture your own citizens? Everyone has a breaking point, and mine is now.

      Yes, joy made a huge, ignorant, uneducated mistake in an effort to ease her grief in some way. But I find it hard to believe that she didn’t know the consequences of her actions. The pain she has caused so many people knows no bounds.

      I’m about to lose my job, my career. I work from home, but my lizard brain is focusing on the pain I feel every time I move. The clinical depression, and anxiety adds to the suffering. Everyday is a living night terror. And to think my own government is torturing all CPP’s…my mind is not grasping the reality. I don’t feel safe, and I’m alone. It’s called pain medicine for a reason…I am not safe. None of us are safe.

  27. This Roy woman made a terrible mistake! She is a prime example of someone who acted out of emotion and lack of common decency. Shame on her. I too have had a family member die of narcotics but the addiction gene was in his dna. He never saw any public announcements warning about mixing illicit narcotics. But this doesnt give me the right to ruin everyone else’s life because my nephew made a fatal choice! Mrs Roy, please, mind your own business!

  28. Firstly, I really appreciate that the author of this article took in the story from all sides and not just that of the grieving mother. It’s just good journalism.

    A few things I find troubling.
    1. A doctor having to sign over his DEA license because someone who doesn’t even live in the same state didn’t like their tweets. How is that possible?

    2. While I understand the pain of losing a loved one to opioids, I find it very strange that someone actively using opioids would attack a doctor who prescribes opioids because their loved one overdosed on heroin. There is a lot of dissonance in there that would need an essay I don’t have the time or energy to explain. Potentially ruining 34 chronic pain patient’s lives and putting them at risk of suicide isn’t going to help anyone. I’m honestly really disgusted by this woman’s actions and don’t understand what she hoped to accomplish. What about the patients who can’t travel to find another doctor? They’re going to be forced into withdrawal syndrome because that is what happens when you take opioids longterm for painful injuries and diseases. It’s putting people who are already at risk into really horrible positions. Some of those people may now turn to the street to find opioids so they can make it through the day and put food in their family’s bellies.
    3. This is going to continue until addicts can be honest and get the help they need. Throwing them in jail or rehab clearly doesn’t work. Until addiction is treated like any other illness there’s going to be risks in prescribing “addictive” substances. The new laws are just making matters worse. The disdain towards addicts from pain patients is understandable, but it’s a part of the problem. Nothing is going to change until we realize everyone deserves to be treated with care and respect.

  29. VA Torture 8-15-15 (Updated 8-26-19)

    This “Opioid Crisis” is just the War on Drugs Part II.

    I’ve been tortured at the local Loma Linda VA here in California because of its policies regarding Opioids and that everyone who uses them is an addict and abuser. “Dependence” or “tolerance” issues is totally absent from their vocabulary. This is all thanks to the “war on drugs”. I’ve been taking morphine for almost twenty years and admittedly it does have its problems, like sleep issues, but they pale to the trade-off that is the relief they give me for my pain.

    It works like this: When people with legitimate pain issues take pain meds, “opioids”, it works from the neck DOWN, doing the job it’s supposed to do. When people with no pain issues take these “drugs”, it effects them from the neck UP!

    If you think “tortured” is a little much; I can only think of those times I’ve been on the floor whimpering like a baby with pain that felt like someone was driving a red hot poker into my lower back. I won’t get into it but I remember when I was in my early twenties, (I just turned 59 Aug. 8th), and the doctors diagnosed me with rheumatoid arthritis. I woke up one morning in a little ball of pain. Hurting in every part of my body from the soles of my feet to the top of my head. My hands were like claws I had to open and close for hours just to hold a glass of water. Anyway, I “worked it out” by going back to my construction job and “toughing it out”. Today, there is no comparison. That said;

    This War on Drugs and Three Strikes laws are also a cash cow for police departments and correctional officers promoted by their unions and the growth industry that is prisons. This black violence issue doesn’t help in light of the fact that the police are also being used for revenue collection to fill city coffers instead of trying to get guns from gangs.

    At the VA in Loma Linda, CA I was put

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  30. Someone should call her doctor who is feeding her addiction with buprenorphine, apparently while lying to her about it not being an opioid, and let her Dr. know she’s trying to sell her drugs allover NY state. She deserves worse but it would be close to proportional, given that her drug abuse turned her son in to a dead junkie. The problem is not the government and their stupid reactionary opioid regulation, the problem is addicts like this woman and her son who think that blaming those who care for people in pain, somehow makes them look better. When will the government and addiction treatment facilities realize they are lied to as part of addiction, these people never had any interaction with the medical community or Rx’s for any opioid drug. If they started on a pharmaceutical, they were stolen or given to them, never prescribed and all the statistics they have gathered prove this without question. So why do people still believe the lie? Some of our species ARE that stupid, but only around 0.4%….

  31. She has destroyed the lives of 34 INNOCENT LAW ABIDING CHRONICALLY ILL CITIZENS and the most compassionate dr to treat them and all in the name of PROP, REVENGE, word has it this woman is connected to @truthpharm , this organization intentionally go after drs , making false claims! DESTROYING LIVES! and why??? Because her son decided to stick a needle in his arm???? so any compassionate dr who is prescribing LIFESAVING PAIN MEDICATION should pay the price?!?! If I were one of the 34 and found out my life has been destroyed because of this woman , oh Id be more than outraged. She had no right to decide the care of 34 seriously ill #cpp!!!

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  32. Taylor i apologize for ypu loss. Be prepared to apologize to out children that saw their parent function a d have quality of life. I could not imagine the grief you go through on a daily basis. But your pain fades over time our icreases moment to monent. Place the blame where it should be.

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