With Tennessee and the entire United States in the middle of an opioid crisis, State Representative Bryan Terry, MD (R-Murfreesboro) and Senator Steven Dickerson, MD (R-Nashville) are working on new legislation in order to curb unlawful production and distribution of powerful opioids like fentanyl, sufentanil, and carfentanil.
Fentanyl is 100 times more potent than morphine; sufentanil and carfentanil are respectively 1,000 and 10,000 times more potent than morphine. Terry and Dickerson are both anesthesiologists who have extensive experience working with these drugs in their medical practices. They understand the appropriate uses for each, as well as potential side effects and dangerous risks associated with them.
"The budgetary funding proposal brought forth by President Trump and Congress, as well as the Opioid Task Force created by Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) has raised awareness of the severity of opioid abuse and the health risks associated with these drugs for our residents," said Representative Terry. "As Chairman of the Health Subcommittee and the only member of the House who has extensively used these medicines in treating patients, I am looking at ways to help address this growing epidemic."
"No one in the Tennessee General Assembly understands these medications better than Dr. Terry and I," said Senator Dickerson. "When they are used properly, these medications provide tremendous benefits to patients; when they end up on streets in our communities across Tennessee, they become very dangerous. This new legislation enables us to address our state's opioid crisis from a new angle."
While fentanyl and sufentanil are readily available in hospitals across Tennessee, they and carfentanil are reportedly being manufactured in other countries and brought into the United States illegally where they are sold to Tennesseans. There are reports of these opioids being used to lace heroin, cocaine, and marijuana. This can increase the risk of addiction, death, and babies born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS). Recently, a Tennessee drug bust resulted in the confiscation of over 100,000 pills containing fentanyl.
"Not only do we have an opioid problem from prescription drugs in Tennessee but we have an addiction problem as well," said Representative Terry. "We need to work on that end of the equation; however, if we don't also address high-powered narcotics like fentanyl and sufentanil on the streets, then we won't be working on all sides of this issue."
Terry stated that the legislation he and Dickerson are working on is currently in draft form, and they are waiting to file it. In the meantime, they will continue to work with the Opioid Task Force, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI), the Tennessee Association of Chiefs of Police (TACP), medical organizations, and the governor's staff in an effort to find comprehensive solutions to address this dangerous epidemic.
"With the opioid crisis paralyzing Tennessee, my colleagues and I will leave no stone unturned as we work to combat this serious issue," said Speaker Harwell. "Representative Terry and Senator Dickerson's knowledge and expertise will help us find solutions, and I appreciate their efforts in helping us address this matter."
Bryan Terry, MD serves as Chairman of the House Health Subcommittee, as well as a member of the House Health and Civil Justice Committees. He lives in Murfreesboro and represents House District 48, which includes the eastern half of Rutherford County. Terry can be reached by calling (615) 741-2180 or emailing: Rep.Bryan.Terry@capitol.tn.gov.
Steven Dickerson, MD serves as 2nd Vice-Chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee. He is also a member of the Senate Education, Senate Finance, Ways & Means, and Senate Energy, Agriculture & Natural Resources Committees. Dickerson lives in Nashville and represents Senate District 20, which includes a portion of Davidson County. He can be reached by calling (615) 741-6679 or by email at: Sen.Steven.Dickerson@capitol.tn.gov.