Prescription Database Helping to Stop Opioid Abuse in Tennessee

The nation’s struggle with opioids isn’t a secret. Nearly 2 million Americans are estimated to be addicted to opioids. In 2012 alone more than 259 million opioid prescriptions were written. Prescription medication abuse is a leading cause of heroin abuse: Four out five heroin users started on prescription drugs. That’s why medical professionals in Tennessee are using technology to help law enforcement curtail drug abuse. Professionals say prescription abuse and overuse are telltale signs of a problem, along with doctor shopping. At the University of Tennessee Medical Center's out-patient pharmacy a digital tool is helping pharmacists identify people looking to abuse drugs. "It's not surprisi

How a Judge Would Fix Tennessee’s Drug Crisis

There is a unique facility in Nashville. Referred to as “DC-4,” the Davidson County Drug Court has given me specific insights into both the problems plaguing our state’s justice system and some potential solutions. DC-4 is unique because it is a court-operated, long-term residential treatment facility for nonviolent felony offenders. People who would normally be sent to the Tennessee Department of Corrections to serve out their sentences are instead placed in this facility, where they can access a residential treatment program for drug addiction. The average stay at the Tennessee Department of Corrections is three calendar years. In contrast, participants in DC-4’s programming usually take b

A Brain Hijacked: The Story of Addiction and the Prescription Drug Abuse Epidemic in Tennessee

The grasp of opioid addiction is far-reaching and unbiased. It preys upon people of every socioeconomic status and race. Residents of Williamson County, which has one of the highest median household incomes in the nation, are not immune to the clutches of this addiction. “Brentwood is definitely a bubble and that bubble fed into my addiction,” recovering addict Alex * said. According to data from the Tennessee Department of Health, more Tennesseans died from drug overdoses than in car accidents in 2015. Statistics say 1,451 Tennesseans lost their lives to drug overdose, while 962 died in a vehicle accident. “[1,451] is the highest annual number of overdose deaths recorded in state history an

Multistate Effort Launched to Address Opioid Epidemic

Tennessee Supreme Court cases involving opioid abuse only occasionally come before Chief Justice Jeffrey Bivens. But Bivens' duties off the bench take him across the state, and he has been alarmed by what he has seen of Tennessee's epidemic firsthand. "I go from Mountain City to Memphis, and you just see it from one end of the state to the next," Bivens said. Bivens is one of six chief justices in the Midwest and Appalachia to help launch a new regional approach to tackling a growing drug abuse crisis that has led to a surge in overdose deaths, babies born suffering from withdrawal, and courtrooms and county jails seeing a growing number of individuals who have committed crimes to support th

Police Arrest Man Accused of Selling Fentanyl-Laced Heroin in Nashville

HENDERSONVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Metro police worked with the 18th Judicial Drug Task Force to arrest a man accused of selling heroin laced with fentanyl in Nashville. Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid used in by doctors to treat chronic pain during major surgery. But on the street, people can overdose within minutes of ingesting small amounts of the drug. Authorities say the target of their investigation was James LaBrone House, aka “Barn,” whose Hendersonville home was searched Wednesday. The Lincoln Court residence was swept by a SWAT team and HAZMAT crew to ensure it was safe before officers conducted their search. According to a press release, there have recently been several cases

State Overdose Data Sheds New Light on Opioid Crisis

A new report from the Tennessee Department of Health on drug overdose deaths sheds new light on the opioid epidemic plaguing the state, darkening the lines of an emerging portrait of the typical abuser killed by the powerful painkillers. The drug overdose fatalities are overwhelmingly white, mostly male and increasingly less likely to have prescriptions for the drugs that kill them. And, across Tennessee, those killed are more likely to overdose on opioids — including heroin and fentanyl — than on any other kind of drug. The report obtained Wednesday details a surge of deaths between 2012 and 2015. In 2015, at least 1,451 Tennesseans died from drug overdoses. That's 22 drug overdose deaths f

