Tuesday, January 21, 2014

It's Just Common Sense

If you pay attention to the posts that show up on Facebook and in other media, it seems there are three issues that beg for government attention, but that don't seem to get any.  First is gun violence, of course.  The second is the heroin epidemic.  And third, increasing income inequality.  And it's not for lack of solutions.  There are solutions that work - in other places.  This writer specifies one way to address the heroin problem, but so far, it's not widespread.  Is it that there is too much money in treating addicts as criminals?  What do you think?

To the Editor NYTimes:
Re “In Annual Speech, Vermont Governor Shifts Focus to Drug Abuse” (news article, Jan. 9):

Gov. Peter Shumlin’s State of the State Message about addiction brought deserved attention to this national public health crisis. We agree that greater access to treatment, instead of criminal penalties, will save lives and money.

The most effective treatment for opioid addiction entails the use of medications, specifically, methadone or buprenorphine. While New York City has many methadone programs and buprenorphine prescribers, medication-assisted treatment remains stigmatized and is still not at the scale needed.
Furthermore, because opioid painkillers most frequently originate with prescriptions, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s safe opioid prescribing guidelines help prescribers prevent new cases of addiction.

The crisis of opioid addiction and overdose is one we can address. Effective addiction treatment that is integrated into mainstream health care, along with policies that promote treatment and not punishment, can reverse the problem in New York City and across the country.

New York, Jan. 17, 2014

The writer is the departing health commissioner for New York City.

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