The Drug Enforcement Agency forced many doctors to stop prescribing opioids for pain. Because of this, many patients turned to illegal drugs or killed themselves.

If the DEA hadn't interfered with the legitimate prescribing of these doctors, how many lives would've been saved. DEA should mean: Death Easily Accomplished.

In Portugal in 1999 the use of hard drugs was rampant. One percent (100,000) reported an addiction to hard drugs. Hundreds died every year. Portugal removed criminal penalties for all drug use which was combined with an intense focus on harm reduction, treatment and rehabilitation.

A decade later, the number of addicts was halved and overdose deaths dropped to just 30 a year for the entire country. It has remained steady ever since. Today, 90 percent of money is spent on health care and only 10 percent on police enforcement.

Drug addiction should be treated as any other disease and not as a crime. It was encouraging to read about Jack Easterday because he's treating it as a disease ("Former addicts fight growing opioid crisis," The Daily News, June 9). We can make real progress if the DEA will stop treating addiction as a crime and treat it as the disease it is.

Robert Hart

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(13) comments

JD Arnold

Mr. Hart, I believe your argument is with congress. The DEA is merely enforcing the law as mandated by the congress and then upheld by the supreme court. It's possible that I am wrong, but that's how I see it.

Richard Illyes

Hart is completely right. Our drug policies are creating the worst possible outcomes. A major problem is that both major parties have their deepest desires fulfilled by the current policy: The GOP can feel good about punishing bad druggies, and the Democrats can see untold thousands of their people in high paying government jobs catching druggies, counseling them, prosecuting them, incarcerating them, and rehabilitating them Portugal solved the problem, We can too, but we have to see the underlying motives that are keeping us from doing it. Let's let addicts go to any physician and get a prescription for their drug. They cost almost nothing to produce and we would take the profit out of dealing, ending the drug war. Treat druggies like winos, No more no knock raids etc. etc. Drag them off the street if they are blocking traffic but otherwise leave them alone. Almost nobody wants to be a wino, and without pushers ensnaring the psychological cripples, nobody would want to be a druggie.

Carlos Ponce

What is the government's current policy?: "Justice Department, DEA propose significant opioid manufacturing reduction in 2019- WASHINGTON – The Department of Justice and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration have proposed a reduction for controlled substances that may be manufactured in the U.S. next year. Consistent with President Trump’s “Safe Prescribing Plan” that seeks to “cut nationwide opioid prescription fills by one-third within three years,” the proposal decreases manufacturing quotas for the six most frequently misused opioids for 2019 by an average ten percent as compared to the 2018 amount. The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking marks the third straight year of proposed reductions, which help reduce the amount of drugs potentially diverted for trafficking and used to facilitate addiction." "Ultimately, revised limits will encourage vigilance on the part of opioid manufacturers, help DEA respond to the changing drug threat environment, and protect the American people from potential addictive drugs while ensuring that the country has enough opioids for legitimate medical, scientific, research, and industrial needs." https://www.dea.gov/press-releases/2018/08/16/justice-department-dea-propose-significant-opioid-manufacturing-reduction

Bill Broussard

Carlos. I think your talking about something different then the author. As I read it, he’s saying that horse of your is already out of the barn by a number of years and a big number of addicts. Your policy list is perhaps ten to fifteen years too late. What do we do and how do we treat the fellow Americans we have on our hands. He’s writing about people and not about policy

Carlos Ponce

Not really, "help DEA respond to the changing drug threat environment". Many become addicted to legal opioids then start buying under-the-counter when the prescription is suspended. This policy tries to remedy the ready supply of prescriptions. But as you surmise it does not address those who go straight to the illegal stuff.

Bill Broussard

You are correct in the chain of how folks stumble on to addiction. But an "environment of drug threat" is distinct from addicted people or chronic pain sufferers. You can alter the environment to protect folks and do little or nothing to help the folks already effected. Its kinda like putting a stringent quarantine around a country with an Ebla outbreak. Good for protecting the future but it does little for the already ebola stricken patients. I think the already Ebola patients is what our author is speaking to, not the environment that enabled them to be stricken which your policy addresses.

Robert Ray

While I normally agree with your posts, Carlos, and let me say that I am not saying that what you posted is incorrect factually, I am disagreeing with the concept of manufacturing reduction. As a chronic pain sufferer, I can say that these suggestions and current enforcement policies regarding opioids has already had a negative impact on me personally. And I don’t even take a high dosage. Using myself as an example, let me be clear. Like many people who are currently using prescription opioids, I have yet to find a medication that relieves my pain enough to be able to function. I do not take what many consider a high dosage and yet with this “Opioid Crisis” scare, I have already had my primary care doctor reduce the normal number of pills without consulting or even advising me! I have taken this dosage for several years. And my pain is not something that will heal. It is a permanent pain, that is to say that pending advances in the medical field, I will have this pain until the day I die. Having said all this, I want folks to consider that I am not alone. In particular, the veteran community, especially the older vets and those whose bodies have been scarred by the wars of these living generations, have similar, if not worse, situations. But they are not alone. I don’t know the figure on how many patients currently are using prescription opioids to manage their pain. But I do know that it is a huge number. And nobody seems to have gone out and gotten their side of this story. Maybe someone should do that before it’s too late. Maybe those who are pushing so hard for this manufacturing reduction would find out that we aren’t all addicted to opioids, but rather to not being in blinding, searing pain all the time. People should think of that before arbitrarily reducing or suddenly cutting off patients from the opioids. It is my hope that our government finds the humanity, the compassion, to better consider how it’s current and proposed direction in regards to this “Opioid Crisis” affects those people who suffer with high levels of long term or lifetime pain. Dealing with pain relief medication, especially those with addictive qualities, cannot and should not be dealt with by cookie cutter regulations and laws. Consideration and compassion should be used in these cases.

Bailey Jones

Well said.

Ron Shelby

Don't be foolish, patients had other options over illegal drugs or killing themselves. The can go to another doctor and get help to get off the opioids, or they can admit themselves to a rehab program. At 100 times more potent then herion, more potent than morphine, this is definitely something that should be illegal, unless poperly used, at all levels. That includes pharmacies reporting possible over prescribing and any other unusual activity.

Robert Ray

Mr. Hart, thank you for providing a voice of reason in the face of this “Opioid Crisis” insanity. Your first paragraph hits home far deeper than most care to consider! And while your main topic is about how to deal with the addiction side of the situation (and I find that it bears consideration to deal with addiction in this way), at least you give a voice to those who deal with considerable chronic pain, something several recent articles in this paper have lacked. So I thank you for your contribution!

Charles Hughes

I believe Mr.Hart is on the right track.Maybe a day late and dollar short but on the right track. If you go to any support group NA,AA or CAthey've been saying for years that addiction is a disease but the powers that be for whatever reason looked the other way.I remember in the early 80s when the crack epidemic first hit ( mainly minorities)for profit prisons really made some investors lots of profits.While speaking with a drug counselor at a rehabilitation then.He stated that the crack problem wouldn't be seen as an epidemic with a drug counselor until it migrated to the white community.Is this the case with opioids? I know it affects segment of society but they only seem to showthewhite addicts on the news.

Bailey Jones

I think you are correct. During the crack epidemic all we heard about were "super predators" and mandatory prison sentences. With the opioid epidemic it seems the nation has "discovered" compassion.

Gary Miller

Why must the drug addicted cure their addiction by dying from illegal drugs? When someone dies from an illegal drug the seller should be caught and convicted for first degree murder. Save lives, kill a pusher.

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