With the battle between the Twin Counties and the local opioid crisis at a seeming impasse, the strategy to get the upper hand is changing once again, and this one is promising.
Columbia County will use $75,000 in a joint effort with Greene County to train doctors and nurse practitioners in the adminstration of buprenorphine, a prescription drug used to treat addiction to narcotic pain relievers.
Long-term use of painkillers can lead to physical dependence, according to the website DrugFreeWorld.com. The body adapts to the presence of the substance and if one stops taking the drug abruptly, withdrawal symptoms occur, or the body could build up a tolerance to the drug, meaning that higher doses have to be taken to achieve the same effects.
The main focus of the Twin Counties is training physicians and nurses to prescribe buprenorphine to patients addicted to opiate-based prescription painkillers.
“Recovery coaches,” as the trainees will be called, neatly dovetail with the combined work Greene and Columbia counties have been doing in the joint Opiate Task Force. At the same time, the recovery coach program is county-centric. Each county will train its own doctors and nurses, but both counties will work under similar rules so everyone is on the same page.
Rather than clawing at the air to stop addiction in one broad stroke, Columbia and Greene counties are approaching this with the understanding that painkillers simply mask discomfort. They are not a cure. When the effect of the drug wears off, the hidden pain returns.
An answer to the local opioid crisis is not necessarily throwing millions of dollars at the problem, but a modestly priced solution such as the recovery coaches working with addicts and beating the epidemic with direct personal contact.