There can be little debate that one of the nation's most pressing health crises is prescription drug abuse. Indeed, a person needn't have done anything more than scan the newspaper headlines over the last few years to understand that it's not just addiction rates that have skyrocketed across the U.S., but also the number of fatal overdoses.
The problem is particularly pronounced here in Tennessee, where the fatality rate from prescription drug overdoses is the 12th highest in the nation. Indeed, prescription drugs are responsible for more deaths in the Volunteer State every year than homicides, suicides or car accidents.
As distressing as these figures are, the good news is that state officials are reporting real progress in the fight against prescription drug abuse. Perhaps even better news is that these efforts are not overly reliant on putting people behind bars.
For instance, one state initiative that has proven highly successful in stemming the availability of highly addictive prescription drugs, reducing the practice of doctor shopping and helping save lives is the Controlled Substances Monitoring Database program.
Introduced in 2012, the program mandates that pharmacists must enter prescriptions for certain painkillers and sedatives into a centralized database maintained by the state, and that physicians must run a patient's name through the database prior to prescribing any of these medications. Failure to comply with these mandates can result in disciplinary action, including the loss of a license.
According to state officials, the incidence of doctor shopping, meaning when patients struggling with addiction attempt to secure prescriptions from multiple providers, has decreased by a whopping 51 percent since 2012.
It's worth noting that further change is on the horizon in the summer of 2016, as the law will require for the first time that all senior medical officers at the state's nearly 300 pain clinics be pain specialists.
This reality coupled with the recent revelation in the National Survey on Drug Use and Health that abuse of prescription painkillers by both teens and young adults here in Tennessee has declined by 25 percent and 29 percent, respectively, is incredibly encouraging. Here's hoping we continue this momentum.
If you have been arrested on drug charges related to the illegal possession of prescription drugs, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional who can help you explore all of your options, including treatment as an alternative to incarceration.