Prescription Drug Abuse Skyrockets in Tennessee

May 24, 2012

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP/WMOT) — Tennessee saw a 23 percent increase last year in the number of prescriptions written for controlled substances.

In spite of efforts to crack down on the state's prescription drug abuse epidemic, a new report shows that nearly 18 million prescriptions for drugs like OxyContin and hydrocodone were dispensed in Tennessee in 2011.

The surging figures in the report to the General Assembly are a setback for Tennessee’s efforts to get a grip on the prescription drug abuse problem. Tennessee has some of the highest prescription drug abuse rates in the country.

Doug Varney is Tennessee’s Commissioner for Mental Health.

“An unfortunate consequence of all this is that we’re having way to many drug overdose deaths in our state. In fact it surpassed car crashes as a cause of death in our state. So it’s a 1059 I think was the number last year.”

Varney says the epidemic is so bad here that officials are now projecting that requests for treatment for pill addiction will overtake that for alcohol by 2013.