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You A Better Place for Me and You

You A Better Place for Me and You

Can the politics of opiate abuse get worse? Yes they can. How? Ask County Commissioner Ms. Heidi Shafer. If I seem fixated on this issue, I am. The opiate abuse crisis has turned into a political football. Ms. Shafer has decided to hire New York-based Napoli Shkolnik, a law firm known for winning a huge class-action settlement for Ground Zero workers, among others. I suspect she has an agenda to file suit against the drug companies for the failures of our Tennesseans to stop drug abuse. Her actions are absurd.

It appears that Ms. Shafer has decided to take on Big Pharma. I am not really sure of her legal strategy, but maybe she believes that Big Pharma can be sued like Big Tobacco. Maybe she believes that opiates, like cigarettes, are addictive. The recent over supply of opiates into our state is a direct result of Big Pharma's avarice, which is irresponsible in Commissioner Shafer's eyes. After all, Tennessee has the honor of having the second highest rate of opioid prescriptions in the nation, with more prescriptions than residents. It appears Ms. Shafer believes that a group of attorneys from New York can fix a problem that has plagued mankind since the manufacture of opium from the poppy plant hundreds of years ago. I submit she and her posse from New York will only stall the potential turn-around of this public health crisis or even make the disturbance worse.

Why? Because the legal system demands proof of damages on the side of the victims and a direct intention of Big Pharma to create and maintain the addictions despite controls put on the prescription drug industry in Tennessee. If a class-action law suit was filed, there is no guarantee it would be heard. Furthermore, the public would have to continue to have an opioid crisis in order to be awarded a judgment. If the overall drug addiction problem changed for the better, the numbers of those affected by the law suit would dwindle exponentially. I suspect many addicts might choose to stay addicted to narcotics with the idea of getting a financial score at the end of the judicial rainbow. Ms. Shafer clearly misunderstands class action law suits, their impacts on communities, the judicial system and drug addiction in general

I remember the aftermath of the Merrell-Dow breast implant settlement. Healthy women with implants wanted me to find something wrong that would entitle them to a portion of the settlement money, even if the amount was minimal. What do you think a down and out person might do if they could falsely prove that they were drug addicted and were entitled to receive a settlement amount earmarked for treatment of addiction?

Does anyone remember the Phen-Phen settlement? How many echocardiograms were performed to find something anatomically wrong with a person's heart so they could get a chunk of the money that was set aside? Most of the alleged Phen-Phen patients I evaluated took the drug for less than three months and had no objective proof they were on the drug. What is a physician supposed to do when they are inundated with requests that appear bogus on the front end?

Drug addiction is a chronic disease characterized by drug seeking and use that is compulsive, or difficult to control, despite harmful consequences. The initial decision to take drugs is voluntary for most people, but repeated drug use can lead to brain changes that challenge an addicted person’s self-control and interfere with their ability to resist intense urges to take drugs. These brain changes can be persistent, which is why drug addiction is considered a "relapsing" disease—people in recovery from drug use disorders are at increased risk for returning to drug use even after years of not taking the drug.

No one factor can predict if a person will become addicted to drugs. A combination of factors influences risk for addiction. The more risk factors a person has, the greater the chance that taking drugs can lead to addiction. For example:

Recent studies show that the genes that people are born may account for about half of a person's risk for addiction. Gender, ethnicity, and the presence of other mental disorders may also influence risk for drug use and addiction.

A person’s environment includes many different influences, from family and friends to economic status and general quality of life. Factors such as peer pressure, physical and sexual abuse, early exposure to drugs, stress, and parental co-dependency can greatly affect a person’s likelihood of drug use and addiction.

Genetic and environmental factors interact with critical developmental stages in a person’s life to affect addiction risk. Although taking drugs at any age can lead to addiction, the earlier that drug use begins, the more likely it will progress to addiction. This is particularly problematic for teens. Because the frontal and pre-frontal lobe areas in their brains that control decision-making, judgment, and self-control are still developing, teens may be especially prone to risky behaviors, including trying drugs.

There is no cure for drug addiction. But it can be managed if the drug addict has the desire and will to fight through the withdrawal, and then creates another paradigm for living a productive and satisfying life without drugs.

So what should our Shelby County Commissioners and local government officials do about our drug abuse problem? Study the facts surrounding the disturbing behaviors of our citizens, looking for the factors that predispose our statewide population to misuse and abuse narcotics. I would welcome a proposal by Ms. Shafer and the rest of those rascals on the Shelby County Commission to study community impoverishment and dysfunctional families that have left so many children behind. Many of our Shelby County youth cannot read or write, despite near perfect attendance in public schools. If someone cannot read or write, how does anyone expect them to be a law abiding, productive member of our community, especially when crime and drugs seem to be the only way they can survive in this dog-eat-dog world. And let's not forget the wealthy in all of this. I know many well-to-do families whose sons and daughters have succumb to heroin overdoses and suicide because they could not shake their narcotic abuse. Drug addiction transcends all socioeconomic boundaries, rich and poor, men and women alike suffer from the power of the sap of the poppy.

Stop the political madness and do something constructive for us all. Ms. Shafer, join a volunteer organization to help children read and write or contract researchers to identify the features of our State's population that makes us susceptible to drug misuse and abuse. If we know what those factors are, let's take steps to correct them; cut the head of the alligator off instead of trying to ignore the alligator. But at the very least, transform your desire to hire a fancy New York Law Firm into something more productive, anything more productive.

I suspect Ms. Shafer would try to curb gun violence by suing the manufacturers of guns. Guns don't kill people, people use guns to kill people. Narcotic manufacturers do not cause addiction. People use drugs to patch the holes within themselves and become addicted.

Commissioner Heidi Shafer: Find the holes in people and help patch them up. The world would be a much better place for us all, including you!


Posted by Amanda Sanders at 11:25 AM
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