Tennessee's pain pill epidemic can be measured in alarming statistics about the rise and frequency of prescriptions, reports The Tennessean. Families count a different toll: loved ones dead from overdoses or in a downward spiral of addiction to such drugs as hydrocodone and oxycodone. Lawmakers and state officials are hurrying to address the problem with expanded regulations, including a proposal from Gov. Bill Haslam that would require doctors and pharmacists to consult a controlled substance database before writing or dispensing such prescriptions.
The death rate for drug overdoses has nearly tripled to 16 deaths per 100,000 people in Tennessee since 1999. The conundrum facing law enforcement is that those taking the drugs aren't the typical abusers. The drugs aren't being dealt on the street, and the users have prescriptions written by doctors, often in pain clinics, and distributed by pharmacists.