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Prescription Pill Abuse Tops Tobacco Use

The number of overdose deaths in Tennessee is climbing, and now Tennessee is number two in the nation for opioid abuse. Local 8 News Anchor Lauren Davis set out today to find out what new laws are in the works to stop this prescription pill addiction.

Prescription drug abuse is on the rise. State Senator Richard Briggs says, "I have some very grave concerns about the prescription pill epidemic."

The number of overdose deaths statewide have risen from 1263 to 1451, and 153 people died of an overdose in Knox County which is an increase over the previous year. That's more people who died from car crashes or gun violence. Karen Pershing with the Metro Drug Coalition says, "It's alarming because some of the numbers are going down."

Another recent study shows the number of people in the U.S. using opioids has surpassed those using tobacco with 37% using prescription painkillers and 31% use tobacco products. Pershing says, "It's a little misleading. There are people who get prescribed opioids for legitimate medical purposed and who use them appropriately."

Lawmakers are hoping the recent laws they've put into place will make those staggering statistics go down. Senator Briggs says, "I was hoping we'd start to see the curve even out."

They passed the medical director qualifications law for pain clinics meaning doctors have to be trained in pain management which dropped the number of pain clinics statewide from 333 to 200 and from 39 in Knox County to 18. Pershing says, "We still have a lot of work to do on that."

The drug coalition isn't trying to pass any laws this year. Two bills they are watching closely are the medical marijuana bill and the fetal assault law. They don't support either one of them.

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