Prescription Drug Abuse Statistics in Tennessee

If you’re a Tennessee resident, you may be interested to know the prescription drug abuse statistics for your area. Prescription drug abuse is on the rise in the United States, but every state, county and neighborhood deals with varying degrees of the problem. Here’s what you need to know about prescription drug abuse statistics in Tennessee.

The Tennessee Drug Climate

According to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, 80% of crimes that occur in Tennessee are drug-related. While alcohol use in Tennessee has steadily declined since 1992, prescription opioid abuse has increased. Tennessee has the third-highest prescription drug abuse problem in the United States and research has shown that all demographics are affected by prescription drug abuse. Of the people who are using prescription drugs for non-medical purposes, 70% get their supply from a friend or family member. Approximately 17% get their drugs through a legitimate prescription from a doctor and 4.4% buy them from a drug dealer or stranger. Hydrocodone, oxycodone and alprazolam (Xanax) are the most frequently abused prescription drugs in Tennessee and the rate at which these drugs are being dispensed is increasing every year. Other commonly abused prescription drugs include zolpidem, tramadol, clonazepam, lorazepam, diazepam, buprenorphine and morphine products.

A New Threat on Tennessee Streets

One of the biggest drug concerns for Tennessee law enforcement is fentanyl. Fentanyl is a prescription narcotic that is used to treat severe pain. Fentanyl is highly addictive and an amount the size of three grains of sand can be lethal. And because fentanyl can be absorbed through the skin, just touching the drug can kill. Narcotics investigators recently have found fentanyl in some highly irregular places. Not only is heroin use on the rise in Tennessee, but law enforcement officials are finding heroin supplies laced with fentanyl. Fentanyl is far more potent than heroin and is often cheaper and easier to get, so drug dealers are puffing up their heroin supplies with deadly fentanyl doses. Law enforcement agents have also found that dealers are counterfeiting oxycodone, a commonly abused prescription pain medication. What dealers are passing off as oxycodone — with the same stamps, size and color as real oxycodone — is actually fentanyl.

What’s Being Done

The Tennessee state government considers prescription drug offenses a top priority. The 2012-2015 Public Safety Action Plan suggested 11 new initiatives for fighting drug crime (compared to just five initiatives for curbing violent crime and two for cutting the rate of repeat offenders). The primary goal is to reduce the number of Tennesseans who abuse controlled substances. Secondary goals include reducing overdoses, decreasing the amount of prescription drugs that are being dispensed, increasing access to drug disposal facilities around Tennessee, and increasing the quality and availability of intervention and substance abuse treatment programs. To achieve these goals, several Tennessee agencies are working together, including the General Assembly, the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, the Tennessee Highway Patrol and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. The Tennessee Prescription Safety Act of 2016 requires drug prescribers to check a patient’s name against a prescription drug database to ensure the patient hasn’t collected the same or similar prescription from other providers recently. There are also now 144 permanent prescription drug collection locations around Tennessee where residents can return their unused prescription drugs for safe disposal. The penalties for doctor-shopping (i.e., trying to find a doctor who will prescribe the desired drugs) have also been increased. Prescription drug abuse statistics show that prescription drug use is on the rise in Tennessee. New threats are causing serious public health and safety concerns that law enforcement agencies are working tirelessly to combat.   Sources Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. (2016). Drugs. Tennessee Department of Mental Health & Substance Abuse Services. (2016). Prescription for Success Quarterly Report: January 2016. Tennessee Department of Mental Health & Substance Abuse Services. (2016). 2016-2018 Public Safety Action Plan. Tennessee Department of Mental Health & Substance Abuse Services. (2016). Prescription for Success: Data Indicators.

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