Identifying the Problem

Substance abuse is on the rise

  The uncontrollable escalation of the illegal use of opioids and synthetic opioids within the state of Tennessee is on the rise. This emergence of a systemic drug culture that has now become generational is linked to:  

· Use driven by peer pressure and desire to be accepted by peer group 

· Previous accident that introduced the person to opioids 

· Unfortunate negative event that creates a psychological “root cause” that the individual cannot deal with mentally. 


There are numerous other reasons in addition to these three primary causes that lead people into addiction. The problem seems to be there’s not a cohesive plan to track and intervene with the appropriate program at the correct time to stop the progressive slide that is typical with all addicts.  The rise in opioid addiction and overdose deaths in our state affects countless Tennesseans and communities continue to suffer the consequences of this tragic epidemic. We are committed to offering support and treatment solutions that will help people begin to recover, across Tennessee and beyond. Even though the epidemic is getting national attention, access to care has not been expanded, leaving many people without options.



The number of Tennesseans who died from drug overdoses jumped 12 percent from 2015 to 2016, largely due to growing use of dangerous synthetic opioids. There were at least 1,631 Tennesseans who died in 2016 — up from 1,451 in 2015, according to new figures from the Tennessee Department of Health. However, the number of deaths is likely higher due to inconsistencies in how counties investigate and report deaths. Deaths from fentanyl, synthetic opioids, increased from 169 in 2015 to 294 in 2016, according to state data.

Tennessee confirmed drug overdose deaths and incidence rates per 100,000 people for the last five years are:

2015 1,451 deaths 22.0 rate.

2014 1,263 deaths 19.3 rate.

2013 1,166 deaths 17.9 rate.

2012 1,094 deaths 16.9 rate.

2011 1,062 deaths 16.6 rate.

More than half (55%) of those who abuse painkillers get them from a friend or relative who has a prescription, according to a 2014 report from the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. Seventeen percent have their own prescription.Tennessee has the second highest rate of prescriptions per person. Extra pills can be given away with good intentions, to help someone who has pain or sold person to person in casual, yet illegal, trades. Of the people who are using prescription drugs for non-medical purposes, 70% get their supply from a friend or family member. Approximately 17% get their drugs through a legitimate prescription from a doctor and 4.4% buy them from a drug dealer or stranger. Hydrocodone, oxycodone and alprazolam (Xanax) are the most frequently abused prescription drugs in Tennessee and the rate at which these drugs are being dispensed is increasing every year. 

How Big is Our Drug Problem?

From the years of 1950-2012, America has fought many wars to keep our freedom. Starting with the Korean war and ending with our battles in the Middle East, over 77 years have produced 102,284 total deaths. 

Frequency of death from wars over the last 77 years--1 death every 6.5 days

This is our country's price for freedom.

Recent Drug War Deaths

2015: 51,335

2016: 71,135

Total Drug War Deaths Though the Last 17 Years: 309,003 

3 times the number of war deaths for the last 77 years

At this rate of growth in 2 years, we will have more drug war deaths than in the military war deaths in WWII.

Understanding Addiction

To address the opiate problem in Tennessee, one must start by understanding that there are very different solutions for the very different phases in a person’s progression down the path of addiction. Obviously, prevention through drug education programs, law enforcement, and early intervention work well prior to the person becoming fully addicted to the opiates. Once the individual is addicted, an entirely different set of circumstances and problems create a need for a completely different plan of action and personal solution for each individual addict. There are multiple programs that work well sponsored by private sector, municipalities, and the state of Tennessee. The successful programs offer at the very least the following opportunities for the addict who is participating with that program:

1. Counseling. 

2. Housing that surrounds the recovering addicts with a proper support group. 

3. A year long program to build a foundation of mental strength that the addict may fall back on when adversity and life’s challenges arise again. 

4. Ability for the addict to receive pride and satisfaction (endorphin release) from their successes at work each day. 

5. Development of a new lifestyle and “inner circle” of friends once the addict is again able to perform normally within society’s structures. Programs that do not offer the above five components generally have minimal success. What is needed now is a holistic inclusive plan of actions necessary to turn the tide of addiction in Tennessee. The plan must change the daily habits of the addict, and the first part of the plan is to realize addicts without preexisting mental problems (such as bipolar, etc.) generally fall into four categories:  

Level 1-- Recreational teenage/young adult use 

Level 2-- Functioning addicts- employed/insured and uninsured 

Level 3-- Non-functioning addicts/ uninsured or no deductible monies available 

Level 4-- Violent addicts 

  We have many good programs, but we need a complete plan. An assessment needs to be administered to every addict that will correctly place them in the accurate Level of addiction. After this initial assessment, a personal treatment plan will be implemented and the addict will be placed in the correct level of rehabilitation needed. The plan would be to continue attacking Levels 1, 2, and 4 addicts with present programs and to address the needs of Level 3 addicts with a more defined plan of action. Level 3 addicts usually become level 4 addicts or die from overdose. This plan of action for Level 3 addicts would be to build facilities through public/private partnerships and run these facilities with proven year-long programs.