State to launch new anti-addiction campaign

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — They need to be graphic–that’s what Governor Robert Bentley says about a series of radio and TV ads focused on prescription drug abuse.

The state is launching a new anti-addiction campaign, and WIAT 42 Sports Anchor Lauren Sisler is crusading for their cause.

This effort focuses on combating prescription drug abuse in Alabama.  The zero addiction campaign will involve radio and television ads highlighting the severity of the problem.

Prescription medications meant to improve focus or dull pain can have devastating consequences when misused.

Governor Bentley and Lauren sat down today to talk about not only how it has impacted our state, but also families. As a licensed physician, Governor Bentley understands the powerful addictive potential of some prescription drugs.

He also knows the pain of losing a loved one to an addiction.

For Lauren, her life was forever changed in less than a day when both of her parents died from prescription drug overdoses.

She says her father had injuries and chronic pain from his military service and her mother had degenerative disk disease.

“They were seeking pain management through a pain management doctor in Virginia and both of them became addicted to their pain medication. It started out with OxyContin and eventually escalated to fentanyl. And they both overdosed on fentanyl within a few hours of each other,” said Sisler to Governor Bentley. “At the time I was young. I was just going off to college and didn’t understand what addiction was. I was afraid of it. There was that stigma. What do you tell people to break that stigma and how important it is that there needs to be a voice here and you can’t hide from this?”

“Well I think that as I said, almost everyone has someone in their family who had some problem with some type of addiction whether it’s alcohol or whether it’s prescription pain medication. You know people just need help and they need to know where to look for that help and that’s what we’re trying to provide here in the state of Alabama. And we need to continue to put a special emphasis on that,” Bentley replied.

“Having dealt with a member of my family who went through an addiction problem and who eventually died from that, I have personal experience on how you can help that particular person. And whether or not you could eventually save them. Sometimes you can’t,” said Bentley.

The campaign website lists addiction recovery resources county by county. It also has a form where people can submit a tip about suspected drug crime to the DEA to attack it at the source.

But the problem is complicated. Bentley said in recent drug raids in Alabama, doctors were arrested for over prescribing powerful narcotic drugs.

He said they learned that the raids left many people with legitimate pain management needs without medication.

“Just last month we arrested a number of doctors who were overprescribing in the State of Alabama. But we also learned from that. When we arrested those doctors that left a number of patients who needed some medication. So sometimes law enforcement does not look at the patient. They just look at the perpetrator. And so we learn from how we handle these things,” said Bentley.

They are hoping to strike a balance and to educate patients and doctors about what is appropriate.

“You know this is not the majority of providers. That give too much medication. There’s just a few. And some of those are uneducated as far as the effects of it and some do it for money. Those that do it for money are not physicians they are just drug dealers. And those are the ones we are going to catch,” said Bentley.

Copyright 2015 WIAT 42 News

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