Rick Perry’s Pain and Ours

Rick Perry’s former communications chief disputes the claim that painkillers caused the former presidential candidate’s poor debate performances and occasionally strange demeanor on the campaign trail. Technically, the claim isn’t even in the public square yet, but is said to appear in a soon-to-be-released book by veteran political reporters Mike Allen and Evan Thomas.

If the claim is true, there is certainly no shame in Perry’s use of the medications themselves. Back surgery can produce intense and lasting pain. And if his use of pain medications has led to a debilitating addiction, again, nothing for which to apologize, and he should receive the best medical treatment available. There are pharmacological, psychological and behavioral interventions that can help people overcome iatrogenic addiction, and in general the sooner they seek treatment the greater the chances of recovery.

All that said, if the Governor was experiencing fuzzy-headedness, memory problems, and mood disturbance from his pain medication, then the decision he and his campaign staff made to run for the right to put his finger on the nuclear button was reckless in the extreme. Furthermore, as he is still a sitting Governor with powers of consequence (e.g., consenting to capital punishments) it’s a legitimate question now whether he is experiencing continuing medication-related mental and emotional impairment.

[Cross-posted at The Reality-Based Community ]

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Keith Humphreys

Keith Humphreys is a professor of psychiatry at Stanford University. He served as a senior policy advisor at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy from 2009 to 2010.