JOHNSON CITY, TN — U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin joined other U.S. Attorneys from the Appalachian Region Wednesday to take part in a panel discussion regarding the prescription drug abuse problem.
It was part of the Appalachian Regional Summit on Prescription Drug Abuse at East Tennessee State University. The purpose was for officials across Appalachia to share information and identify practical solutions.
According to the C.D.C 100 people die everyday from drug overdoses in the United States. Since 1990 drug overdose rates have more than tripled.
Panelists representing Tennessee, Virginia, Kentucky and West Virginia shared about programs that were currently being used in their respective states to address the issue.
For instance, Kentucky currently uses two initiatives to combat the problem that panelists said have made an impact. The first is called Operation UNITE, Unlawful Narcotic Investigations, Treatment and Education and the second is Recovery Kentucky.
Recovery Kentucky features eight long-term residential treatment centers that Kentucky residents can participate in for free. Operation UNITE features a toll-free hotline that is available for those looking for help. Tennessee also has the same toll-free hotline available.
Other states also had their programs but the focus was on the importance of those struggling with prescription drug abuse getting the necessary treatment and recovery they needed.
Goodwin cited the significance in companies and businesses offering drug treatment programs to their employees. He used the AFL-CIO as an example in West Virginia.
“Has a very strong program where they look for signs of dependency , they reach out to their membership and they reach out to their members if they are addicted,” He said. “Pull them in, get them into treatment and they have a remarkable rate of success.”
In addition to offering treatment, panelists stressed the importance of intervention. Goodwin said that is two fold.
“Identifying places where we can intervene and then get the information to the people who need the information to intervene,” said Goodwin.
He was talking about educating the doctors and specialists whom addicts tend to first go to for help. One panelist added that very little curriculum is seen in medical schools dealing with the treatment of pain as well as with the treatment of addiction.
On top of stressing the importance of educating doctors, panelists also saw a great need for educating the public. Goodwin said they need to get to the kids before they get hooked. He mentioned that the average age of first use is 11.
“It’s so critical to reach kids while we still have them, while they are still a captive audience,” he said.
Goodwin pointed out that he has been trying to visit middle schools across his region in West Virginia in order to talk to students about prescription drug abuse.
After roughly 45 minutes of discussion and taking questions from the audience, panelists were in agreement that a continuing collaborative effort by the states of the Appalachia would be key in making this fight against prescription drug abuse a success.
Goodwin stated that the problem can be addressed and that progress is already being made.
The summit was scheduled to continue through Thursday.