fall 2018 opioid issue

Readers Respond to our Fall 2018 Issue

Fall 2018 cover: A Battle Worth Fighting

We received our biggest and most varied response in years to the Fall 2018 issue on opioid addiction in Tennessee. Here’s a sampling of the feedback from the last print issue:

Dear Editor,

Congratulations on your current edition of Tennessee Alumnus. It is the best alumni magazine edition I have ever read, and I include all that I have ever read. I am an alumnus of three universities and receive similar publications from the other two, and none I can recall can compare to the overall quality of your current edition. The subject is sobering and sad, but your articles, tied as always to the key roles being played by UT alumni in the subjects at hand, are fact-based, well-written and beautifully illustrated. The entire edition tells a compelling story and made me proud(er) of UT.

Thank you for an excellent product, and congratulations on a job well done.

Daniel J. “Dan” Sutherland
Knoxville ’77

Dear Editor,

I was dismayed to find the entire fall issue of the magazine dedicated to redundant and emotional (and mostly useless) articles on “the opioid crisis.” There is so much that the university is involved in, so many stories to be told, so many remarkable activities, it is sad to see the emotional fervor of the “opioid epidemic” occupying the entire magazine.

I’ve had a broad experience in the 50-plus years I have “worn” my M.D., and I’ve seen a lot of chemical dependency and I’ve seen the consequences to society of our society’s obsessive need to “take a pill and make everything great.” I’ve watched as we have learned nothing about chemical dependency but have merely flailed about with efforts to arrest or penalize our way out of this swamp. What is truly sad is that we have ignored the lessons of the past—specifically, the Prohibition (of alcohol) amendment to the Constitution.

Opponents of legalized (and controlled) drug use are chagrined at, and violently opposed to, any suggestion to decriminalize drug use. Yet, the great push for the use of methadone and buprenorphine as the “solution” is nothing more than the substitution of a legal narcotic in replacement of an illegal one.

We’ll never control the issue until we face some facts: First and foremost, we are a narcissistic society which wants to feel better. Life is stressful, so we turn to chemicals to relieve that stress. Alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, antidepressants, mood elevators, sedatives and narcotics are all of a family of chemicals that people use to feel better.

There is no illegal market for Prozac and Paxil and Effexor and Cymbalta and all the other help-me-feel-better chemicals for the simple reason that they are readily available from almost any health-care provider. These drugs are more over-prescribed than any of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) schedule drugs. But they are legal, and it is almost a status symbol to claim, “Oh yes, I’m on Prozac/Paxil/whatever.” If we legalized the DEA-proscribed chemicals and made them available through qualified health-care professionals’ prescription, suddenly the flow of schedule illegal drugs would simply disappear. If there is no profit, the drug cartels and street vendors have no reason to do business.

If we legalized these DEA-controlled drugs, will we still have accidental overdoses? Of course we will. Tobacco, alcohol and automobiles cause a base-line number of deaths each year. We realistically accept that as a consequence of normal human behavior. We could stop automobile deaths by prohibiting motor vehicles. But we realize that there is a valuable service that society derives from motor vehicles, so we accept the risk/benefit equation. Same should hold true for narcotics and sedatives, which have a very real role in managing pain and anxiety. Just as we educate drivers and have traffic laws, let’s educate providers and patients and have realistic laws governing chemical uses.

C.D. Hardison
Health Science Center ’64

Dear Editor,

I recently received and read the most recent edition regarding opioid addiction. I have worked in health care as a nurse anesthetist for the past 38 years, and I agree that there is a problem. Personally, I have had surgical procedures with opioids prescriptions to help manage post-op pain. I don’t have an opioid problem.

While I know addiction is a disease, in all the articles I’ve read in the magazine, there was not one word regarding personal accountability. Yes, there is a problem, but admitting that the addicted person seems to bear some responsibility for the condition is absent. I have known medical personnel who have overdosed and died and have hurt others with their addiction. They also made that decision to inject or take the pills themselves. Personal accountability should come into play.

Blame always seems to be placed at the drug company, prescribing physician or some other entity. The fault or condition never belongs to the addict.

I have been to meetings where physicians have described being sued by patients for not treating postoperative pain adequately. Some of these lawsuits were defended, and some were lost. These types of lawsuits became a problem for the physicians. Even if the physician won the case, the time lost and emotional turmoil is great.

I just feel that there should have been something included regarding personal choice and accountability. The fault does not always belong to someone else: It sometimes belongs to the addict.

I do applaud all those working to help correct the problem and the magazine for shedding more light on the problem.

Mike Morel

Dear Editor,

Our Sunday School class had a program on the desperation of opioids for babies at Methodist Hospital in Oak Ridge. The program was alarming in that they do not know where to turn. I received the impression that opioid-affected babies are costing the hospital $50,000 more than normal babies. If they report the mothers, they are sent to jail and separated from their babies. Sounds to me like there is a huge need for law enforcement to be educated on how to deal with opioid victims, both adults and children. What is UT doing about this very serious and tragic societal problem?

Ann Munz
Knoxville ’78

Dear Editor,

Attacking pharmaceutical companies is like attacking gun manufacturers. Neither product kills by itself and is useful when used properly. It has to be misused, illegally, by someone. We would be better off praying for our Godless society before it’s too late.

William J. Busler
Health Science Center ’77

Dear Editor,

I wanted to take the time to thank you for making your Fall 2018 issue revolve around the opiate epidemic not only in our beautiful state of Tennessee but around the country. As someone who has been directly affected by opiate addiction, within my group of friends and family, this issue is one I work diligently with in trying to educate people and prevent opiate overdoses. The articles you included in this issue were thought-provoking, informative and gave outlets to be proactive in the fight against opiate abuse. This type of writing and education is exactly what we need. I only hope that people take the time to read and digest this information in hopes of eradicating this epidemic. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Also, in response to Anne Taylor’s letter to the editor, I happen to like the name of the magazine, Tennessee Alumnus. “Alumnus” is all encompassing, including all people who attended or graduated from a school, college or university.

Jenny Williams
Knoxville ’10

Dear Editor,

It seems to me that Anne Taylor, in her letter in the fall 2018 issue, has made the choice to feel excluded by the name of our magazine. In selecting an alternative definition of the word, she has elected a position of exclusion.

Horace B. Cupp Jr.
Knoxville ’51