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Prescription Drug Abuse Tops Alcohol Abuse in Tennessee

Thursday, August 28, 2014 | 10:55am

NASHVILLE – Abuse of prescription opioids, ie: pain medications, is the number one drug problem for Tennesseans receiving publicly funded assistance for treatment services. Over the past decade, substance abuse admissions for prescription drugs like: hydrocodone, oxycodone, morphine, and methadone have increased 500%.

The situation has dramatically driven admissions to treatment facilities way up, from 764 in 2001 to 3,828 admissions in 2011.  

 “As of July 1, 2012, the number of admissions in our state for prescription drug abuse exceeded admissions for alcohol abuse for the first time in history,” said E. Douglas Varney, Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (TDMHSAS).

According to a 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, more than 4% of Tennessean’s over the age of 18 and approximately 12% of 18 to 25 year olds reported using pain relievers recreationally in the past year.

“Many people needing substance abuse treatment are not getting the help they need,” said Commissioner Varney. “And of the number of Tennesseans who could benefit from treatment, only about one person in eight actually received it.”

Treatment is effective and saves money

Substance abuse treatment offers both a benefit to those who receive it and a savings to communities.

“The greatest savings is a reduction in the cost of crime for law enforcement, general healthcare costs, court and victimization costs and increased employer earnings,” said Commissioner Varney. “And the gain can also be measured in lives saved from a premature death.”

In 2010, Tennessee’s 1,059 recorded drug-overdose deaths add up to an estimated 7,000 years of life lost, and a loss of earnings of approximately $238 million.

“We all pay a price when someone needing substance abuse treatment doesn’t get the help they need,” said Commissioner Varney.        

During the months of June, July and August the TDMHSAS has put the spotlight on the serious epidemic of prescription drug use through the roll out of Prescription for Success: Statewide Strategies to Prevent and Treat the Prescription Drug Abuse Epidemic in Tennessee.

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