Tennessee Joins Neighboring States to Fight Prescription Drug AbuseThursday, August 25, 2011 | 12:53 pm
NASHVILLE – In an effort to fight prescription drug abuse and misuse in Tennessee, representatives from the Governor’s Office, Department of Safety and Homeland Security, and the Department of Mental Health on Wednesday attended the first meeting of the Interstate Prescription Drug Task Force in Ashland, Ky. Tennessee joins Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia in forming a multi-state alliance to fight prescription drug abuse on several fronts.
Law enforcement officials consider prescription drug abuse an increasing problem in Tennessee, which consistently ranks as one of the top states in the country for the use of prescribed medications. According to the Tennessee Drug Diversion Task Force, in 2009 Tennessee ranked second in the nation with 17.3 retail prescriptions written per person compared with a national average of 12.0. Since 2008 the top three controlled substances prescribed in Tennessee have been the pain medications Hydrocodone, Alprazolam, and Oxycodone.
Another problem is Tennessee’s close proximity to other states. Tennessee borders eight states, and five major interstates run through it, making it a major drug trafficking corridor.
Department of Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons believes it is imperative to join other states to fight prescription drug abuse. “This is a battle Tennessee can’t fight by itself. We are seeing an increasing number of prescription drugs coming in from other states on our interstates, especially I-75. We must join forces with neighboring states to fight this problem head on,” Commissioner Gibbons said. Gibbons heads the Governor’s public safety sub-cabinet working group which is developing a statewide plan to tackle several public safety concerns, including prescription drug abuse.
At Wednesday’s meeting, representatives from each state discussed prescription drug monitoring, treatment for addiction, educational strategies, and accurate data collection. Further meetings will include discussions on multi-state goals and initiatives to curb the influx of illegal prescription drugs as well as ways to better share information and resources between the states.
The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security’s mission is (www.TN.Gov/safety) to ensure the safety and general welfare of the public. The department encompasses the Tennessee Highway Patrol, Office of Homeland Security and Driver License Services. General areas of responsibility include law enforcement, safety education, motorist services and terrorism prevention.