TACOMA, Wash. – Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., recently introduced legislation dealing with mental health issues, treatment access and reducing the number of prescription drugs handed out by doctors.
Part of the opioid epidemic comes from some who now find themselves struggling with heroin addictions that began after a doctor would no longer prescribe them opioids.
Jeff from Tacoma says he is still in pain most days after a fall broke both of his ankles. After six months of a strict regimen of doctor-prescribed opioids, Jeff says he was forced to quit cold turkey but he says his body was still dependent.
“I went to what anybody else has, that’s the street form of opiate and that’s heroin,” he said.
Jeff and many others like him across Western Washington turned to illegal street drugs after doctors would no longer treat his pain.
“He’s a doctor, obviously he’s got my best interest in mind,” Jeff said. “If he had your best interest in mind, why am I out here dealing with this?”
That concern is also part of Murray’s proposal. Among several other steps, if the legislation passes, it’s also supposed to keep doctors from over-prescribing narcotics.
“Whether it’s (distributing) naloxone, whether it’s building (treatment) centers, places for people to go, mental help ... we need to look how we stop this epidemic,” Murray told Q13 News.
“They’re our community members, they’re our people,” said Sean Hemmerly who works at Tacoma Needle Exchange.
Hemmerly says the exchange serves about 2,000 clients regularly and some of them ended up on that road of addiction beginning with prescription drugs.
“For some of them it did originate with prescription opioid and then the lack of availability of them over the years,” he said.
Murray’s legislation also aims to spur development of non-addictive pain-killers to help keep strong opioids from morphing into full-blown addictions.
And for Jeff, he wonders if things would have turned out differently for him if his doctor had not prescribed him with powerful narcotics.
“Why do the people who have a prescription think they’re better than the guy getting it down here on the street?” he asked. “What makes you better? You’re dependent on the same thing I am.”
Murray’s legislation called The Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018 is scheduled for Senate hearings next week.