Opioid Abuse in Tennessee

Wednesday, January 18, 2017 8:27 PM

Tennessee has a major problem with opioid / narcotic drug abuse. Tennessee has the second highest rate of prescriptions written per person, only behind West Virginia.  There are now more Opioid prescriptions than people in the state. 

It’s common enough that there are 1.18 prescriptions for every man, woman and child in the state, 7.8 million prescriptions. Compare this to California at 0.48 per person, or New York at 0.51 per person, something is wrong here. 

In 2011, enough prescriptions were written to give everyone 12 and over 22 pills of xanax, 21 oxycodone, and 51 hydrocodone pills  

We are all aware different people have different needs and problems.  The concern is that most narcotic use is not for acute pain as it is intended, because a percentage of people that take narcotics have a genetic risk for addiction and have difficulty stopping it.  There is no easy test for this, but statistics also show that 1 in 12 workers who were prescribed painkillers for a work-related injury are still taking them 6 months later showing it’s much more risk than people want to admit.  Painkillers hit receptors in the brain that when withdrawn cause severe pain sometimes specific and other times more generalized.  It’s impossible to know that the original problem is now resolved because of the medication effect.  

Prolonged use requires treatment by pain management to continue narcotics, but ideal treatment is to come off the medications with the help of treatment centers designed just for this.  The ultimate is to avoid taking too many pills in the first place, especially if you’ve had issues with them in the past or if it runs in the family. 

Further complicating things are the use of a comprehensive monitoring database that tracks use of controlled drugs.  This database has helped reduce overprescribing opioids, but thjis has created a new problem with heroin use, where people turn when the opioid supply dries up.  Heroin overdoses are the newest epidemic and far more deadly.  It’s important to recognize what leads to this:

Our best plan is to avoid tendency for addiction.  We need to respect the dangers, but treat appropriately.  Try to maintain use under 7 days and the minimal amounts needed reduces risk.  When no longer needed, they should be disposed of to avoid temptation, or allowing them to fall into the wrong hands.   Hendersonville has a drop off site listed at Walgreens Pharmacy on Main Street and Indian Lake.  Other sites are available at TN.gov

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