The Fentanyl Crisis & How Conservatorships Can Help
Dec. 7, 2022
Opioid abuse is still with us and grows worse with the increased prevalence of fentanyl and fentanyl-laced drugs. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 107,375 people in the United States died from drug overdoses and drug poisonings in the 12-month period ending in January 2022. A staggering 67 percent of those deaths involved synthetic opioids like fentanyl.
The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) became so concerned that it even declared May 10 to be National Fentanyl Awareness Day. The agency warned that “many overdose victims have no idea they are taking fentanyl until it’s too late” because fentanyl is being mixed with other types of drugs in both pill and powder form.
Outside of the illicit drug trade, many people get hooked on opioids through prescriptions from their doctors. In addition to fentanyl and morphine, painkilling medicines prescribed by doctors, such as codeine, methadone, Vicodin, Oxy-Contin, oxycodone, and hydrocodone, can lead to addiction in certain people. When people get hooked and can’t get new prescriptions, they often turn to the street trade and then may switch to heroin, which is cheaper.
If you have a family member or loved one who is abusing opioids with disastrous results to their daily life in or around Nashville, Tennessee, or anywhere in Rutherford County, contact the legal team at Brazil Clark, PLLC. Depending on the circumstances, there may be a need to consider petitioning the courts for a conservatorship for the suffering individual.
Signs and Effects of Opioid Abuse
People can become addicted to opioids because of the “high” they produce. The drugs may initially be prescribed to treat pain resulting from injuries or other medical conditions, but even if the pain disappears, the urge to restore the “high” can grip the individual. Soon, they may go doctor shopping to get new prescriptions or even resort to street drugs, which can be highly deadly because they are often laced with fentanyl.
Initially, the symptoms of opioid use include drowsiness, constipation, euphoria, nausea, vomiting, slowed breathing, and more. As use turns into abuse – which is called opioid use disorder – the symptoms can get more serious.
Abusers will likely become isolated from family and friends. They may even steal from those closest to them to support their habit. Worse, if they try to withdraw from their dependency, they can become overwhelmed by cravings and sweating. Though the abuser may understand the need to get off the opioids, he or she may succumb to the need for more.
What Is a Conservatorship?
A conservatorship is a legal approach to helping adult individuals who are disabled or unable to make sound health or financial decisions for themselves.
Anyone with knowledge of the person’s circumstances, usually a spouse or family member, can petition the nearest probate court, which in Tennessee is usually the Chancery Court, to appoint a conservator to oversee that person’s decision-making. The spouse is usually the most likely candidate to be a conservator, but it can also be another family member, and in some circumstances, even someone outside the family structure.
In Tennessee, there are two types of conservatorships: a full conservatorship and a limited conservatorship. A full conservatorship means the conservator is given the right to make all life decisions for the person who is being looked after, legally termed the ward.
A limited conservatorship restricts the conservator to making only some decisions for the ward. These two types are also often referred to as “conservatorship of the person,” or full rights, and “conservatorship of the property,” meaning financial matters only.
If your family member or loved one is both abusing opioids and also destroying their financial circumstances, then a full conservatorship might be in order. If the person is only in need of solid medical decision-making – treatment for the disorder – then a limited conservatorship might be called for.
Why a Conservatorship for an Opioid Abuser?
Obviously, seeking a conservatorship over a family member or loved one is a huge step, legally and otherwise. The conservator will be able to make decisions for the ward regarding all health and/or financial matters. This, unfortunately, in some cases, might be the only way to prevent the opioid abuser from further unfortunate consequences, possibly even including the loss of their financial survival or very life.
If you can’t convince your family member or loved one to seek the treatment and rehabilitation services they need, you may have no choice but to seek a legal way to make those decisions for them. The route for this is through a conservatorship.
Filing for a Conservatorship
If you see the need for a conservatorship for someone you care about, you need to consult with an experienced conservatorship attorney. The process can be time-consuming and complex.
Tennessee law follows what is called “the best interest standard,” so you will have to prove that the suspected abuser’s best interest will be served by a conservatorship. You will have to show through a physician’s statement that the person is not capable of making decisions and needs a conservator.
Rely on Brazil Clark, PLLC
In Nashville and Rutherford County, if you have a family member or loved one who is abusing opioids, including fentanyl (the deadliest), contact Brazil Clark, PLLC.
Attorney Frank Brazil will answer your questions and treat your concerns with ultimate compassion. He will present you with all your options going forward so you can make an educated and appropriate decision. He will then help you petition for and substantiate the need for a conservatorship if that is what’s called for.