Tennessee Drug Abuse Treatment


Tennessee is the state of Country Music legend, rich in folklore of Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone, Indian wars and white settlers. The rolling Appalachians take up much of the state, with thick woods covering the slopes.

In the early days, Indian attacks were perhaps the greatest worry. But in these civilized days, drugs and drug-related crimes are the biggest worries for many people. Law enforcement authorities report on the more silent war that now plays out within Tennessee’s border:

  • Eighty percent of all crimes are drug-related
  • More than a thousand methamphetamine labs were seized between 2004 and 2008
  • More than 350,000 marijuana plants were destroyed in one raid in the Cherokee National Forest in Cocke County, in 2008
  • In 2008, there were also more than 29,000 drunk driving attests

Primary drugs being distributed in Tennessee are marijuana, cocaine (both powder and crack cocaine), methamphetamine and controlled prescription drugs including opiates, tranquilizers, and sedatives. Currently, lesser amounts of heroin are found in Tennessee, driving some prescription drug abusers who had switched to heroin because it was cheaper back to prescription drugs again.

Unemployment and Low Income Contribute to a Willingness to Commit Crimes

State government reports describe Tennessee’s economy as having high levels of unemployment, low mean household incomes and poverty levels over 30 percent. In this situation, it’s easier for some people to switch to a criminal lifestyle than if they are prospering at honest businesses.

The climate and soil conditions in Tennessee, particularly in the Appalachians, are ideal for growing marijuana, and every year, more than 100,000 plants are eradicated. Outdoor grow operations are hazardous for park rangers, citizens and the environment alike. Growers booby-trap the grow site, guard it with automatic weapons and create waste and destruction of the environment. Most of the growers are connected with Mexican drug trafficking organizations, although in some cases, local families create their own grows, bringing the kids into the operation when they get old enough.

The last few years, more indoor grows have been established, as they are harder to detect and because marijuana grown hydroponically is higher potency than outdoor-grown marijuana. Hydroponic marijuana prices are higher by $1000 per pound.

In many states, statistics for methamphetamine labs seized and destroyed fell dramatically and they did drop somewhat in Tennessee. But the problem came back faster in this state than others. The simple (but no less dangerous) shake-and-bake method of cooking methamphetamine has caused the numbers of labs found to start growing again.

Prescription Drugs Are Easily Obtained

Like many rural areas in the Eastern U.S., Tennessee has a severe problem with abuse of prescription drugs. Many property crimes are associated with prescription drug abuse and addiction, with thefts or assaults occurring to enable addicts to obtain money for drugs or to steal prescriptions stored in purses or medicine chests.

The other channels used to obtain prescription drugs, other than theft from homes or pharmacies, include doctor-shopping, visiting unscrupulous doctors or pharmacists and forged prescriptions. Abusers even utilize the state health care program to doctor-shop so they can get their drugs without paying anything.

Top prescription drugs being abused are OxyContin (oxycodone), Vicodin (hydrocodone), Valium, methadone, morphine, and Xanax.

Those who have a hard time getting their pills within the state frequently hop a plane for Southern Florida where these medications are fairly easy to come by. They then return to Tennessee to distribute the medications.

Where There are Addictive Drugs Like These, There is Need for Addiction Treatment

Each year, there are more than a half a million people in Tennessee abusing marijuana, more than 300,000 abusing prescription medications, nearly 140,000 using either powder cocaine or crack cocaine. Nearly 170,000 underage people drink alcohol each month, most of them binge drinking.

The number of people who need treatment for alcoholism or drug addiction approach half a million. But there are not enough drug recovery centers or alcohol rehabs for all of them. In 2008, an estimated 129,000 people needed treatment at a drug treatment facility and didn’t get it. And 356,000 people needed help at an alcohol rehab and were not able to gain access to it.

Thousands of people do make their way into treatment centers each year. More people find treatment for cocaine addiction than any other drug, with prescription drug abuse and addiction close behind. Treatment for addiction to marijuana and amphetamines follow.

Eliminating the addiction problems in Tennessee will never occur just with law enforcement. And adding interventions and drug treatment centers will help but still not eliminate the problem entirely. Wide-reaching drug education efforts are also needed to help curtail interest in starting use of drugs among the young. And then Tennessee can once again be a place where an adventurous life could consist of hunting in the Appalachians, not committing property crime to get one’s next bottle of prescription medications to abuse.

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