Pubdate: Thu, 05 May 2016
Source: Pueblo Chieftain (CO)
Copyright: 2016 The Pueblo Chieftain
Author: Michael J Nerenberg


I am, unfortunately, glad to see all the coverage of the heroin 
epidemic in The Pueblo Chieftain and on Channels 5 and 13. We do need 
to keep this front and center. I do have a few minor corrections to 
the story in Sunday's (May 1's) paper.

I am a retired ER doctor, not an addiction specialist. And, I think 
Access Point Pueblo is serving well under half of the people who 
inject drugs in Pueblo. I base this on conversations I have every 
week with people who are accessing the exchange and who tell me they 
know a lot of people who still cannot bring themselves to take a 
chance on us and who tell us they are obtaining syringes for a lot of 
others who are afraid to come. And those are just the needle users.

And, while I do appreciate the stories, I find it disappointing that 
they are mostly very similar - I call them heroin porn. "Oh, it is 
awful." "We have a very serious problem here." "The police are 
overwhelmed" It's coming from the cartels and the gangs are awful." 
Yes, we know we have a problem. The first heroin forum was in 2013. 
We have had several more since then.

I would respectfully suggest that the media start looking into, and 
doing stories on possible alternatives. Because, I can tell you, 
despite the police work, despite DEA and FBI involvement here, 
despite the pictures of pounds of heroin confiscated, and the stories 
of how frustrating it is that dealers get out of jail so fast, the 
problem is getting worse. Even Chuck Rosenberg, the head of the DEA, 
has said publicly that we can't arrest our way out of this. It is 
time to look for other solutions. And, the stories trying to assign 
blame - it was the doctors pushing pills, the pharmaceutical industry 
pushing pills, the regulators cracking down on pills - are a 
distraction also. The question is, "Where do we go from here."

I do want to give kudos to KRDO for asking the question, does the 
attention on marijuana distract us from the real and much more 
damaging problem of heroin. I think it is an important question. I 
think the answer is yes.

Dr. Michael J Nerenberg, MD

Pueblo West
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