SEATTLE -- Denis Murphy's last doctor got suspicious when he saw him sitting in a restaurant.
Murphy, 72, who contracted a painful nerve disorder after a case of shingles, had told the doctor his condition is so painful he often has to stand up.
At his next appointment, the doctor accused him of flimflamming him: making up a story to score narcotic pain relievers.
Murphy, a retired IRS pension-plan examiner and manager from Edmonds, Wash., was humiliated. Now, he has a new doctor and a new prescription -- but also a growing fear that he could suddenly lose the only relief he's found in six years.
Then, he worries, he'll find himself back in the throes of pain he describes as "a blowtorch to my testicles."
He has reason to worry.
Over the last several months, an effort in Washington to curb a steep rise in prescription drug overdose deaths -- the most ambitious crackdown in the nation -- has prompted a number of doctors and clinics to stop taking new chronic-pain patients on opiates, and in some cases to cut off current pain patients.