KOMO hosts town hall - Opioids: A National Crisis

The federal government’s seemingly never ending war on drugs appears to be taking a back seat to helping addicts overcome their addiction. U.S Surgeon General Jerome Adams made that clear during a live KOMO-TV Town Hall broadcast and webcast on Thursday.

He did what no other surgeon general before him has done and showcased two take home versions of Naloxone, commonly called by its brand name Narcan. It’s a drug that can be injected or use as a nasal inhalant to reverse an opioid overdose, often carried by first responders.

“Anyone can save a life with this, it needs to become as ubiquitous as CPR,” Adams said. “We can’t rely on police and firefighters alone to respond to folks having an opioid overdose.”

Adams is the first surgeon general to openly promote the widespread distribution and use of Naloxone, a drug if given during an opioid overdose could save someone’s life.

President Trump has signed legislation providing $4 billion exclusively to localities that are in the midst of an opioid crisis — money that will pay for treatments and drugs like Naloxone.

He also promoted the increase of opioid replacement treatment for people addicted to pain killers.

“You have folks dependent on those medications, we need to increase the availability of ‘MAT’ or medication assisted treatment,” Adams said. He credited the Trump administration for a 22 percent increase in prescribing medication assisted treatment.

Hosted by Eric Bolling, who’s son died of a fentanyl overdose, the Town Hall: Your Voice – Your Future – Opioids: A National Crisis brought together people who deal with or cover the issue.

“After 5 years for an opioid user, the chance of relapse is the same as anyone else in society,” Dr. Matthew Polacheck said, an addiction treatment specialist and Director of the Betty Ford Center in West Los Angeles.

“If people fill that second (prescription), you have a 70 percent chance to becoming addicted to opioids,” Polacheck said, referring to a study on the issue.

Several treatment solutions where presented including a regimented treatment program convicted addicts undergo in Rhode Island and the controversial supervised injection sites in British Columbia intended to save lives of addicts who will use drugs under any circumstance. A mobile consumption site has been proposed for Seattle.

The conventional wisdom by many experts is to meet an addict where they are at in their addiction with treatment. If they are using, provide a safe way to use. If they want treatment, provide treatment when they are ready.

Shilo Jama, an on-again, off-again opioid user is the Director of the People’s Harm Reduction Alliance that provides a robust needle exchange program. He summed up the Town Hall with simple but illuminating a point about popular, but hard to get prescription drug that treats heroin addiction.

“Treatment should be competing directly with drug dealers,” Jama said. “We should be in direct competition, it should be just as easy to get suboxone as it is to get heroin — it’s not.”

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