Help for Tennessee Youth Abusing Prescription Drugs

Wednesday, November 19, 2014 | 09:37am

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (TDMHSAS) is teaming up with community anti-drug coalitions across a 10-county region of East Tennessee in an effort to reduce the number of young people who are abusing prescription drugs.

To help achieve this goal, TDMHSAS has secured nearly $7 million dollars in federal grant funds to engage with young people through public awareness campaigns and community-based prevention and enforcement efforts over a five-year period.

“Our objective is to reduce the abuse of prescription drugs by the 12 to 25 year old age group by more than four percent,” said E. Douglas Varney, Commissioner, TDMHSAS. “If we’re successful, that will add up to thousands of young lives saved from disastrous consequences. We owe it to them, their families, and communities to do all we can.”

The 10 counties to be targeted include: Anderson, Blount, Hamilton, Jackson, Johnson, Knox, Putnam, Smith, Sullivan, and Washington. These counties represent 41% of Tennessee’s population.

Working through established anti-drug coalitions, Tennesseans in the targeted counties will experience grassroots efforts to change public policy as it relates to local, county,  and city government ordinances and law enforcement procedures toward prescription drug use and abuse.

Count it – Lock it – Drop it

To help ensure the proper storage and disposal of prescription drugs, the prevention effort will include increasing the availability and use of home lock boxes and drug take-back boxes. Pharmacies and law enforcement agencies also will be established locations for the safe disposal of unused prescriptions.

Access to drug removal options and working with physicians and pharmacists to better manage prescribing practices will further help to reduce availability and abuse.

“The abuse of prescription drugs by teenagers and young adults, primarily in Tennessee’s eastern counties, is at epidemic proportions,” said Commissioner Varney. “Our goal over the next five years is to significantly reduce the level of prescription drug abuse by our young people, and in doing so; we can help more of them reach their full potential and change the landscape for future generations of Tennesseans.”


In order to reach the targeted 12-25 year olds, the prevention effort will lean heavily on social media. There will be social media campaigns, social marketing campaigns, social norms marketing campaigns, and efforts to provide other social alternatives.

“The internet and social media offer young people many services to educate and empower themselves and each other,” said Rod Bragg, TDMHSAS Assistant Commissioner for Substance Abuse. “Social media is second nature to them and our hope is they will be open to this message and join in a conversation with us about the dangers of abusing prescription drugs.”

The mission of the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services is to plan for and promote the availability of a comprehensive array of quality prevention, early intervention, treatment, habilitation and rehabilitation services and supports based on the needs and choices of individuals and families served. For more information, visit

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