Heroin Addiction Focus Of Free Panel Discussion At Vermont Law School

South Royalton — The Vermont Law School Criminal Law Society will host a free panel discussion on the subject of opiate addiction tomorrow at 4 p.m. in the Chase Community Center at Vermont Law School.

“This event is about new ideas from new sources,” Vermont Law School student George Selby, one of the panel organizers, said in a recent news release. “We need to fundamentally change the way we treat addicts and the opiates they fall victim to.”

The panelists will discuss whether drug courts, replacement therapy and support groups are enough, and tackle a controversial question: Should doctors be allowed to prescribe heroin to treat heroin addiction?

One of the speakers, Arnold Trebach, professor emeritus of public affairs at American University and founder of the Drug Policy Foundation, the precursor to the Drug Policy Alliance, plans to call for action in Vermont.

“I am asking (Vermont Gov. Peter) Shumlin to take the lead in a vitally needed revolution in American drug treatment practices,” said Trebach, author of The Heroin Solution and The Great Drug War. “Start out by recognizing that the chaos in the local addiction scene is taking place within the current criminal prohibition system,” he said. “Then lay out plans to bring addicts out of the streets and into medical treatment, which must include heroin and other narcotics in oral and injectable form.”

Trebach will be joined by Lt. Matthew Birmingham of the Vermont State Police Narcotics Investigation Unit; Dr. Benjamin Nordstrom, director of addiction services and director of the fellowship in addiction psychiatry at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center; and Dr. Gilbert Fanciullo, pain specialist and professor of anesthesiology at Geisel School of Medical and director of pain medicine at DHMC.

Fanciullo will discuss his protocol for the safe use of opioids, drugs that resemble morphine or other opiates in their pharmacological effects, by patients suffering from chronic pain.

“It may be that as doctors become more restrictive about to whom they will prescribe opioids, patients suffering from the disease addiction are turning to heroin,” Fanciullo said. “Opioids are a blessing for persons with severe pain, but they are dangerous drugs and must be used with caution.”

Attendees are eligible for two Vermont Continuing Legal Education credit hours. For more information, email georgeselby@vermontlaw.edu or go to the event’s Facebook page. — Staff report