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Oklahoma Opioid Commission discusses solution to state’s overdose crisis in first meeting

Shane Smith / Red Dirt Report
Terri White, commissioner of the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, speaks to the Oklahoma Commission on Opioid Abuse at the state Capitol.
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NORMAN, Okla.-- With 2,600 opioid-related deaths in Oklahoma over the past three years, it is clear that the state isn’t immune to the nationwide opioid epidemic, and on Tuesday morning, the newly-formed Opioid Commission convened to lay out their framework for address the escalating crisis. 

Reggie Whitten was the first to speak.  Whitten brought a tragically personal touch to the meeting, being a father who had to bury a son due to a deadly opioid addiction.  His plea to the commission set the tone for the rest of the meeting.

Oklahoma has seen the second largest decrease in opioid prescriptions from 2013-2015.  Don Voight, representing the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, reminded attendees that a mere 30-day supply of prescription opioids can create an addict for life. 

Commission members understood the complexity of the problem, and that merely restricting prescription pills won’t work. 

“They would turn to other substances as we’ve already seen in other states throughout the country,” said Kevin Taubman of the Oklahoma State Medical Association. 

A more rigorous prescription monitoring program called e-prescription, if used by all 17,000 of Oklahoma’s doctors, would allow authorities to track prescription opioids better.  Fewer than 100 doctors in the state use e-prescribing at the moment.

The meeting emphasized not only control of the heroin-in-pill-form that has been recklessly prescribed to those most susceptible to addiction, pain sufferers, but also stressed the need for intervention, prevention, and education on the clear and present danger of handing over heroin to pain sufferers. 

Notably absent from the three-hour meeting was any mention of medical marijuana or CBD oil as a powerful ally in the fight against opioid abuse or the development of a non-opioid based painkiller to replace the current painkillers that have led to the current crisis.

The numbers are staggering: 59,000 overdose deaths in 2016, with overdoses the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 50.  The United States is currently experiencing a crisis worse than the AIDS epidemic at its height, killing more Americans than died during the Vietnam War, more than died from car crashes during its deadliest year of 1972.  Half a million Americans are predicted to die over the next decade unless this crisis can be brought under control.

The Commission has until December 1st to submit legislation to help alleviate the opioid crisis in Oklahoma.

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Shane Smith

Shane Smith is an accountant and freelance writer with a bachelor's degree in economics from...

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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