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Message from Commissioner E. Douglas Varney on Heroin's Grip in our Cities and Suburbs

Heroin Abuse Is On The Rise In Tennessee, Leaving Lives In Ruins
Message from Commissioner E. Douglas Varney on Heroin's Grip in our Cities and Suburbs

It pains me to see so many Tennesseans hurting because they or a loved one is self- destructing due to a substance use addiction.  So  many  of  our  friends,  neighbors,  and colleagues have fallen victim to a habit that started innocently with prescription pain medicine and for many is now morphing into something far more sinister and dangerous.

Governor Haslam created an interdepartmental task force to fight the good fight on the prescription drug epidemic and to raise awareness about this issue. Increased awareness has been  fundamental  in  this  effort  and  we  are  now  seeing  a  decrease  in  the  amount  of prescription drugs that are available. New laws, more treatment, the full court press from state government, law enforcement and communities across Tennessee have been effective.

We've  managed  to  serve  thousands  of  our  fellow  Tennesseans  with  treatment  and recovery services. However, our research indicates that there are still many who are still dealing with active addiction.

We succeeded in making pain meds harder to get for those who do not need them legitimately, making them more abuse deterrent, and giving doctors more tools to monitor their patients who are prescribed pain medicine. These measures had the intended result in reducing availability, use and abuse.

As we forged efforts to reduce availability of opioid based pain remedies, in the shadows, heroin arrived on the scene. It arrived like a tidal wave in Tennessee. It's a far more potent form of opioids, cheaper, more dangerous and more lethal.

The demand for opioids has been most pronounced in our rural communities, while heroin is surfacing more in our major cities and suburbs.

I'm saddened to see our friends and neighbors that have been struggling with opioid addiction now transitioning to heroin which is coming from the criminal underground street dealer.

Our research data from multiple sources now shows heroin is sharply on the rise in Tennessee.

·     More people are seeking treatment for a heroin addiction in Tennessee

·     Drug seizures, criminal activity and arrests are increasing, mostly in urban areas

·     Heroin use is rapidly increasing as the abuse of pain meds is leveling off

Anyone interested in detoxing from opioids may encourage their medical provider to taper them off the medication. For additional information regarding tapering off of opioids patients may refer their medical provider to the following Tennessee Department of Health website: https://health.state.tn.us/Downloads/ChronicPainGuidelines.pdf

 

In addition, if you cannot get help from your medical provider, please call the Tennessee REDLINE anytime at 1-800-889-9789 to find treatment resources across the state.

The mission of the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services is to plan for and promote the availability of a comprehensive array of quality prevention, early intervention, treatment, habilitation and rehabilitation services and supports based on the needs and choices of individuals and families served. For more information, visit www.tn.gov/behavioral-health.

For information and guidance on talking with a loved one who may be abusing heroin or to find substance use treatment resources across the state, call the Tennessee REDLINE anytime at 1-800-889-9789.

The mission of the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services
is to plan for and promote the availability of a comprehensive array of quality prevention, 
early intervention, treatment, habilitation and rehabilitation services and supports 
based on the needs and choices of individuals and families served. 
For more information, visit www.tn.gov/behavioral-health.
 

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