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Governor lays out plan for 'epidemic' of prescription drug abuse

By Shelby Morris, Producer, smorris@wcyb.com
Published On: Jun 03 2014 04:34:30 PM CDT
Bill Haslam

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam is prescribing a plan to stop what he calls an epidemic of prescription drug abuse.

It's a problem that affects more than 200,000 people in the Volunteer State alone. According to the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, it's a major problem. About 5 percent of the nearly half-million people living in Tennessee have used pain relievers for non-medical purposes -- that's close to a quarter-million people. According to that study, about 69,000 of them are addicted to the opioids

Governor Haslam layed out a plan at a press conference Tuesday called "Prescription for Success." It's a comprehensive, multi-year strategy to fight the epidemic. He says the state must coordinate solutions to stop disastrous consequences. He says, "Obviously, this has impacted our state financially in a lot of ways, but it's also impacting the quality of life. And, because of this situation and what could happen, what you're seeing is a very real and very growing problem in the state of Tennessee."

According to the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, Governor Haslam gave the following steps for the "prescription for Success":
1. Decrease the number of Tennesseans that abuse controlled substances.
2. Decrease the number of Tennesseans who overdose on controlled substances.
3. Decrease the amount of controlled substances dispensed in Tennessee.
4. Increase access to drug disposal outlets in Tennessee.
5. Increase access and quality of early intervention, treatment and recovery services.
6. Expand collaborations and coordination among state agencies.
7. Expand collaboration and coordination with other states.

We spoke with Dr. Raksh Patel in Johnson City, who is part of the Mountain States medical group. He says the problem of opioids is not just costing the state money. Dr. Patel tells us in the last ten years, the overall deaths in Tennessee from overdoses increased 250 percent. He says, "The issue with these medications are you take pills and obviously you don't know the effects until much later. And, if you are taking a lot of it, especially if you are injecting it, it could cause severe problems to your health, even death."

The CDC announced in their latest report that Tennessee's overdose rate for 2010 is over four percent higher than the national average. They also say non-medical use of pain relievers costs the United States' insurance companies up to $72 billion annually in healthcare expenditures.