Are we facing a heroin epidemic?
Something I have LONG been preaching is that if Tennessee officials continue to ignore the science behind evidence-based treatments (like methadone and buprenorphine therapies) and don't work on expanding access to treatment we will soon have an unregulatable heroin epidemic on our hands. I have seen first hand the skyrocketing costs of prescription analgesics on the streets lead to more and more opioid addicted people trying and/or seeking out heroin. There was an article in USA Today that addressed the EXACT things I've long been warning..... Heroin is back. Is your neighborhood next?
There was recently an article in the Maryville, Tennessee Daily Times talking about the prescription drug scourge being "out of control" and community leaders being left with the question: What CAN we do? Blount County, Tennessee (like far too many other counties in the state) has NO medication-assisted treatment (MAT) center/clinic for opioid addiction. MAT for opioid addiction is one of the MOST evidence-based treatments in ALL of medicine. But what has happened in Tennessee is that the state, in laudable attempts to crack down on "pill mills" and other unethical medical practices, has categorized methadone clinics in with pain clinics and has "cracked down" on the very TREATMENT that is a solution to the opioid addiction epidemic! When will Tennessee leaders put personal biases aside and look at the SCIENCE and FACTS concerning medication-assisted treatments? Not only is it the right thing to do, but we are getting to a point where state and community leaders can no longer afford to ignore the science around what the CDC has made clear is the MOST effective modality for the treatment of opioid addiction currently available!
Unlike prescriptions written by a physician and filled at a pharmacy, heroin has no way of being tracked or regulated. We are at a crossroads in Tennessee and the nation: Will we look at science and 40+ years of research and evidence that clearly shows us what works to effectively curb this epidemic before it gets worse, OR will we continue to stick our heads in the sand, ignore science, and allow a heroin epidemic the likes of which would make NYC in the 1970's and 80's look like child's play? My sincere hope is that we can bridge the communication (and understanding) gap between MAT patients, providers and advocates in Tennessee and those in positions of authority, whether elected or law enforcement, so that we can come together and deal with this crisis before it gets worse!
NAMA-Recovery of Tennessee, backed by the knowledge and resources of the National Alliance for Medication Assisted Recovery (the largest MAT advocacy organization in the world), extends our hand to work with all those who are serious about dealing with this soon-to-be heroin epidemic head on through the expansion of evidence-based treatments in the State of Tennessee. What choice will our leaders make? How much do they TRULY care about dealing with this threat in an effective way? I suppose time will tell.....