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TN Poised for Progress in Fight Against Opioid Addictions

Tennessee is leading many neighboring southern states in the reduction of opioid prescriptions and,  most recently, legislation to work to curb addiction. (Twenty20)
Tennessee is leading many neighboring southern states in the reduction of opioid prescriptions and, most recently, legislation to work to curb addiction. (Twenty20)
April 27, 2018

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – This week, Tennessee stands out among many other states in the country – with the most comprehensive and restrictive laws around opioid prescriptions.

The legislation (Senate Bill 2257/House Bill 1831) proposed by Gov. Bill Haslam in January became law this week and sets a high bar for patients to meet before doctors resort to prescription painkillers known to lead to addiction.

Dave Chaney, vice president with the Tennessee Medical Association, says his organization worked to help shape the law into something that prevents further addiction, while keeping the drugs accessible to those who need them.

"There are stricter-now parameters on that initial prescription that prescribers, that doctors and other health-care providers who prescribe these medications must follow,” says Chaney, “in terms of the initial limits, when it's written, how it's filled and the checks and balances they have to do in the controlled-substances database. "

Chaney says his organization has worked to educate member physicians in recent years on when to prescribe opioids and when there may be nonaddictive alternatives. He adds the state also must invest in addiction treatment and law enforcement.

Just as the state has model legislation to curb the opioid epidemic, it also has demonstrated progress in decreasing prescriptions for the addictive drugs. A report released this month from the IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science finds a 21 percent drop in opioid prescriptions in the Volunteer State since 2013.

Chaney says it's proof that awareness is growing among the medical profession.

"Many of them did get that way from that initial prescription, so the medical community has actually been working for many years to turn back that dial, and we can see now just in the last five years that dramatic drop," says Chaney.

In 2017, Tennesseans filled 6.7 million prescriptions for opioids. The state is having more demonstrated success than neighboring states and is in line with a national trend of decreased prescriptions.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - TN