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Criminal Justice & Legal System

Calley outlines strategy on prescription drug, narcotic abuse

Amanda Darche with the Ingham County Health department says she's seen how prescription opioid abuse can lead to heroin use.
United Nations Photo
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The University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research has been conducting this study for 36 years.

A state task force says it should be more important to get medical care for people who overdose on illegal drugs than it is to prosecute them.

“This is a biology issue, not a willpower issue, so the more we can move the discussion into the world of healthcare, I think the better we’ll do in identifying, heading off, and the treating addiction,” says Michigan Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley, who led the panel. Its job was to recommend ways to combat the spiraling rates of prescription painkiller and heroin addiction and a surge in overdose deaths.

The task force called for better training for doctors, and “good Samaritan” laws that protect people from prosecution if they seek emergency help for themselves or someone else who overdoses on narcotics.

“The value of every human life demands that we report overdoses, and we seek medical assistance,” said Calley.

In 2013 in Michigan, more than 1,500 died from a narcotics overdose.

 

Experts say many people addicted to heroin started in prescription pain medications. That’s partially the result of policies aimed to ensure people with chronic or terminal diseases are not denied drugs that can ease their pain.

Other recommendations:

-Make it easier for people to dispose of narcotic painkillers; -A public education campaign on the dangers of abusing prescription painkillers; -Making a drug that treats narcotic overdoses more available; -Training more addiction specialists.