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WUNC on the patients, prescribers and politics of the opioid crisis

WUNC continues its great coverage of the opioid crisis [1] this week with both a piece on Gov. Roy Cooper looking at its devastation first-hand in my old stomping grounds of High Point [2] and a piece looking at how and why opioids are prescribed [3] and how law enforcement deals with their abuse.

From Don Teater [4], a family medicine doctor who practices in Waynesville, NC featured in one of the stories:

“I think it’s important that they find a physician or prescriber who does understand pain and can really determine what their pain is … For most people that are suffering from their chronic pain there’s probably a significant element of central sensitization. And this central sensitization, again, means the brain wiring has changed in a way that their emotions, their thoughts, their fears, their memories – all these kind of play into how much pain they feel. So we need to be identifying that and addressing that. And so I really firmly believe that the cornerstone of treatment for chronic pain needs to be the behavioral therapist. Because functional MRI studies have shown that they can actually start to change that wiring to make it back to normal in the brain. So they help actually fix the problem.”

From reporter Jason Debruyn on Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion programs (LEAD):

“Fayetteville is doing it, Wilmington, Waynesville is doing it. And basically what this is is  … If you are exchanging sex for drugs, or if you are a low-level drug user yourself, instead of arresting you, throwing you in jail and trying to prosecute you, what police officers are now encouraged to do is to take you to a treatment center and have you seek help for your drug addiction … We talked a little bit about the crack epidemic that was, what, 30 years ago. That was very strong arrest, put in jail and try to tackle the situation that way. This is much different, where it’s more coming to the user and saying: Hey, how can we help you? What are things we can do to get you to step down your use even if we don’t get you to quit completely right away. How can we step down your drug abuse?”