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Thursday, June 5, 2014

Tennessee Prescription Drug Abuse Plan

The state of Tennessee has been battling prescription drug abuse for some time now and Gov. Bill Haslam will announce a plan to deal with the ever growing problem, according to the Tennessean. There is an estimated 69,100 people with serious addiction problems related to prescription drugs and the state ranks second in the nation for per-capita opioid use.

While the details of the plan have yet to be unveiled, there are many experts who fear that a campaign against prescription opioids will drive addicts towards heroin, considering that some prescription drug abusers are already turning to heroin as a cheaper and stronger high.

 “Generally, someone will go in with chronic pain and start with a prescription drug,” said Dr. Terry Alley with Cumberland Heights. “As tolerance develops, they need more and more. They can’t get enough and they will switch over to heroin because it is cheaper and more available. That is a typical pattern that we see.”

The prescription drug epidemic is a nationwide problem and data from states that have gone after prescription opioid abuse have all seen a rise in heroin use. JAMA Psychiatry recently published an article on this very subject; researchers from Washington University in St. Louis found that 75 percent of today’s heroin users were first introduced to opioids through prescription drugs.

“We found that heroin use is not simply an inner-city problem among minority populations but now extends to white, middle-class people living outside of large urban areas, and these recent users exhibit the same drug use patterns as those abusing prescription opioids,” say Washington University professors.

The nationwide battle against prescription opioid abuse has turned into a real “catch 22” and there doesn't seem to be a viable solution to the problem. It will be interesting to see how the upcoming Tennessee plan plays out.

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