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Deerfield official Trevor McDaniel shares brush with opioid meds

  • Trevor McDaniel



Recorder Staff
Friday, May 19, 2017

SOUTH DEERFIELD — When selectboard member Trevor McDaniel was 16, he got into a serious motorcycle accident. He was in the hospital for six weeks, treating his leg injury and taking several pain medications. He had to learn to walk again.

A couple of years later, he had to go to Boston to remove his hip joint. Shortly thereafter he suffered a stress fracture and had to go back to the hospital.

McDaniel, now 45, was in severe pain. Doctors had him on different prescriptions to try to reduce the pain: codeine, OxyContin and morphine, lots of it.

It wasn’t working for him though. It was tough to live his everyday life on whichever drug the doctors had him taking at the time. McDaniel didn’t want to quit cold turkey, because that wouldn’t help either. He needed a different drug with less of an effect on his everyday life.

A doctor eventually prescribed a drug that can carry a stigma, but has been reported in medical journals to effectively curb the need for more pain medication while allowing the patient to function normally. For a decade now, the Deerfield selectboard member, Board of Health member and School Committee member has been using one drug daily to cope with pain — methadone.

At the first of four town meetings the Opioid Task Force is holding across the region, McDaniel spoke to a panel of eight local leaders in the fight against the opioid crisis, including: Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan, task force chairman and founder John Merrigan, Baystate Franklin Medical Center President Cindy Russo, Greenfield Community College President Bob Pura and Deerfield Police Department Chief John Paciorek.

McDaniel described a slippery slope of prescribed pain medication.

“You understand where somebody would go if they were cut off from medication: Where would they go? They’d go to the street. They’d go to heroin because it’s cheap, it’s available and you don’t need a prescription,” McDaniel said. “I was lucky not to go that route. I found a doctor who prescribed methadone.”

He shared his story of 27 years struggling with a serious leg injury and how prescription drugs have helped and hurt him along the way.

It was a welcomed story for the panel, which also included Martha Murphy-Kane, director of operations for the DA’s office; Marisa Hebble, director of the Community Justice Project of the Massachusetts Executive Office of the Trial Court; and Kat Allen, coordinator of Communities that Care Coalition out of the Franklin Regional Council of Governments.

The story highlighted what many experts attribute to the opioid epidemic both in the county and in the country: People becoming addicted to prescription drugs, being cut off when their prescriptions run out and searching for more opioids to fuel their addictions.

The storyline is changing in some aspects though.

Some experts, including local doctors Ruth Potee and Tom Higgins — members of the task force — have noted that those who are battling opioid addiction may not have started with pills.

“We still have a long journey to get there, but I’ve seen it evolve over time and now we’re at this crossroads,” Russo said about the current climate of fighting the opioid epidemic. To McDaniel, she said, “I’m just really thankful that you had that opportunity and just make sure that all of our health care providers understand that we won’t just cut people off cold turkey. We have to manage them through.”

Experts say people who are fighting addiction, particularly to opioids, often faced some type of trauma earlier in their lives.

In McDaniel’s case, he was able to be helped by methadone, which is often classified as a medically assisted treatment for opioid addiction, and has faced public stigma when conversations float around about opening a methadone clinic for treatment.

“Methadone, I don’t know what the long-term history of it will be for me, but it’s allowed for me to run for Selectboard, raise a family, become a selectman, be a productive member of my community, make good money at my job — I function everyday and I never had to go that route of taking heroin. I don’t know where my life would be without (methadone),” McDaniel said to the panel, his remarks broadcast on Frontier Community Access Television.

Other highlights

A handful of community members attended the task force’s panel. People shared stories from a range of perspectives on the epidemic.

There were stories of dealing with alcohol addiction. There were other stories on how alternative practices like yoga can help with both treatment and prevention.

“We talk about the opioid crisis and we talk about addiction. We frame it in a way that we don’t just talk about it in causes and effects,” Frontier Regional School teacher and coach Kate Blair said. “We’re talking about things like decision-making and how to deal with anxiety.”

The panel discussed the current state of the epidemic and how the availability of Narcan has helped to decrease deaths from overdoses.

Chief Paciorek, said there has been a “dramatic shift” in the way policing is now conducted — noting decades of locking up people with drugs instead of trying to help them seek help for potential mental health issues.

“We’ve really learned over the last four years that it’s a disease,” District Attorney Sullivan said. “Fundamentally changing the viewpoint has been really important — reducing stigma.”

Next meeting

The next Opioid Task Force community town meeting will be held at the Shelburne Senior Center, Tuesday, May 23 from 6 to 8 p.m. The following events will be at the Athol Memorial Hospital, June 1, and Greenfield Community College, June 8.

Reach Joshua Solomon at:

jsolomon@recorder.com

413-772-0261, ext. 264