TDH releases new tool to raise awareness about drug abuse

Published 7:49 am Friday, October 6, 2017

As the fight against prescription drug abuse in Tennessee continues to intensify, state officials now have a new arrow in the quiver to help combat the issue.
Representatives from the Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) visited the area Wednesday and met with the Carter County Drug Prevention Coalition (CCDP) to discuss a new online Drug Overdose Database, detailing updated numbers on overdoses and prescription painkillers in each county.
“The numbers are staggering,” said Jilian Reece, CCDP director. “It shows that we still have so much work to do across the state and in our community.
According to information comprised by the TDH, Carter County, with a population of 56,502, saw 84,485 painkillers prescribed to citizens (1,495 for every 1000 individuals) in 2016 while 19 residents lost their lives to drug overdose.
Information for the county showed from 2012-16 indicated all drug overdose deaths rose from 10 to 19 over a five-year period while opioid overdoses grew from five in ’12 to double digits, 14, last year.
One of the telling visual examples, Reece said, was attendees receiving two bags of M&Ms’ candies – one with 137, which “with the amount of prescriptions given in our county is the number of pills prescribed to every single person in Carter County” while another with 107 was the number for the entire state.
For the entire state of Tennessee, 7,636,112 opioids were prescribed for pain (1,148 for every 1000 individuals) in 2016.
“We’re very appreciative to the Tennessee Department of Health for comprising this information and making it readily available to the public,” Reece said. “It really puts a face on what we’re trying to accomplish. For years, members of the public knew it was a big issue, but having these updated numbers out and made available really helps our mission.”
Reece also commended the efforts of TDH for making information easily accessible, with statistics broken down into easily-read graphs and charts for each county in the state.
Support from the community has been key in implementing different programs in the county, said Reece. CCDP has been tackling various programs for over two years to help combat drug abuse.
Moving forward, the director added she was looking forward to working alongside Dr. Danny Smith in helping find healthy alternatives for individuals suffering from chronic pain and being prescribed painkillers. Reece said the coalition would continue to work with prescribers on how to address painkillers.
Visit to view the information in its entirety.
For updates on local initiatives to help combat drug issues, visit the Carter County Drug Prevention Coalition Facebook page.

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