Prescription Abuse Unseats Alcohol As Tennessee’s Top Drug Problem

According to the CDC, Tennessee sells the second-most kilograms of prescription painkillers. It ranks 13th in the country for its drug overdose death rate.

According to the CDC, Tennessee sells the second-most kilograms of prescription painkillers. It ranks 13th in the country for its drug overdose death rate.

For the first time in Tennessee, more people are heading to rehab for prescription pain killers than for alcohol abuse.

Data from the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services finds admissions for drugs like hydrocodone have spiked 500 percent in the last decade.

Commissioner Doug Varney says the figure surpasses those getting publicly funded assistance for treatment of alcoholism. He says, however, eight times as many people are estimated to need treatment.

Varney is using the increase to advocate for more funding for treatment.

“The greatest savings is a reduction in the cost of crime for law enforcement, general healthcare costs, court and victimization costs and increased employer earnings,” Varney said in a statement. “And the gain can also be measured in lives saved from a premature death.”

Varney points to the earnings potential of those who died early. Looking at the 1,059 drug-overdose deaths in Tennessee from 2010, state officials estimate a combined 7,000 years of life were lost, which totals approximately $238 million in lost earning power.

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