Local experts react to President Trump’s opioid plan

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WDEF) — East Tennessee has continued to see opioid numbers fall, but Tennessee is still one of top states for opioid related deaths. Now, the focus is toughness and stopping addiction at the source.

“But if we don’t get tough on the drug dealers, we’re wasting our time. Just remember that we’re wasting our time. And that toughness includes the death penalty,” President Donald Trump said in a speech Monday.

President Trump says he will stop at nothing to end rampant opioid abuse across the country. The death penalty just one part of the White House’s three-point initiative.

Experts here in the Tennessee Valley don’t necessarily agree with that extreme, but they say they like the tough stance the president is taking.

“I think everybody’s got a different opinion about death penalty, not death penalty, no matter what the crime is,” Tennessee Medical Association President Dr. Nita Shumaker said. “I understand his intent though that is to reclassify these people in everyone’s mind that this is not an innocuous habit.”

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam has already released an opioid plan for the Volunteer State… including limiting opioid medication prescriptions to three-day doses.

But experts say it will take time to reverse the long-standing issue.

“With what the governor’s efforts and President Trump’s announcement, what those do is, it takes a little while for all of the resources to come down. And resources just means that they’re going to give us more tools for the tool kit hopefully,” said Tommy Farmer of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

As doctors learn more on the addictiveness of opioids, the target now rests on dealers rather than abusers.

“You’re not going to arrest your way out of an issue or a situation if you’re simply trying to arrest users and abusers,” Farmer said.

“I think taking a very hard approach on people who are dealing the drugs and working our way up is going to be an important part of this crisis,” Dr. Shumaker said.

Farmer tells me that more people overdose on opioids that all illicit drugs combined — and he says with the spotlight now on the drug dealers, the ship is moving in the right direction.

Categories: Chattanooga, Health, Local News

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