VOL. 11 | NO. 12 | Saturday, March 24, 2018
Editorial: Opioids Pose New Danger, Require New Strategy to Combat
So you’ve seen drug problems come and go – numerous declarations of war on pot, crack, meth and other street drugs sold illegally.
The concept of people dying from legally prescribed drugs isn’t new either. But powerful, synthetic opioids, which can cause rapid addiction even when taken properly, are a new public health crisis.
In a very short period, they have generated thousands of personal tragedies and thousands more close calls.
And while opioids are in the brightest limelight when celebrities such as Prince and Tom Petty die from an overdose, the reality is most of the people affected by opioid abuse are just like you. Just like all of us. They’re mothers and fathers and daughters and sons. They come from all walks of life, all income levels, all ages and all professions.
Chances are good you know someone who has been affected. And you know the answer isn’t as simple as past sloganeering efforts to “Just Say No.”
We need treatment programs that deliver on the promise of recovery, and we need accountability from big pharma as well as doctors who unnecessarily prescribe opioids.
The relationship between pharmaceutical companies and doctors in this case has encircled the patient in a kind of aggressive neglect that is anything but benign.
The dust-up between Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell and the County Commission over opioid litigation does a disservice to those affected by the escalating crisis – addicts as well as the first responders who work to keep them alive.
There will be a day of reckoning in court on this issue, and it likely will result in a settlement that could help state and local government recover some of the expense of quickly ramping up the front-line response to this epidemic.
While racing to the courtroom may help pay some bills down the line, it won’t solve the urgent, immediate need to fight opioid addiction. Nothing that goes through the court system ever happens that quickly.
Instead, the real urgency should be for state legislatures to do what doctors and pharmaceutical companies won’t: set limits on prescriptions and amounts that recognize the real power and addictive nature of these drugs.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has included such prescription limits in his recommendations to the Legislature on the opioid problem. He and Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell have also recognized the need for public awareness campaigns that are more complex than past efforts to simply avoid illegal drugs that are only sold on the street.
The efforts by the Shelby County Health Department on this front recognize this is a problem for people who went to a doctor for treatment and got a prescription they took as directed.
Opioids have legitimate uses in reducing substantial pain. But their usage comes with a danger that, when unrecognized, can make the cure worse than the condition it’s meant to treat.