The state of Tennessee has one of the worst methamphetamine and prescription-drug addiction issues in the nation. The recent crackdowns on the illicit operations in Tennessee have yet to relieve the pressure felt by the law enforcement agencies, prisons and jails within the state.
Although the overall crime rate has dropped over the last four years, drug crimes are more prevalent than they have been in over a decade. This increase occurred despite the state having toughened the laws that govern the ability to prescribe and dispense painkillers. They have also done anything and everything to crush the production of meth.
Mobile Meth Labs
The meth producers do not seem to be as brainless as was thought. They have discarded their old meth-house practices and now use smaller, mobile meth labs. These labs may only operate for a couple days before moving on. Meth is not the only problem in Tennessee, prescription drugs are also a major concern.
In 2011, the top ten medical prescribers in Tennessee wrote scripts for over 20 million doses of the restricted pain medications.
Drug, Dose & Street Value Breakdown for Tennessee
- 15 mg tablet – 367,097 doses
- $2.2 million to $9.2 million
Hydrocodone bitartrate & acetaminophen
- 10mg/500mg tablet – 947,891 doses
- $3.8 million to $8.5 million
- 10 mg tablet – 539,560 doses
- $3.8 million
- 80 mg tablet, extended release – 66,420 doses
- $5.3 million
Street Values According to the Tennessee Drug Diversion Task Force @ http://www.tndrugdiversion.org
These are just a sampling of the medications prescribed and their values. The amount of medications prescribed put Tennessee amid the top states in the U.S. for a variety of things including:
- Number of prescriptions written
- Hydrocodone and oxycodone sales
- Number of deaths due to drug overdose
Abusers are increasingly finding their fix in their medicine cabinets. Young kids, exposed to Oxycontin and hydrocodone, are being seen at rehabilitation centers. When these children can no longer obtain enough of these medications at home, they begin buying these pills from dealers.
Tennessee has had a drug-monitoring database up and running for approximately five years now. However, only one third of the doctors in the state are registered to use it and not all of them check it regularly.
Now, Tennessee is at the top of the list for being one of the first states that will require doctors to refer to a drug-monitoring database prior to prescribing pain medication as part of a new treatment. This law is set to go into effect in April of 2013.
Pharmacists will also be required to upload prescription information much more frequently. Currently, they are required to upload every 30 days and once the law takes effect, it will be every seven. This allows the state’s officials to determine which physicians are prescribing the most painkillers.
Bill Gibbons, who is the commissioner of the state Department of Safety & Homeland Security and helped to create the bill stated, “This is landmark legislation that can be a model for the nation — it puts Tennessee in the forefront of addressing this issue.”
Are doctors overburdened?
Some critics have stated that the law puts more of a burden on all the doctors, rather than just targeting the few who carelessly overprescribe. While others think, the law needs to go a step further, pointing out clear rules for enforcement and/or penalties.
Dr. John Blake is a pain management doctor in Chattanooga, Tennessee, who already does everything the law requires. He said that, “It’s a step in the right direction — I think it’s another good step, but I don’t think it goes far enough.” He continued, “It may be a bit of a hassle for doctors, but it’s a small price to pay.”
The hope is that doctors will become more aware of the number of prescriptions they are writing. This will make it easier for them to spot the patients who are ‘doctor-shopping’ to purchase medication to either resell or feed their own addiction.