Prescription pill abuse is a growing problem in our area, and law enforcement says it hits every age group.
Almost everyone will take some type of prescription pill in their lifetime, but some people will become addicted and others will start selling their extra pills for money. "Prescription drug aversion is probably our number one drug problem," says William Benson, Assistant Director of the TBI.
The pill problem is all across Tennessee, but the numbers increase here in Northeast Tennessee. "Knox County, Sullivan County, and Washington County are the most severe counties in the per capita uses for substance abuse," adds Mitchell Mutter, Medical Director of Special Projects.
Part of that is because of the high number of drugs being prescribed here. We learned in 2010 there were 272 million doses of Hydrocodone prescribed in Tennessee, which is enough to supply 51 doses to every man, woman and child over the age of 12 in the state. "Hyrdocodone, Oxycodone, Oxycontin are highly abused and extremely addictive," says U.S. attorney for East Tennessee Bill Killan.
Prescription drug abuse isn't affecting one age group; it's spread out across the board from the elderly to teens. "When they get some other illness or whatever they may self-medicate, use it when they shouldn't be using it," adds Benson.
The rise in abuse is making the number of overdose deaths increase dramatically. The Centers Disease for Control and Prevention reported in 2012 that every 19 minutes one person dies from an unintentional drug overdose. "We're not going to arrest our way out of this problem," says Benson.
That's why Benson says people from the medical field and law enforcement are coming together to fight the problem by getting people the help they need and warning people about the dangers of some prescription drugs.
Benson says to look for warning signs in people with a prescription pill problem. Those can include multiple trips to the doctor, getting prescriptions refilled before it’s needed, and changes in lifestyle and behavior.