Dubios Co. Officials Attend Opioid Summit, Addiction Discussed

WITZ Radio News is an affiliate of Network Indiana

INDIANAPOLIS - Today's opioid crisis is really a broader mental-health crisis, according to an I-U psychiatry researcher:

Andrew Chambers is director of I-U's addiction psychiatry training program. He told a statewide opioid summit of judges and court administrators that opioid addiction usually appears alongside other addictions or mental illnesses. He says addiction literally rewires brain cells, just as Parkinson's or Alzheimer's does. In the case of addiction, the drug reprograms your brain to crave the next hit, to the point it crowds out everything else.

Unlike other brain diseases, Chambers says your brain on drugs retains enough flexibility to repair itself with proper medication and psychotherapy. But, he says, that's the catch.

Chambers says America's mental-health infrastructure has been decaying for half a century, driven at first by the shift away from large mental health institution. Chambers says there were good reasons for that change, but says it's meant fewer psychiatrists. He says I-U is now the nation's largest medical school, yet produces only half a dozen or so psychiatry graduates a year. Since many insurance plans don't cover drug treatment, that steers many medical students into other specialties where they can earn a living.

As rates of opioid use have skyrocketed over the last two decades, he says treatment options have become increasingly inadequate.

Judges spent seven hours in workshops on topics from the physiology of addiction to ways to pursue drug treatment in Indiana jails.

Indiana Chief Justice Loretta Rush, who convened the summit, co-chairs a national judges' task force on opioids.