Addiction specialist says the sooner opiate addiction is treated as a disease, the sooner the state can gain ground in the battle against heroin

06/23/2016 03:27 PM

FLORENCE – As heroin and opiate overdoses and deaths continue to increase, especially in northern Kentucky, Dr. Mike Kalfas, who treats over 300 addicts in his family practice, says the sooner everyone understands that addiction needs to be treated as a disease, the sooner communities will make progress in battling the problem.

one of things that frustrates doctors and keeps many of them from treating addicts is the fact that there is no easy fix and the sometimes painstaking process takes time, Kaflas told Pure Politics.

“You have to understand their disease and see where they are in it, and you have to be able to roll with the punches in that disease,” Kalfas said. “It’s not simply something that you treat once and it goes away.”

The Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy released their 2015 Overdose Fatality Report which found that lethal overdoses in Kentucky rose from 1,088 in 2014 to 1,248 last year, a 16 percent increase.

Fentanyl, an opiate painkiller that can be mixed with heroin, was a primary factor in the uptick in lethal overdoses with the drug detected in 420 overdose deaths last year compared to 121 instances in 2014 — a 247 percent increase — and contributed to 34 percent of fatal overdoses in 2015.

Kalfas warns that fentanyl itself could one day be the opiate that could replace heroin as the drug of choice.

“Fentanyl is in order of magnitude more potent than heroin or morphine,” Kalfas said. “I heard one statistic from a law enforcement friend of mine that works with us is that in Vancouver, in one of their strike force raids, what they picked up was 100 percent fentanyl. They’re ahead of us a little bit in this epidemic, so you can look into what other places are doing and see where we are headed.”

Kalfas sees some good things happening in response to the heroin epidemic in northern Kentucky.

He points out that jails in Boone, Kenton, and Campbell counties have instituted substance abuse programs, which, in some circumstances change inmates into patients. He says the continued key will be to revamp how addiction is looked at, and learn to treat it as a disease.


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