New Niswonger Unit to Help Babies Born with Drug Dependency

Levi began life with neonatal abstinence syndrome. But in the two years since Chris Miller adopted him, 2-year-old Levi has made significant progress. “Levi is doing phenomenal. Early on, he had some visits with therapists and social workers. Now he does some physical and occupational therapy for some of the things he needs but overall, he is phenomenal,” Miller said. “He’s growing like a beast, and just a very happy child.” Neonatal abstinence syndrome, or NAS, affects infants experiencing withdrawal from drugs such as opioids, benzodiazepines and illicit drugs such as cocaine passed on from their mothers at birth. It’s a problem with a big impact in Northeast Tennessee due to high rates of

Morristown Neurologist to Plead Guilty in Pain Pill Conspiracy

A Morristown medical doctor who was one of the most prolific prescribers of opiate painkillers in Tennessee will not contest government allegations he transformed his neurology practice into a pill-seeker’s paradise, according to federal court documents. Dr. Abdelrahman Mohamed, the owner and operator of Hamblen Neuroscience on West Morris Boulevard, indicated Monday he will plead guilty to conspiracy and health-care fraud charges, and pay $733,422 restitution to government-run insurance plans. Along for the ride with the same agreement is Mohamed’s office manager, Cecilia Manacsa, who instructed the billing clerk to enter inappropriate codes to charge Medicaid, Medicare and TennCare for ser

As Drug-Related Heart Infections Climb, Doctors Weigh Ethics of Operating — Or Not

A spike in the number of patients coming in with infected heart valves has surgeons speaking up — because even if the expensive and involved surgery is successful, many of these patients, who inject opioid drugs, still will die young. That leaves doctors and hospital systems grappling with the ethics of when — or if — to replace the heart valves of IV drug users who may come in months later with the replacement valve infected. “It’s not a high-mortality surgery,” said cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Thomas Pollard. “The reason the mortality is so high in these patients is because they go back to their drug use.” Increase tied to epidemic Endocarditis, in which a bacterial infection introduced thr

Docs Debate Surgery on Opioid Users

USA TODAY NETWORK – TENNESSEE A spike in the number of patients coming in with infected heart valves has surgeons speaking up -- because even if the expensive and involved surgery is successful, many of these patients, who inject opioid drugs in their veins or under their skin, still will die young. That leaves doctors and hospital systems grappling with the ethics of when – or if – to replace the heart valves of IV drug users who may come in months later with the replacement valve infected. “It’s not a high-mortality surgery,” said cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Thomas Pollard. “The reason the mortality is so high in these patients is because they go back to their drug use.” Increase tied to ep

Tennessee Bill Would Allow For Needle Exchange Program For Addicts

NASHVILLE, Tenn. ( - Few bills on Tennessee's capitol hill are actually presented as saving lives, but that's how one measure passed this session with overwhelming support. The bill authorizes statewide needle exchange programs that come with other services designed to treat those who inject themselves with drugs. “It’s a rare circumstance where I can look at you and say 'this bill is going to save people's lives,’ but this bill will save people's lives and save the taxpayers literally tens of millions of dollars a year,” says Dr. Steve Dickerson (R – Nashville). Dr. Dickerson is a Nashville anesthesiologist who doubles as a Republican state senator. He says the bill saves l

Dr. Vance Shaw: An Interview

Words conjure up images and some words only work in specific places. For instance yelling “fire” in a crowded theater or “shark” at a crowded beach would each spread panic. But if either of those are yelled in the opposite location, they are absurd. A word that concerns us all no matter what the environment or situation is ADDICTION. We all have a reaction to that words. If you have any doubt about options for treating this problem, you must consider how to treat addicts. Another word you need to know with regard to addiction is EDUCATION. The guy you need to meet who is a true Mountain Mover is the field of Addiction is my friend Dr. Vance Shaw. Take a minute to hear what he has to

