Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Pat Tucci, August 20, 2018

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:00 - Bluegrass.org opens opioid addiction treatment program in 1975

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Partial Transcript: It is August 20th, 2018.

Segment Synopsis: Pat Tucci describes the opening of the Narcotics Farm in Lexington in the 1930s, the first treatment program for opioids in the country. She talks about her role as the director of several substance abuse treatment programs, working her way up from the start of her career as a nurse. She talks about how over the course of her many decades in the field, each person continues to have their own story, and about how she hopes the decrease in stigma will encourage more people to seek treatment. Tucci also talks about the recent emergence of peer support specialists, individuals who have been in long-term recovery that work with other individuals new to recovery.

Keywords: Lexington (Ky.); Narcotics Farm; Opioid addiction; Recovery

Subjects: Addiction in America; Opioid abuse

00:12:43 - Facilitating an adoption for a client

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Partial Transcript: But I had mentioned this story to you the one time about the woman that came to me and she, um, was pregnant with her fourth child.

Segment Synopsis: Tucci tells the story of a young woman who had given birth to two children while using opioids. When she found out she was pregnant a third time, she came to Tucci to ask for help giving up the baby for adoption. She wanted her unborn child to have a better life, and she especially wanted the child to have a large family, with both parents and grandparents. Tucci helped her through the adoption process, and they found a couple that had been unable to have children. Tucci stayed with her in the hospital during labor, cut the baby’s cord, and handed the newborn over to its adoptive parents. Tucci recounts the sadness, strength, and selflessness of this mother, to want to give her baby a better life.

Keywords: Adoption; Bluegrass.org; Foster care; Opioid use; Pregnancy

Subjects: Addiction in America; Intravenous drug abuse; Opioid abuse

00:21:56 - High rates of intravenous drug use

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Partial Transcript: Did you notice any kind of trends in terms of women who were pregnant and using in terms of pre-2012 when people were...

Segment Synopsis: Tucci discusses how up until the last few years most people were eating or snorting prescription painkillers, but now it seems as through almost everyone entering Bluegrass.org for treatment is intravenously using opioids. Tucci explains that not only is it more expensive to get pills, because of House Bill 1, people are no longer able to get a huge run of pills at once. Because heroin is cheaper, people will go the cheaper route; it's all pathology, Tucci says.

Keywords: Bluegrass.org; Lexington (Ky.); Narcotics addiction programs; Opioid use

Subjects: Addiction in America; Intravenous drug abuse; Opioid abuse

00:25:39 - Unforeseen consequences of passing laws to curb the opioid epidemic

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Partial Transcript: Um, I just had a question.

Segment Synopsis: Tucci discusses the unintended consequences of shutting down the pill mills and making it harder to access prescription pills, in particular, the resurgence of Hepatitis C and HIV diagnoses. She says that prevention is the only way that the generational cycle of the opioid epidemic can be broken.

Keywords: Bluegrass.org; Lexington (Ky.); Opioid use

Subjects: Addiction in America; Intravenous drug abuse; Opioid abuse

00:28:08 - Overprescribing and dealing with pain

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Partial Transcript: Now we have noticed that physicians are, you know--their prescribing habits--and there are laws that have been changed...

Segment Synopsis: Tucci discusses the disconcerting ongoing problem of the overprescribing of painkillers by doctors, and tells the story of how her 90-year-old mother was prescribed painkillers that she had to refuse, even after telling the doctor that her pain level was a 3 out of a scale from 1-10. She stresses that when used appropriately, painkillers can be an excellent way to treat pain, but that often the individual circumstances of each individual person are overlooked. She also discusses the CASPER reporting system, where doctors can go into a database and see what medications a person has been prescribed.

Keywords: Bluegrass.org; Over-prescribing; Prescription painkillers

Subjects: Addiction in America; Opioid abuse

00:37:53 - Medication-assisted treatment

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Partial Transcript: I understand that Bluegrass.org is a proponent of medication-assisted treatment.

Segment Synopsis: Tucci discusses the stigma behind medication-assisted treatment. She also acknowledges that therapy has to be the first and foremost component of treatment, and explains how taking medications like buprenorphine and suboxone can prevent patients from becoming sick from withdrawal. She explains that at Bluegrass.org, medicated-assisted treatment is conducted alongside therapy and drug testing.

Keywords: Bluegrass.org; Buprenorphine; Harm reduction; Lexington (Ky.); Medication-assisted treatment

Subjects: Addiction in America; Opioid abuse

00:42:26 - New trend: Transitioning into treatment programs from prison

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Partial Transcript: So what we have seen, and this is true in detention centers as well, that they get out, they return and if they've been incarcerated...

Segment Synopsis: Tucci discusses how Bluegrass.org has been working to connect their treatment programs with prisons, spreading the word among people who are incarcerated, letting them know that if they get out of jail and immediately go back to doing the same amount of opioids they were doing before incarceration, they might overdose.

Keywords: Bluegrass.org; Drug overdoses; Lexington (Ky.); Opioid use; Prisons

Subjects: Addiction in America

00:44:10 - Friends and family's perception of working in substance abuse recovery

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Partial Transcript: Um, I have one last question for you.

Segment Synopsis: Tucci talks about what it's like to work in substance abuse recovery; about how wherever she goes, someone is always contacting her, asking her if they can refer her to a friend of a friend, or for help or advice with a personal situation or a family member dealing with substance abuse. She says that she's been reached through Facebook and other ways. Tucci says that she is constantly advocating for what she does, and for her clients, and talks about how her husband and son have developed an understanding of the nature of addiction because of her work.

Keywords: Bluegrass.org; Family; Lexington (Ky.); Opioid abuse

Subjects: Addiction in America; Opioid abuse