Attorneys General across state join forces to combat opioid addiction

Published 5:03 pm Thursday, June 15, 2017

As Attorneys General in Northeast Tennessee banded together earlier this week in taking on pharmaceutical manufacturers they say engaged in deceptive marketing of opioid pain medication, their colleagues across the state are also joining forces to combat the opioid epidemic ravaging the state.

On Thursday, State Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III announced Tennessee is leading a “bipartisan coalition” of Attorneys General across the state on a mission to combat the opioid epidemic.

Opioids are drugs that act on the nervous system to relieve pain. The continued use or misuse of these medications can lead to addiction and withdrawal. Opioids is a class of medication commonly used as painkillers such as morphine, hydrocodone, oxycodone, and fentanyl. The illegal drug heroine is a synthetic opioid drug.

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For the past several years, overdose deaths have been on the rise across Tennessee. According to the Tennessee Department of Health, in 1999, a total of 342 people died as the result of an overdose in the state. By 2015 that number had risen to 1,451 — an increase of more than 400 percent. In 2015, 72 percent of the overdose deaths in Tennessee involved opioids.

According to the Tennessee Department of Mental health and Substance Abuse Services, in 2012 42.3 percent of pregnant women in the state who admitted to abusing drugs during their pregnancy listed opioids as their primary substance of abuse. That number is more than twice the overall United States average of 18.4 percent during the same time period.

Now, in districts all across the state, the local Attorneys General are working to conduct “comprehensive investigations into the widespread prescribing and use of opioids,” according to Slatery. The investigations will also delve into the role played by parties involved in the manufacture and distribution of opioid medications.

“There is not a single community in Tennessee, or a region of the country for that matter, that has not witnessed the devastating impact of opioid abuse,” Slatery said. “At the appropriate time, you can be assured Tennessee will take decisive action against those parties responsible for harming so many families.”

The coalition of Attorneys General is not identifying any targets of its ongoing investigation at this time.