Substance abuse treatment in Scioto County, Ohio is ineffective and that is killing people. Scioto County’s Health Commissioner blames the stigma of addiction for the high rate of premature death in Scioto County. In a joint statement issued with Portsmouth City Health Department Medical Director Dr. David Byers, the two addressed Scioto County’s poor ranking in a national health survey. According to the 2020 County Health Rankings, Scioto ranks dead last out of 88 Ohio Counties. I contacted Dr. Martin yesterday to get his reaction to the disturbing numbers.
Today, he came back with this reply. “We are DEAD LAST! Why are we at the bottom? The major measure is the length of Life, aka Premature Death. It is defined as years of life lost before age 75. So if someone dies at age 40, 35 years of life is lost. This is the measure. It represents 50% of Health Outcomes. Other measures ranked as 10 % include Poor Health, Poor physical Health Days, and Poor Mental Health Days, Low Birthweight accounts for 20% of this measure.”
The doctors said that there’s one factor behind the early loss of life. “Scioto County has a tremendous problem with premature death due to drug overdoses. New rankings for drug overdose will show Scioto County is leading Ohio in per-capita drug overdose deaths! But why? We have many agencies addressing this problem.”
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Addiction Medication Stigma
So what do the two doctors in charge of health efforts think stands in the way of proper substance abuse treatment in Ohio? One word: stigma. The shame associated with addiction is standing in the way of proper treatment. The doctors said medication could help. “Medications for Opiate Use Disorder (MOUD) are not used enough. Many facilities are not prescribing MOUD or not using it long enough. The science is perfectly clear, MOUD like Buprenorphine (Suboxone) and Methadone are lifesaving medications. We have known this since 1971 when the Nixon administration opened Methadone facilities and closed federally funded abstinent based treatment facilities like the Lexington Narcotic Farm. So why aren’t people with Substance Use disorder getting proper treatment? STIGMA!”
The doctors said proper use of these medications could be a gamechanger. “Many confuse MOUD with trading one addiction for another. This is simply untrue. Addiction, at its base, is causing harm to the user and those around them. MOUD, when used properly, gives patients the ability to control cravings and allow them to get their lives back in order. They are able to fully function care for their loved ones and work! They become productive members of society!
We need to allow people with Substance Use Disorder to get the best medical treatment. Until we address this problem properly, we will continue to be, literally, DEAD LAST!”
Dr. Martin and Dr. Byers signed the statement jointly.