44 Accused in Lewis County Drug Ring Involved Mexican Cartels

HOHENWALD, Tenn. (WKRN) – More than 40 people in Lewis County face drug charges Tuesday, with most of the suspects accused of selling a powerful type of meth brought over the border from Mexican drug cartels. So far, 21 of 44 indictments handed down by the Lewis County Grand Jury on May 1 have been served. “A lot of them don’t have jobs, and that is how they make their living – selling meth,” Joey Kimble, Director of the 21st Judicial Task Force, said. Since most crimes are associated with drugs, Hohenwald’s police chief, Sam Livingston, said the bust will make his city a safer place. “It goes beyond break-ins,” he said. “[It] hurts the community; you have family stealing from family. You ha

Tennessee’s Worrying Rise in Pregnant Women with Hep C

Rural parts of Tennessee have been hit hard by a nationwide rise in Hepatitis C infections in pregnant women, likely a result of the opioid abuse epidemic, according to new study from Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the Tennessee Department of Health. The presence of Hepatitis C at birth increased 89 percent to 3.4 per 1,000 live births from 2009 to 2014. Tennessee had nearly three times hepatitis C in 2014 -- at 10.1 per 1,000 live births, per the study. West Virginia, which has been ravaged by opioids, had the highest rate at 22.6 per live births. The odds of a hepatitis C infection at birth was about three times higher for women in rural counties, according to the study. Dr. Step

Hands of Hope Mentors First-Time Mothers in Addiction Recovery

Q&A with Brittany Hong, mentor According to the Tennessee Department of Health, of the thousand babies born drug dependent in Tennessee in 2016, approximately 100 were from Knox County. Their condition, known as Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS), can cause symptoms such as fever, seizures, blotchy skin, continuous crying, rapid breathing, respiratory problems, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound. Some babies’ symptoms are so severe that they require hospitalization, intensive care, and medications for several weeks to keep them comfortable and safe during the withdrawal process. When mothers of these babies decide to pursue recovery programs for drug dependency and alcoholism, they n

New Drug Called 'Grey Death' Can Kill With Just One Dose

KNOXVILLE - Knoxville police are keeping their eyes out for a dangerous and deadly drug. It looks like a chunk of concrete, can kill with one dose, and is being called 'Gray Death.' So far, it's been found in Ohio, Georgia, and Kentucky, which are all states connected to Tennessee by an interstate. According to reports, the drug is 10,000 times more potent than morphine, 100 times more powerful than fentanyl, and includes an elephant tranquilizer called Carfentanil. That tranquilizer showed up in Tennessee for the first time this year. Since then, it's been found in five separate cases, including one in East Tennessee. Knoxville Police Chief David Rausch said he is concerned about the new dr

Knoxville law Enforcement has a New Method to help with an Opioid Overdose

Law enforcement in Knoxville and other parts of the country are using a new method to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. The antidote is called naloxone, and it acts as a temporary solution to the abuse of opioids. According to Knoxville police, officers have saved more than 70 people by using the drug since 2015. Authorities have administered the drug with a needle. Now, it's available as a nasal spray called NARCAN from Adapt Pharma. Executive Director of Communications for Adapt Pharma, Thom Duddy, says the method is better for law enforcement because it requires less training. "It was designed in collaboration with the National Institute of Drug Abuse so anyone could use it witho

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Signals Knoxville Return

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee is negotiating with state officials about a return to the individual insurance market in 2018 in Knoxville — an area that lacks an insurer for the next year. The decision is contingent upon the state agreeing to some conditions. The insurer still has reservations about the risk on the individual market but sees expanding into Knoxville as "an extension of our mission," J.D. Hickey, president and CEO of BCBST, wrote in a letter to the insurance commissioner dated May 9. A 16-county region around Knoxville was left without an insurer for 2018 when Humana pulled out of the individual exchange. "Again, I want to stress that our openness to this action is in now

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If they're still alive, there's hope.