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by Joseph Branco


October 10, 2004

In response to Mr. Beaupre's emotional letter regarding Oxycontin abuse in Ketchikan, I must reject the apparent blame he has unfairly attributed to the medical community in our small town. As a proud member of the health community, I find it insulting that recent tragedies dare be attributed to our hard working doctors without sufficient research to backup such flagrant accusations.

As a former drug prevention educator in Ketchikan, I am aware of the abuse that takes place with regards to Oxcontin. Losing a young person to these drugs is a tragedy. I am disturbed by the circumstances surrounding the death. However, I must disagree with your conclusion that the doctors who prescribe Oxycontins are to blame. In all of my research into Oxcodone, I have found it to have a legitimate clinical use. In fact, the limited side effects make it an appropriate prescription for various diagnoses. Despite the recent attempts to hold the drug company responsible for abuse of its product, the fact remains is that Oxycontins, when prescribed by a licensed physician and used appropriately by patients, is an enormously effective medication. The success of the medication has led to its abuse. As this wonder drug has solidified its place in medicine, drug dealers have found a way to exploit its availability and its purpose. Blaming doctors is extremely unfair. You demand that doctors find another painkiller to replace Oxycontins. What then? Do you really think that the illegal drug trade will disappear? It will latch on to the next pill and the next and the next. Illegal drug dealers sell Prozac, Vicodin, Xanax, etc. Should we ban all of these prescriptions as well because young people are abusing them? Or should we focus attention on the real problem involving personal responsibility?

Wayne, I am so proud to see that you have a heart. It moves me that you really care about the youth in this community. Although I disagree with attributing the blame on the medical community in Ketchikan, I understand your desperation in light of this tragedy. I am not teaching this year because drug prevention has been cut from the borough's budget. I would be lying if I did not say that I believe that was a mistake. However, as a community, the best thing we can do is focus on nurturing a healthy community through solid drug warning in the home. The young people of Ketchikan should decide for themselves to resist drugs and keep it out of their schools.

My deepest regrets go to the family and friends involved in this latest tragedy.

Joseph Branco
Ketchikan, AK - USA


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