Tennessee lawmakers hope medical expertise plays role in easing opioid crisis

(Photo: WKRN)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Two Tennessee Capitol Hill lawmakers hope their medical expertise plays a critical role in dealing with the state’s opioid crisis.

They are anesthesiologists who know the benefits and dangers of the drugs better than any other Tennessee politician.

“The black market chemists are staying one step ahead of us,” said Dr. Steve Dickerson, who is also a state senator from Nashville.

He and fellow lawmaker and anesthesiologist, Rep. Bryan Terry of Rutherford County, want Tennessee to update laws and penalties for new, illegally manufactured opioid-based drugs and their derivatives that can quickly turn deadly.

“So what we are trying to do with this law is make it sufficiently broad to capture those substances, and maybe more derivatives that come down the pipeline while not tying the hands of legitimate health care providers,” Senator Dickerson recently told News 2.

MORE: Anesthesiologists elected as state lawmakers are new voice on opioid issue

Legitimate providers like Sen. Dickerson and Rep. Terry prescribe opioid-based drugs legally in their surgical pain practices.

Dickerson also looks to the mental health part of the opioid crisis as another critical step lawmakers can take and finding options to cut the craving for these drugs.

Dr. Bryan Terry (Photo: WKRN)

“Expanding treatment options means you have to spend money, but it’s well spent money,” he added. “I think a dollar spent up front to keep someone from going down that path or to help them get off that path to long-term addiction will pay dollars and dollars of financial benefit to the state down the road–not to mention the human side of it.”

The doctors hope to see these parts of the opioid issue addressed when lawmakers come back in January.

Dr. Dickerson also hopes there is a way to de-stigmatize those seeking help for drug treatment.

He said addiction is often a malfunction of brain chemistry.