Tennessee is known for many things, including its Music City. Nashville is home to many well-known country music venues, such as the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, and the beginning of many a country stars. But music isn’t the only thing Nashville, Tennessee is known for. Opiate addiction has been running rampant through the streets of this creative hub for years.
So why is it that of all the drugs available, Nashville seems to lean more toward opiate abuse?
According to an article by The Tennessean, “Tennessee has the second highest rate of prescriptions per person,” second only to West Virginia.
Many of those who are addicted to opiates started out with legal prescriptions for pain management, but whether they were over-prescribed, or simply developed a dependence to them, they find themselves in the throes of addiction.
One of the latest studies conducted on opiate usage in Tennessee in the year 2014 showed some shocking numbers. According to its findings, more people died from a drug overdose than from vehicle accidents or guns, and the number keeps rising. Drug overdose deaths rose from 1,062 in 2011 to 1,263 in 2014 (source: Tennessee Department of Health and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
Recently, police arrested 120 people after an undercover investigation into local drug dealing and prostitution was concluded. During those arrests, over 340 pills were seized by the police over several precincts.
This recent investigation, coupled with Nashville’s Operation Safer Streets, which is an initiative in which a small task force of police looking into claims of drug trafficking and gang violence on the streets, among other things, shows just how much these drugs are impacting the community at large. And, indeed, statistics have shown that those who become dependent on opiates are much more likely to eventually turn to heroin, a cheaper street drug.
The National Geographic published an article in which it claimed, based on different surveys, that part of the reason for the spike of abuse of painkillers in Tennessee was due to the fact that many doctors were coming under scrutiny for under-prescribing painkillers to their patients. In an effort to combat this, doctors started to be more liberal with their prescriptions for those dealing with pain. This, many claim, led to the increase of abuse of opiates and the eventual turn to heroin abuse.
It’s clear that Tennessee has a prescription painkiller problem. Whether it be doctors under or over prescribing it, those with no medical need for it getting it off the streets, those addicted turning to harder drugs, such as heroin, it’s a problem that’s only growing.
Police officers have been working around the clock to try and combat the rise of substance abuse in their cities, but it’s hard when so many are getting their highs from pills prescribed to them, or passed to them by their friends.
It then begs the question: are the police fighting a losing battle against the tide of prescription abuse? And if so, what can we as a society do to help stop the widespread abuse and unnecessary deaths as a result of it?