NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – A doctor’s story of spiraling into addiction while teaching at a Tennessee medical school was told to the state task force Thursday looking into opioid abuse.
Dr. Stephen Loyd said the moment he knew he was at the lowest of lows with came while teaching future doctors 13 years ago at East Tennessee State University.
“We had a lady who came in on an overdose, and I asked that resident how many did she take and he gave me a number, and I was taking more than that number every day,” Dr. Loyd said after his testimony at the House task force.
He continued, “I could not get my pencil down to the paper to write my note, so I dismissed my rounds and I went into a bathroom, locked the door and cried.”
Dr. Loyd said a month later his father led an intervention which resulted in treatment and eventual recovery, but he said the opioid cravings are still with him.
“The most important thing to me in my life are my children, but during my drug use, with my kids at age nine and six as a practicing doctor, the most important thing was drugs,” he had told the task force earlier. “Because I felt if I did not have it I was going to die.”
After recovery, he sees the stigma of drug addiction as his main message while now working for the Tennessee Department of Mental Health as its medical director of substance abuse services.
“Folks that are still struggling with addiction need to see folks who have gotten better,” Dr. Loyd told reporters afterwards. “And when we reduce the stigma we allow them to step out, just like I was able to do and step into those treatment services.”
He added that more resources are needs, “but we have got to have people willing to step out and ask for the help to start with.”
While telling his story, Dr. Loyd outlined some areas of success for Tennessee which has been called the “epicenter of the opioid crisis in America” by House Speaker Beth Harwell.
“We have prescriptions coming down. we have got doctors more aware of prescription habits and how that leads to potential bad outcomes,” Dr. Loyd told the task force.
He and two members of the department’s substance abuse services pointed to Tennessee Department of health statistics showing decreased opioid prescriptions by 1-point-one billion morphine equivalents.
In other words what was dispensed to patients went down each year since 2012.