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Tennesseans Participate in Latest Nationwide Effort to Fight Opioid Crisis

Inspired after attending a conference about pain management and opioid stewardship, Jeffrey Hodrick, an orthopedic surgeon with the Southern Joint Replacement Institute, decided to do something about the ongoing opioid crisis that has impacted Tennessee.

After approaching administrators at TriStar Centennial Medical Center, Hodrick and others at his practice and the hospital decided to participate in Saturday's National Prescription Drug Take Back Day. The nationwide effort seeks to safely dispose of powerful drugs and combat the ongoing opioid epidemic that has ravaged the state and nation in recent years.

"Hosting any event relating to the crisis we hope results in education," Hodrick said.

The Nashville-based doctor said he hopes collection efforts like the one at TriStar Centennial Medical Center on Saturday will encourage people with unused prescription drugs in their homes to dispose of them.

"If you have a significant medical issue that requires pain medicine, you're probably going to get prescribed new pain medicine," he said. "So if you have it in your home and its not properly disposed of or its not properly locked up...then it could fall into the hands of friends and probably more importantly family. And that's scary."

Although the event at TriStar Centennial Medical Center's main building was the first of its kind for the hospital, dozens of pharmacies, police departments and others throughout the state participated in Saturday's effort.

Previous take back days have resulted in the collection of thousands of pounds of pills throughout Tennessee. Since 2012, nearly 220,000 pounds of pill waste have been collected.

More than 87,650 pounds of pill waste — which includes packaging and bottles — were collected over a recent 12-month span. More than 35,000 pounds of that was collected during the two national take-back days late last year and earlier this year.

Despite collection efforts, the death toll from overdoses in Tennessee has climbed. In 2016, more than 1,600 Tennesseans died from overdose of prescription opiates, illicit drugs or other medications such as benzodiazepines. The 1,631 Tennesseans who died from drug overdoses in 2016 was a 12 percent increase from the year before.

About 91 Americans die a day from an opioid overdose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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