Statewide Plan To Target Prescription Drug Abuse Focuses On Treatment

Nationwide, more than half of people who abuse prescription painkillers get drugs free from friends or relatives, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Credit: Sharyn Morrow via Flickr

Nationwide, more than half of people who are abusing prescription painkillers get them for free from friends or relatives, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Credit: Sharyn Morrow via Flickr

Gov. Bill Haslam says Tennessee’s prescription drug abuse problem has reached epidemic proportions. He says doctors are overprescribing, but most abusers are getting painkillers for free from friends or relatives.

“Obviously it’s a serious problem in Tennessee when one out of every 20 adults has used prescription drugs that weren’t prescribed for them for medical reasons,” Haslam says.

The governor on Tuesday announced a plan to target over-prescribers and get abusers treatment. The recommendations included increasing regulations on pain clinics, revising a law that currently gives some patients guaranteed access to painkillers, and adding funding for drug courts throughout the state. They send non-violent drug offenders to long-term treatment, rather than jail.

The plan also recommends providing specialized treatment for mothers who are addicted to painkillers. This proposal comes months after Haslam signed a bill that criminalizes pregnant women who harm their fetus by illegally using drugs without getting treatment.

The governor said at the time that he wanted doctors to encourage expecting mothers to get treatment so they could avoid criminal charges. Opponents said the law would scare women away from seeking help.