Solutions To Heroin Addiction To Be Explored At Vermont Law Symposium

February 21, 2014

in News

(The following is a press release from Vermont Law School)

Members of the Vermont Law Criminal Law Society have invited a team of experts to weigh in on heroin during a panel discussion on Feb. 24 at Vermont Law School.

“This event is about new ideas from new sources,” said Vermont Law J.D. candidate George Selby ’14, one of the panel organizers. “We need to fundamentally change the way we treat addicts and the opiates they fall victim to.”

Panelists will include addiction and pain specialists, a narcotics investigator, and an advocate for revolutionizing drug policy. They 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 featured speakers, Arnold Trebach, J.D, Ph.D, 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 Governor 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 R. Nordstrom, director of addiction services and director of the Fellowship in Addiction Psychiatry at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center; and Dr. Gilbert J. Fanciullo, pain specialist and professor of anesthesiology at Dartmouth Medical School and director of pain medicine at DHMC.

Dr. 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.”

The panel, “Vermont’s Heroin Addicts—Handcuffs or Hospitals,” will be held at 4 p.m. Monday, Feb. 24, in the Chase Community Center at Vermont Law School. The event is free and open to the public and press. Attendees are eligible for two Vermont Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credit hours. For more information about the panel, email George Selby at or visit the event’s Facebook page.


{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

David Raynes February 22, 2014 at 6:37 am

I know Professor Arnold Trebach from the mid 70s when I used to debate heroin prescription by Doctors with him, when he visited London England. ( I was the UKs top criminal intelligence Officer on the criminal heroin market) He has been unwavering in his support for what he used to call “The British System”, prescription of drugs to addicts.

No country has more experience of it than the UK. We allowed any Doctor to prescribe from late 1920s onwards until we abandoned the system in mid to late 60s.

While prescription could cope with a very small number of addicts it absolutely failed to cope with drugs use as a “lifestyle choice” so in the 60s here, the system became corrupt, we developed a parallel illegal market for criminal heroin, partly fed by over prescribing from corrupted clinicians, partly fed from sales by prescribed addicts and partly fed from smuggled Chinese Number 3 and Number 4 heroin.

The UK tested prescribed heroin to destruction, we largely abandoned it. Now only a few specially licensed Doctors can so prescribe and there is no great enthusiasm for it.

So Arnold Trebach is emphatically wrong about prescribing of heroin. It offers no solution to heroin or drug addiction on the scale the US now has it.

If addicts are to be prescribed heroin I say it MUST be prescribed for very short periods in the course of a concerted effort to get addicts free of addiction with other support. That is what addicts overwhelmingly want. Open ended maintenance heroin as Trebach argues for, will just keep reinforcing drugs use.

It is perhaps no coincidence that those who favor widespread prescription of drugs to addicts are often those who favor a wider legalized and indeed normalized market for all drugs.

I offer my greetings to Professor Trebach. Although I absolutely disagree with him, we always were civil to each other. I am pleased to hear he is still able to argue his case as am I, at our advanced ages!

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