Published by Miami New Times

For 57 years, Darryl Paulson woke up every morning in pain. “I couldn’t even sit down in class,” the 69-year-old politics professor from Clearwater says. Diagnosed with chronic discogenic back pain, an excruciating condition in which his spinal discs had shifted out of place, Paulson endured six major back surgeries and multiple epidurals. At one point, he even had a wire threaded up his narrowing spinal canal in an attempt to expand it. “It was… unsuccessful,” he murmurs.

Tormented, Paulson visited a pain specialist and was placed on a strict regimen of morphine sulfate and oxycodone, two types of prescription opioids. Because his doctor could write a script for only 30 days’ worth of pills, Paulson was forced to return to the clinic every month. Each appointment included an expensive copay, checkups, urine tests, and drug-monitoring tests, followed by a trip to the closest CVS or Walgreens. About 20 to 25 percent of the time, the pharmacies Paulson visited didn’t even have his pills in stock. Consequently, he’d wait for days, suffering in silence.