To the editor:
Yes, we have a terrible opioid problem in Martinsville and Henry County. It is at the level of a tragedy to see the loss of life from a preventable cause. What can be done about it? There are evidence-based practices that work that are being used around the country that we have not yet been able to put into practice here.
For instance, syringe-support services have been shown not only to decrease the spread of disease from opioid use but also to encourage people to enter treatment. When people exchange their needles and regularly come in contact with health professionals, they are much more likely to eventually decide they want help to stop using.
Another proven practice is medication-assisted treatment. People with opioid use disorder have a different kind of addiction that needs a different kind if treatment. Where most substance use disorders can be treated with support services, opioid use disorder seems to be very resistant to treatment — so MAT offers a successful path to recovery for this particular disorder, much moreso than treatment without medication.
Is that trading one drug for another? No. Staying on opioids leads to impairment, sometimes illegal activity and death. Recovery with MAT leads to restoration to a normal life that includes functioning with employment, family and other activities once enjoyed.
So, yes, we know of proven methods to stop deaths from opioids, but are we ready as a community to accept these practices? Then convince decision-makers to provide these opportunities.