Substance Abuse in Middle Tennessee: A Growing Crisis

Concerns about substance abuse in Middle Tennessee are not limited to illegal narcotics. Prescription drug abuse is causing increasingly serious problems in the state, with Tennessee ranking third in the country for prescription drug misuse. Studies show that around 5% of Tennesseans used painkillers last year for non-medical purposes, and more than 70% of those who used prescription drugs for non-medical reasons obtained them from a friend or family member. The consequences of prescription drug abuse in the state are devastating, including overdose deaths, rising hospital costs and emergency room visits, the detention of children in state custody, and incarceration for drug-related crimes.

Opioids are responsible for many people becoming addicted to prescription painkillers such as OxyContin and Vicodin. Pharmaceutical companies had promoted these drugs as harmless and non-addictive, even when patients who used them for legitimate medical reasons were trapped in the cycle of addiction. Small rural communities have been particularly affected by the opioid addiction crisis. As these statistics demonstrate, drug abuse, addiction, and overdose deaths are still major issues in Tennessee.

In fact, the economic impact of early loss of life due to substance abuse overdoses is still being debated. To help combat this problem, Tennessee doctors should consult the Controlled Substance Monitoring Database (CSMD) before prescribing controlled substances, especially opioids and benzodiazepines. Additionally, about one-third of patients who enter substance abuse treatment seek help for both drugs and alcohol. Since 80% of crimes in Tennessee have a drug-related link, it is essential to combat the use and abuse of illegal drugs.

The problem of drug addiction, abuse and overdose in the United States is a public health crisis that has affected every state, devastated communities and left many families struggling. Tennessee's local law enforcement and health agencies have made significant efforts to curb the substance abuse epidemic that persists in the state. While the dangers of illegal drugs and the abuse of legal drugs continue to change, it is up to law enforcement officials — and the public — to remain vigilant in the fight against these substances. Alcohol is still the most commonly abused substance among teenagers and adults in Tennessee.

Despite the increase in opioid addictions, statistics on alcohol abuse have remained stable. Opioids have a high potential for abuse and addiction and are often the substances that people turn to when they can no longer get a prescription from their doctor.

Herbert Denbow
Herbert Denbow

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