Lethal Weapon: Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget Brennan

Outraged at an epidemic of accidental addiction to prescription painkillers that’s causing devastation among users and bystanders alike, superstar narcotics prosecutor Bridget Brennan takes aim at a surprising new foe: the American medical establishment

by Nanette Varian • Editor { View Profile }
Bridget Brennan Dan Winters photo
Photograph: Opening and portrait photos by Dan Winters

“I don’t think the medical profession has been really scrupulous about counseling people on the dangers of these drugs,” Brennan says. “Maybe the doctors themselves weren’t as aware as they should have been.” And even when patients are informed about their meds’ addictive qualities, they don’t always listen. That’s understandable, she says, because unlike illegal narcotics, these drugs don’t come with “a big red warning flag and society’s stamp of disapproval.”

Even when adults don’t become hooked, their pills are a danger to their children, who, looking to experiment, may swipe a few from the medicine chest. Brennan’s rehab sources told her this was becoming an especially big problem on Staten Island. “So some of our investigators went out there to take a look,” she says. “These people had been heroin investigators in the ’70s, and they said they saw the exact same thing. Kids nodding out in the shopping centers and all over the place. And so we started working on a case there where we identified oxycodone being sold out of an ice cream truck.”

Even people patronizing honest businesses are getting caught in the crossfire. U.S. drugstore robberies have risen 80 percent over the past five years; on Long Island, New York, a pharmacist, cashier and two customers were murdered in broad daylight by a gunman stealing more than 10,000 hydrocodone pills. “Drugged driving” arrests are also on the rise; New York senator Charles Schumer, citing the “explosive growth of prescription drug abuse,” has cosponsored federal legislation to fund technology and training that would help police better identify drug-impaired motorists.

Everyone, Brennan insists, knows someone who has struggled with chronic pain and/or become addicted to prescription painkillers. The issue hit close to home five years ago when Brennan’s daughter developed pain in her hip and knee.

“We were going to doctor after doctor and having test after test,” she recalls. “My poor daughter was waking up with tremendous pain in the middle of the night, and all I could do was give her some Tylenol. I remember phoning one doctor and saying, ‘Isn’t there anything we can do for her?’ This was an orthopedist I had seen a couple of times, and she said, ‘We’ll send you a prescription for Percocet.’ ”

Although she’d been seeking help, Brennan was outraged by the doctor’s response. As much as it distressed her to see her child suffer, Brennan worried about giving her such a strong drug. “This was for an 11-year-old kid. Percocet for an 11-year-old?” She called her daughter’s pediatrician. “She said, ‘What? That’s crazy. They can’t treat the pain until they find out what’s causing it.’ ” After more tests, it was discovered that her daughter had an autoimmune condition, says Brennan, adding that the disorder is now under control.

“It’s always hard to strike the balance between prescribing adequate pain meds and not creating an addiction in an otherwise healthy person,” she says. “And I think that balance has gotten screwed up.”

Originally published in the June 2012 issue

Share Your Thoughts!


zhang rendong06.15.2012

hmm, so beautiful she is.
(http://www.hermes-birkinkelly.com) this is my hermes bags store,there are lot of hermes handbags,i think you will be like it,click the website,thank you,have fun.

Coco Early06.13.2012

Wonderful, in depth article. As a Twin Cities resident, I believe the issues Bridget has taken on are everywhere in this country; not just NYC.
I applaud Bridget as a dedicated professional tackling tough issues.
She is an inspiration to me and my daughters.
Thank you Bridget,
Coco "Corky" Dugan Early

Rhonda Bayless06.05.2012

This article should scare anyone who reads it!

Rhonda Bayless06.05.2012

I tremble in my boots everytime i read about this issue, because the ONLY people that are affected is those in legitimate, chronic pain that are treated like criminals because 'tylenol' doesn't do a damn thing for the type of pain I am describing. Until this lady ends up in this type of pain, and she will one day, of course she will be treated appropriately due to her holier than thou job of 'busting addicts' which will be exactly who she is when that day comes. Until then, she can be free from feeling any discomfort and sleep well at night knowing she's single handedly stopping doctors from treating their patients due to 'accidental' addiction that folks in her family have experienced. Be afraid, be very afraid. All this does is send people who can no longer obtain their legal pain medications down to the corner to the heroin dealer, because people will do ANYTHING to stop the kind of pain I speak of. If you doubt this, then your day has not yet arrived. Just find one person anywhere who suffers from chronic, dibilitating pain and you will know what I speak of. This lady is 100 times more scary than the worst addicts I've ever assisted in getting help. Her brand of help is aresting her way out of this 'problem', throw away the key then suffer or die, just as long as she can justify her job, and the government subsidized prison system that pays her.

"Wake up. Don't you see whats going on." I hear you, loved the article on the narcotics Prosecuter Bridget Brennan taking a hard line on the Medial Establishment for over perscribing pain killers.
I picked up the June 2012 issue of More Magazine a week after I read an article in the NY Daily news dated, Friday May 18th regarding Mary Richardson Kennedy's suicide.
So much for Law Enforcement to do now adays to have to get into the Medical establishment that all doctors take an oath to cause no harm. So what the heck were the doctors thinking that according to the Daily News, "Her doctors who were well meaning were trying mightily to find the correct mix of medications to help her and they failed repeatedly.", according to her sister Kerry Kennedy.
Granted I don't follow the Kennedy family and I'm not familiar with all the details however the more and more I read articles about people and drugs the more dismayed I become.
The article in More magazine was clearly focusing on persciption pain killers, however the American Citizen has become inindated with drugs. We used to be worried about street drugs, illegal drugs, dealers, influencing children, inner city, and wealthly suburbs. Now if your sad, something tragic happened, it looks as though the first advise given is to pop a pill. What the neck is wrong with everybody. Bad things happen, I'm not completely against medication, but really they are going to have to deal with it a some point, or be on cronic pain killers for the rest of their life.
It seams to me that no one is teaching people that pain is part of life, bad things happen. There are lots of complications out there and everyone's life is different. No two pains are the same. I'm not talking about constant therapy, but I do believe that the painkillers have side effects and the one most alarming is the one for depression that we all see on T.V. One, again, One of the side effects is it may cause people to consider suicide. Come on people. It's too bad the pharmaceutical establichment doesn't have to take that same oath to cause no harm.
I must also agree with Brennan's closing comments that "she won't consider myself a crusader on any issue because I'm always a little skeptical." There are gray areas. The answer is not always balck and white. Right and Wrong. My point is there is pain in life, physical and emotional. Physcial you try your best to fix the problem, emotional you go through the grieving process. It's part of living.

Post new comment

Click to add a comment