CNN Jeffrey Zucker


December 20, 2012

TO:           Jeffrey Zucker

                Dr. Sanjay Gupta

                Richard Davis


                One CNN Center

Atlanta, GA 30303


RE:           Deadly Dose

FROM:       JC Smith, MA, DC

Dear Sirs:

I would like to contribute valuable information to the recent exposé, Deadly Dose, by Dr. Sanjay Gupta that focused on the growing prescription painkiller abuse euphemistically called the Hillbilly Heroin epidemic.

President Clinton’s interview on this documentary was palpable as he called for “a national conversation” to seek solutions to this pandemic.[1]

Speaking for my 80,000 colleagues and the 20 million patients we serve annually, it remains bewildering that Dr. Gupta failed to mention the benefits of America’s primary non-drug spine care providers, doctors of chiropractic.[2]

As a 33-year career chiropractor and author myself, I am eager to add to this national conversation by revealing the most obvious omission in Deadly Dose—the absence of chiropractic care as a non-drug alternative to the addictive and deadly prescription painkillers that President Clinton and Dr. Gupta bemoan.

Inexplicably, how can anyone, especially a renowned neurosurgeon and award-winning reporter like Dr. Gupta have a discussion on drug abuse caused mostly by back pain and fail to mention as a reliable non-drug solution the main health profession most closely affiliated with effective non-drug back pain treatment—chiropractic care, the third-largest physician-level health profession in our country?

Moreover, his omission may not be by chance, but by bias.

Most Americans understand the historical bias in the medical war against chiropractors, which may explain Dr. Gupta’s professional amnesia about the benefits of chiropractic care. As we clearly witnessed in Deadly Dose, Dr. Gupta completely ignored the ascendancy of chiropractic care in this back pain epidemic despite guideline recommendations, including from his own spine association. 

Dr. Gupta’s errant reporting could become a compelling ethical issue considering every guideline on back pain now recommends non-drug, “hands-on” treatments like chiropractic care before narcotic drugs, epidural shots, or spine surgery for mechanical low back pain, which comprise 85% of all back pain cases.[3],[4]

In 2010, even the North American Spine Society recommended spinal manipulation—5 to 10 sessions over 2 to 4 weeks—should be considered before surgery or narcotics.[5]

Unfortunately, this NASS recommendation has not reached the public because medical newsmen like Dr. Gupta have been strangely silent on this matter, which may be another example of his medical bias similar to his flap with Michael Moore over his documentary, Sicko.

Be that as it may, at the end of his exposé on deadly drugs, Dr. Gupta concluded, “we have to find a way to prevent people from taking a deadly dose.”[6]

Let me suggest to CNN and to Dr. Gupta the most obvious way to prevent many people from taking a deadly dose is to utilize chiropractic spine care as the first avenue of treatment as the USPHS guidelines already recommend for the majority (85%) of back pain cases.3

Hopefully in the near future Dr. Gupta will feature another exposé on the alternatives to the Deadly Dose with a program, Healthy Approaches to Chronic Pain that features complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), namely chiropractic, acupuncture, and massage therapy. Even the military health services are now using CAM methods for non-drug solutions to chronic pain among our troops and veterans.

If CNN wants to be known as “the most trusted name in news,” it is imperative to end the media bias against chiropractors and the professional amnesia among reporters.

Indeed, it is past time to give chiropractors a very important say in this matter to help millions of patients as well as to save billions of dollars in waste and abuse from unnecessary drugs, shots, and surgery.

This solution to the Deadly Dose begins with a full report on the benefits of chiropractic care for this epidemic of back pain that plagues our country. After all, that would be the “fair and balanced” thing to do.


JC Smith, MA, DC, is the author of The Medical War Against Chiropractors and maintains

[1] CNN Presents: Deadly Dose, aired November 18, 2012

[2] Donald R Murphy et al.,  “The Establishment of a Primary Spine Care Practitioner and its Benefits to Health Care Reform in the United States,” Chiropractic & Manual Therapies 2011, 19:17 doi:10.1186/2045-709X-19-17

[3] SJ Bigos, O Bowyer, G Braea, K Brown, R Deyo, S Haldeman, et al. “Acute Low Back Pain Problems in Adults: Clinical Practice Guideline no. 14.” Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Agency for Health Care Policy and Research; (1992) AHCPR publication no. 95-0642.

[4] Heather Linder, How a Mechanical Diagnosis Can Improve Spine Care: Q&A With Dr. Ronald Donelson, Becker’s Spine Review, December 06, 2012

[5] MD Freeman and JM Mayer “NASS Contemporary Concepts in Spine Care: Spinal Manipulation Therapy For Acute Low Back Pain,” The Spine Journal 10/10 (October 2010):918-940

[6] CNN Presents: Deadly Dose, aired November 18, 2012