Officials hold opioid summit to address ‘spiraling’ heroin problem

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Heroin and opioid use is increasing in the Mid-South, according to experts who treat and prosecute the problem.

About 300 stakeholders came together for the Heroin/Opioid Training Summit at the Bass Pro Pyramid in Memphis Tuesday.

“We've eclipsed the number of overdose deaths in Memphis and Shelby County that we had last year. It’s on a spiral," said U.S. Attorney Edward Stanton, III.

Officials said opioid abuse cut through communities and across socioeconomic lines.

Doctors, policy makers, prosecutors and law enforcement at the local, state and federal level made up the all-day conference.

“We’re averaging well over one overdose death per week,” Stanton said. “The goal today is training; to provide, equip and inform individuals participating like first responders, health care professionals and law enforcement of what we can do."

Tennessee’s medical director for substance abuse said the first step would be accepting addiction as a medical condition.

“Removing the stigma of people with addiction disease; if we remove the stigma, we get people into treatment,” Dr. Stephen Loyd said.

The U.S. Attorney's Office said it planned to add a special prosecutor for opioid cases on January 1.

Officials said prescription drugs function as a gateway for most heroin addicts.