Editorial: Fighting the prescription battle

Aug. 26, 2014 @ 02:22 PM

Last week in U.S. District Court, Judge Thomas Varlan sentenced Sandra Kincaid, a 63-year-old Maryville woman, to serve 470 months in federal prison for her part in a Blount County pill mill operation, the Breakthrough Pain Therapy Center.

Kincaid's husband, Randy Kincaid, 58, was sentenced to 69 years this spring by Varlan for his hand in the scheme — 25 counts of drug trafficking and money laundering charges, as well as two counts of possessing a firearm while trafficking drugs.

It's a win for the public and a sign that efforts to stop rampant prescription drug abuse in East Tennessee are serious.

Prescription drug abuse, not methamphetamine usage and manufacture, is the biggest scourge on our communities when it comes to substance abuse.

While meth manufacturing, along with mugshots of what the drug does to its victims, grab headlines — along with grants, increased public funding and increased awareness — prescription drug abuse, mainly the plague of pain pill addiction, is often forgotten.

According to the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, "the abuse of prescription opioids (pain relievers) is the number one drug problem for Tennesseans receiving state-funded substance abuse treatment services."

It also affects unknown numbers of our citizens who can manage to keep their secret hidden until it's too big to control.

Going after those who distribute these drugs, often dispensing them like candy to hooked clients, is absolutely the right way to go. Those actually receiving the drugs are, often through their own mistakes or inability to seek help, ultimately the victims.

The legislature continues to fight the epidemic head on. This cycle, it passed four new laws directly related to opioid prescription, dispensing and records this cycle. They went into affect July 1.

Still, they must let good doctors do what they feel is right for their patients. A bureaucrat should not be making medical decisions for the ill or injured.

It's a fine line lawmakers and doctors must walk. And that delicate balance must be maintained, and cooperation afforded, to increase the chances of meaningful progress toward fixing the problem.