Tennessee Passive on Prescription Abuse

In 2007, Tennessee had rate of non-suicidal drug overdose deaths of 14.2 per 100,000, one of the nation's highest. In 2003, 323 people died in Tennessee from prescription drug overdoses, more than from illicit drugs.

Tennessee is far behind other states on curbing laws that enable doctor shopping and illicit prescribing for profit.

Tennessee consistently has high rates of prescription drug abuse and high rates of prescription drugs prescribed. According to a Novartis Pharmacy Report, in 2006, Tennessee ranked No. 1 in prescriptions per capita, and its residents obtained prescriptions at a rate of 1½ times that of the national average.

According to a recent study by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), doctor shopping is a primary method for obtaining controlled drugs for illegitimate use. Doctor shopping is when patients visit numerous prescribers for multiple prescriptions for controlled drugs for abuse or sale.

There is a huge financial cost of prescription drug abuse and doctor shopping. In 2009, the Drug Enforcement Administration estimated that the yearly cost of prescription drug diversion in the United States is $72 billion. According to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, federal, state and local governments spent $467.7 billion in 2009 as a result of substance abuse and addiction. In 2009, the GAO found that doctor shopping occurred in 65,000 Medicaid recipients in four states, resulting in a cost of $63 million.

Aside from the huge financial cost, many lives are lost as a result of prescription drug abuse. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in 2007 that Tennessee has a high rate of non-suicidal drug overdose deaths: 14.2 per 100,000. The state has a prescription drug use rate that is 26 percent above the national average. In 2003, 323 people died in Tennessee from prescription drug overdoses, which outpaced overdose deaths from illicit drugs.

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