Legal Ramifications of Opioid Addiction

Posted by Charles J. London on April 11th, 2017

Opioid addiction is a serious problem throughout this nation. Tennessee is one of the leading states in the nation for opioid abuse. East Tennessee has the greatest concentration of opioid addiction in the State of Tennessee. These facts place Tennessee at the forefront of fighting opioid addiction and the effects it has on our community.

Opioid addiction has many dramatic effects on our community. They are too numerous for them all to be fully discussed in this article. In the legal world, attorneys regularly see addiction affecting their cases. Is a plaintiff in a car wreck case actually seriously injured or is he malingering and seeking drugs? Did a criminal defendant commit the crime of shoplifting because he/she needed an item to sell to obtain drugs? Is a parent responsible enough to have quality parenting time with the child or has the parent’s drug addiction gotten to the point where it is going to seriously and materially affect visitation? These and many others are all issues that lawyers regularly encounter in their practices.

The question becomes: What do you do to address the underlying issues in your cases? We call ourselves attorneys, but we are also counselors. A counselor needs to treat the underlying issue if he wants the best outcome in a matter and to avoid similar such situations in the future. To address the underlying opioid addiction, several different treatment methods are used by different doctors, counselors, and therapists. Perhaps the most well known method of opioid addiction treatment is the use of Suboxone . Suboxone is a heavily prescribed medication which is very commonly available on the street market for addicts. Unfortunately, Suboxone comes with its own set of problems. There are concerns of over-prescribing; prescribing it for an indefinite period of time; and that it partially stimulates the opioid receptor in the brain cell causing an effect similar to actually taking an opioid. In clear juxtaposition to Suboxone, some addiction recovery specialists believe that an abstinence based cognitive and behavior therapy approach is the best way to help people with their dependence upon drugs and learn the life skills to help them learn and grow into better contributing members of our community. The use of cognitive and behavioral therapy without medication eliminates the problems of over-prescribing drugs and partial dependence upon a prescribed medication; however, proponents to Suboxone point to studies showing much higher rates of recovery when patients use medically assisted therapy as opposed to an abstinence based recovery program.

Frequently encountering these issues in my legal practice, over the years I became curious as to the correct approach to solving this problem. To that end, as a board member of the Washington County Bar Association, I held a Continuing Legal Education seminar on this issue with two great speakers. Lisa Tipton, a licensed drug recovery specialist, is the Executive Director at Families Free which is a program that strongly focuses on abstinence based recovery with supportive therapy. Paul Trivette is the President of Physician Assisted Therapy Political Action Committee, also known as PAT-PAC, who represents the prescribers of Suboxone in the Tennessee General Assembly. If you are interested in what they have to say, please click the link below for the article that was run in the Johnson City Press.

Advocates for differing treatment methods deliberate addiction treatment

Here at Herndon, Coleman, Brading & McKee, we strive for the best possible results for our clients regarding the issues they are presently dealing with, but we also believe quality legal services include treating the underlying problem to prevent further legal issues. Please contact any of our very qualified attorneys if you need legal assistance with a matter.


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