Prescription drug abuse epidemic in Tennessee

Local leaders are trying to come up with strategies to deal with prescription drug abuse. They came together at UTC to talk about the problem.

Paul Fuchcar, CADAS Executive Director CADAS said, "While you all were having your first cup of coffee at 6am, 94 people, 94 citizens of Tennessee woke up at CADAS desperately trying to grab hold of a program of recovery." Those 94 people are not alone.  Prescription drug abuse impacts Tennessee families and communities at an alarming rate. Douglas Varney, Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Commissioner said, "The shear number of people that we think are caught up in prescription drug addiction are more than 220-thousand last year used these drugs improperly, and we think another 60-thousand are actually addicted to these medications."

Not only adults, but it is estimated that nearly 3-thousand children between the ages of 12 and 17 in Hamilton county alone had a dependence to drugs this past year. Varney said, "We want to really limit the number of these medications that are improperly used in our state narcotics particularly." Varney says where the drugs come from is scary.He said, "Its really not going down the street corner. People weren’t out partying. Many cases they had a legitimate medical issue. They became addicted before they realized it because poor medical management or in some cases they got it from a family or friend."

Local leaders say work is being done in Chattanooga to reduce the issue. Organizations like CADAS provide a 12 step recovery plan and for those who can’t afford those avenues can get involved in a new initiative called the life liner program. Varney said, "We have 39 coalitions across the state of Tennessee. Local communities and individuals are involved in trying to get the word out and educate people to help prevent the problem and prevent it from growing."

There are 4 permanent prescription drug take back boxes located in Hamilton county. The following locations can be found at: Chattanooga Police Department, 3404 Amnicola Highway; Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department East Sector, 8395 Hickory Valley Road; Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department West Sector, 6233 Dayton Boulevard; and the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department has a portable device for the school system.

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