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.