Reducing Substance Abuse in Middle Tennessee: An Expert's Perspective

Substance abuse and substance use disorders are a major public health issue in Middle Tennessee, with more than 5% of the population, or around 400,000 people, using or abusing alcohol or drugs. This has caused a range of social and health problems, including car accidents, crimes, injuries, reduced quality of life, and too many deaths. To tackle this issue, it is essential to expand access to evidence-based treatments for people with addictions and also with less serious substance use disorders. However, broader prevention programs and policies are also needed.

The Tennessee Prevention Network (TPN) is comprised of 19 agencies in the state that provide substance abuse prevention education. Companies can take steps to ensure that the public is aware of the risks associated with substance use, including the use of potentially addictive medications alone and in combination with alcohol or other drugs. Teachers, teachers, and school counselors can also play an important role in teaching students about the health consequences of substance use and misuse and about substance use disorders as medical conditions. Professional associations can also help by establishing guidelines for the workforce, advocating for curriculum changes in vocational schools, promoting continuing education vocational training, and developing evidence-based guidelines that describe best practices for the prevention, detection and evaluation, brief interventions, diagnosis and treatment of substance-related health problems. BlueCross also has programs to support members affected by substance use disorder. It is important to note that we still don't fully understand how brain changes related to substance use disorders occur, how individual biological and environmental risk factors contribute to those changes, or to what extent these brain changes are reversed after long periods of abstinence from alcohol or drug use.

More research is needed to understand how the use of these substances affects the brain and body, in order to help develop effective treatments for overdose, the control of withdrawal and addiction, as well as to explore possible therapeutic uses. People with substance use disorders at all levels of severity can benefit from treatment. Research shows that integrating substance use disorder treatment into conventional medical care can improve the quality of treatment services. It is also important to eliminate many of the deep-seated but incorrect stereotypes about substance abuse and substance use disorders. The public health-based approach requested in this report aims to address the broad individual, environmental and social factors that influence substance abuse and its consequences. This approach can prevent the onset of substance use or its increase into a disorder and therefore may reduce the number of people affected by these conditions; may shorten the duration of illness in people who already have a disorder; and may reduce the number of deaths related to substance use.

Herbert Denbow
Herbert Denbow

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