#OurPain: The personal side of pain: John Lear


John Lear was born into a notable family with a respectable background. His father, William, invented the Lear Jet in the 1950s and he grew up in a world surrounded by aviation.

As an adult, he flew commercial planes as an airline captain for 35 years. He even worked for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) for a brief amount of time. Looking in from the outside, it would be easy to assume that John has lived a privileged life. But, the truth is, at a young age he learned that chronic pain can happen to anyone.  

On June 24, 1961, John was in a devastating plane crash that left him with permanent pain and physical disabilities. He broke both of his ankles, his jaw, his legs in three places, lost his front teeth, got a concussion and crushed his neck. The doctors told him that he would never walk again. He was only 18-years-old. 

Despite the doctor’s grim prognosis, John managed to persevere through the pain, recover his ability to walk and return to the open skies. John said, “I wanted to fly so bad, I ignored the pain.” He continued to fly as an airline captain until 2001 when he retired at the age of 60. After that, John bought a mining claim in Gold Butte with the hopes of becoming a modern-day prospector. He spent seven years rebuilding the mine, but his dreams of striking it rich were shattered along with his back in a mining accident in 2008. 

His injury caused him to undergo a laminectomy surgery to repair the damage to his spine and a subsequent neck surgery. John had endured chronic pain for most of his life, but after his surgery in 2011, he finally broke down and asked his doctor for help.

The doctors prescribed him 120 oxycodone and methadone pills a month for his chronic pain symptoms. He remained on the medication for almost five years, until the doctors abruptly cut him off and forced him to detox alone. 

John was cut off his medications for a failed urine analysis test in 2016. It came just after the Center for Disease Control (CDC) updated their opiate prescription guidelines. The doctor told him that he tested positive for methamphetamines and could no longer prescribe him medication. John says, “I’ve never taken an illegal drug. I’ve been flying my entire life. you can’t take drugs and fly. I wouldn’t know how to get it, wouldn’t know how to take it and here it ends up 10,000 nanograms in my urine.”

In his time with the CIA, John says, he was “subject to drug scans, scheduled or random, and never failed one.” He believes his urine analysis test provided a false positive. It is a problem that has frequently occurred with urine analysis tests like the one he took. 

After being abandoned by his doctors, John weaned himself off opiate medications with an herbal supplement called Kratom. Although, John was successful, he still felt abandoned by his doctors because of their fears about opioid guidelines and repercussions from the CDC. He also says, that when people are cut off their legally prescribed medications, they’re forced to go out and find more.

Where they find it is usually on the street. John believes cutting patients off their medication is only causing worse problems in Las Vegas. “You’re talking about a lot of money. What do people do? Someone goes and robs a house to support their habit. That’s all the DEA did is they increased theft and robberies in Las Vegas by cutting off opioids.” 

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