Panel: Opioid addiction crisis needs multi-faceted approach | Local News

FLORENCE – Reversing the opioid addiction crisis that has a choke-hold on Alabama and America will take a multi-discipline approach, panelists at a town hall meeting on opioid addiction said Wednesday night.

Opioid overdoses have become the leading cause of death among Americans under the age of 50, according to recent reports, and Alabama has the highest per capita rate of opioid prescriptions in the country.

Figuring out the whys behind those statistics and taking steps to reverse it are top national and state health priorities.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said the United States has 80 percent of the opioid consumption in the world but represents just 5 percent of the world’s population. That’s a staggering unbalance, he said.

“We aren’t sicker than other people necessarily,” Marshall said. “We don’t necessarily have more people that are injured per capita than others. There is clearly something driving that, and that is one thing we are trying to get a handle on”

Marshall was part of a panel that spoke at a town hall-style meeting Wednesday at the University of North Alabama. He is also a co-chairman of a state task force charged with creating a plan before year’s end to address Alabama’s addiction problem.

There is a lot still unknown about the best ways to approach the addiction crisis, but one message permeated the conversation — a multi-discipline approach is needed to create real change.

The rate at which physicians are prescribing opioid pain medicines needs to be addressed, and more support for mental illness treatments for the opioid addict is needed, panelists said.

Acting State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said opioid addiction differs from other drug addictions because “a whole lot of it is perfectly legal” due to prescribed opiate pain medications. He said that makes dealing with the epidemic more complicated…

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