Two physicians and legislators take aim at Tennessee’s opioid crisis

The opioid crisis that is rampant across the nation also has a strong hold on Tennessee. Two medical doctors serving in the state legislator have drafted new legislation aimed at curbing the unlawful production and distribution of these powerful opioids.

Representative Bryan Terry, MD, (R-Murfreesboro) and Senator Steven Dickerson, MD, (R-Nashville, District 20) are both anesthesiologists who have extensive experience working with drugs such as fentanyl, sufentanil, and carfentanil, in their medical practices. As such, they understand the appropriate uses for each as well as potential side effects and dangerous risks associated these drugs.

“No one in the Tennessee General Assembly understands these medications better than Dr. Terry and I,” said Senator Dickerson.

“When they are used properly, these medications provide tremendous benefits to patients. When they end up on streets in our communities across Tennessee, they be- come very dangerous. This new legislation enables us to address our state’s opioid crisis from a new angle.”

While fentanyl and sufentanil are readily available in hospitals across Tennessee, these drugs and carfentanil are reportedly being manufactured in other countries and illegally brought into the United States where they are sold to Tennesseans.

Reports indicate that these opioids are used to lace heroin, cocaine, and marijuana, which can increase the risk of addiction, death, and babies born with Neonatal Absti-nence Syndrome (NAS).

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), fentanyl is 100 times more potent than morphine; sufentanil and carfentanil are 1,000 and 10,000 times respectively more potent than morphine.
“The budgetary funding proposal brought forth by President Trump and Congress, as well as the Opioid Task Force created by Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville), has raised awareness of the severity of opioid abuse and the health risks associated with these drugs for our residents,” said Rep. Terry. “As chairman of the Health Subcommittee and the only member of the House who has extensively used these medicines in treating patients, I am looking at ways to help address this growing epidemic.”

“Not only do we have an opioid problem from prescription drugs in Tennessee, but we have an addiction problem as well,” said Terry. “We need to work on that end of the equation. However, if we don’t also address high-powered narcotics like fentanyl and sufentanil on the streets, then we won’t be working on all sides of this issue.”

A recent Tennessee drug bust resulted in the confiscation of more than 100,000 pills containing fentanyl.
Terry and Dickerson are waiting to file their new legislation that is in draft form.

In the meantime, Terry said they will continue to work with the Opioid Task Force, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI), the Tennessee Association of Chiefs of Police (TACP), medical organizations, and the governor’s staff in an effort to find comprehensive solutions to address this dangerous epidemic.

“With the opioid crisis paralyzing Tennessee, my colleagues and I will leave no stone unturned as we work to combat this serious issue,” said Speaker Harwell. “Representative Terry’s and Senator Dickerson’s knowledge and expertise will help us find solutions, and I appreciate their efforts in helping us address this matter.”