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2,900 saved by NARCAN in Milwaukee alone, leaders discuss opioid addiction epidemic

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) – Hundreds have died of overdoses this year, but some say they’ve found a silver lining in the fight against opioid abuse in Milwaukee County.

Medical experts, Marquette researchers, and Milwaukee City leaders say they have a new and realistic way to curb addiction.

The common thread throughout Thursday morning’s panel at Marquette University was that opioid addiction needs to be viewed as a brain disease, not a choice.

In the City of Milwaukee alone, so far this year, 2,900 people have been saved from an overdose death by firefighters administering NARCAN.

Opioids are prescribed every day to reduce pain, but can completely change your brain, even after the drug use.

“That's ultimately why these drugs can become so controlling of our lives because if they can take over parts of our brain that are responsible for decision making they are going to be driving your decisions ultimately,” said Matthew Hearing, Assistant Professor of Research at Marquette University.

Hearing was one of several panelists that spoke during a forum at Marquette University Thursday morning on how to stop the opioid epidemic, most agreeing that addiction needs to be viewed as a medical condition, not a choice.

“I still think there's a stigma of people saying you know what it's their own fault. They took it they should get out of the problem,” said 10th District Alderman Michael Murphy.

Dr. Michael Bohn says the problem often starts with a prescription. He says many doctors over-prescribe painkillers and says that there are other options for people in pain.

“There are a large number of pain medications that are very effective and don’t have any addictive potential,” says Dr. Bohn, Acting Medical Director of Aurora Psychiatric Hospital.

At the end of the panel, a mother and daughter shared their experiences with drug abuse. The daughter shared how drugs took over her life and even landed her some time in jail. She’s now five years clean.

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