A state-sponsored effort to address Tennessee’s spiraling rate of prescription drug abuse comes to East Tennessee today as part of a statewide tour. Tennessee’s Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Commissioner Doug Varney and other addiction experts have been traveling the state this summer to draw attention to what they’re calling an “epidemic”, while highlighting specific strategies designed to bring it under control.
A report released earlier this summer suggests nearly five percent of Tennesseans used prescription pain relievers like Xanax, Vicodin and OxyContin in 2012 for non-medical purposes. That increase in prescription drug abuse has resulted in a 40 percent rise in the number of emergency room visits for drug poisoning since 2005. Meanwhile, the number of fatal drug overdoses in Tennessee has risen 220 percent since 1999 so that it now eclipses the number of auto accident deaths each year.
The strategic plan to address the problem includes a variety of initiatives:
- Decrease the number of Tennesseans that abuse controlled substances.
- Decrease the number of Tennesseans who overdose on controlled substances.
- Decrease the amount of controlled substances dispensed in Tennessee.
- Increase access to drug disposal outlets in Tennessee.
- Increase access and quality of early intervention, treatment and recovery services.
- Expand collaborations and coordination among state agencies.
- Expand collaboration and coordination with other states.