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Is There Hope for the Mid-South Heroin Epidemic?

During the past five years, criminal defense attorneys, prosecutors, doctors and emergency personnel have seen a disturbing upward trend in heroin use both nationally and here in the Mid-South.

Now, this trend has become an epidemic as we see a drastic rise in heroin-related emergency room visits and deaths. In October 2016, WREG-Memphis posted a graphic, sad and eye-opening video showing the after-effects of a heroin-addicted couple that had snorted heroin in a Walgreens bathroom.  This couple thankfully survived, and our hope is that help is in their near future.

The heroin epidemic and addiction does not target any particular race, gender, age or economic group, but rather affects people from all walks of life.

Curtailing this heroin epidemic now faces Mid-South residents, parents, law enforcement and health care providers. Through our representation of those struggling with this disease and speaking with involved parties, we have established some ideas and been informed of programs that can only help.

What Can Parents Do?

Being involved in your child’s life is a great first step, but you need to provide proper education on important issues like heroin use so they recognize and realize the risks they face every single day. Heroin use typically occurs after a child or young adult is first exposed to prescription drugs.

Often, once an addiction to prescription drugs has taken hold, an individual will find it cheaper to purchase heroin on the street rather than obtain prescription drugs.

Parents need to research and educate their children on prescription drug use. In addition, parents should monitor the use of prescription drugs if a medical procedure or surgery requires it. Keeping any prescription medication locked up is always advised.

If you no longer need the prescription drug, you can properly dispose the prescriptions after use. Prescription drug take-back boxes allow you to properly and safely dispose of unused prescription drugs. To learn more, please visit the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.

Criminal Prosecution & Seeking Help:

With the increase in heroin use in the Memphis area comes an increase in criminal prosecution.  Prosecuting the distributors of illegal drugs also involves the prosecution of buyers and users.  

Mandatory jail time does not necessarily help someone suffering with addiction. Rather, it merely acts as a temporary stop in his or her drug abuse. Fortunately, there are very good programs that I have seen work with helping individuals overcome their struggles.

The Honorable Judge Tim Dwyer began a Shelby County Drug Court Program in 1997 that allows non-violent adults charged with drug offenses to voluntarily seek help in overcoming his or her addictions. The program specifics involve in-patient or out-patient treatment along with random drug screens and treatment sessions.

I can personally attest to the help the Drug Court Program has provided my clients and their families. While certainly not an easy task, the program has proven to work if the participant is willing to get help.  Judge Dwyer, along with his entire support staff and prosecutors, should be commended for their hard work. Learn more by visiting the Shelby County Drug Court Program.

Physicians and Health Care Providers:

Because of the sweeping heroin issue across the country, we find that doctors are becoming more cautious when prescribing opiates. Studying a patient’s history and current symptoms, along with education in safe prescribing practices, can assist doctors in preventing a future addiction.  

In speaking with past and current clients suffering with substance abuse problems, recognizing a problem is the most difficult step. A good resource for anyone struggling with heroin or opioid addiction is the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) site. For an additional list of treatment providers and clinics that may offer assistance, please visit Heroin.net.

As reported by WMC-Memphis, there were approximately 263 Heroin overdose cases in the Mid-South in 2016, resulting in 75 deaths, a large number leaving me scared for the future.

Change will not be quick or easy, but with education, perseverance and proper help, hopefully this number will dwindle in 2017.

If you ever have legal questions, or just need legal advice, know that The Chiozza Law Firm and Your901Law.com are here to help. Our office, conveniently located in Downtown Memphis, is the place we call home, welcoming walk-ins with no appointment necessary.

If you feel the need to discuss a new or pending legal matter, our doors are always open. If you cannot make it to the office feel free to call 901-526-9494, or for emergencies, email Brian Chiozza at brian@chiozzalaw.com.

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Posted by Brian Chiozza at 4:55 PM
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