The opioid epidemic is defined by three distinct “waves” with the first wave occurring in the mid-1990s. Currently, the U.S. is facing the third wave, brought on by the introduction of fentanyl. Although no demographic is immune from the dangers of the ongoing epidemic, some geographical regions remain more susceptible than others. One of the most at-risk regions is Central Appalachia. Data shows that overdose mortality rates for people ages 25–54 were 43 percent higher in this region than in the rest of the country in 2018.

In the heart of Central Appalachia, Tennessee has been severely impacted by the opioid epidemic. To understand why this state has been so greatly affected, it’s important to consider the socioeconomic characteristics of Tennessee as well as the scope of opioid abuse within the state. 

Socioeconomic Factors

Tennessee remains highly vulnerable to the dangers of the opioid epidemic due to several socioeconomic factors. These include poverty levels, physical labor force, targeted marketing by pharmaceutical companies, and lack of regulation. 

Poverty Levels 

Data from the  United States Census Bureau shows that 13.9 percent, or 949,255 residents, of Tennessee, are at or below the poverty line. Low-income households are at high risk for substance abuse due to the stress of unaffordability,  absence of adequate healthcare, and lack of quality education.

Labor Force

 A large factor that continues to drive opioid abuse in Tennessee is the need for pain relief. A report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor shows that 11.8 percent of Tennesseeans, or 803,570 residents, are physical laborers. As a logging and coal mining hub, the labor force of Central Appalachia is highly susceptible to workplace injury and chronic pain. Due to physical labor being common in this region, the introduction of prescription opioids, mainly OxyContin, gripped Tennessee, and the epidemic intensified

Targeted Marketing

Tennessee became the main target of the most notorious pharmaceutical corporation, which many believe is largely responsible for the onset of the opioid epidemic. The Knoxville News Sentinel reported that Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of OxyContin, employed 87 sales representatives for the state of Tennessee alone. Purdue instructed its sales representatives to target medical providers who were overworked, had minimal training, and served poor communities in Tennessee, calling these providers “high-value prescribers” because they could easily be persuaded to increase OxyContin doses and prescriptions. 

Lack of Regulation

Prescribing physicians in Tennessee are responsible for treating patients with workplace injuries or sufferers of chronic pain. In comparison to most states, regulations on opioid prescriptions in Tennessee remain lenient. Although new legislation has recently been passed that restricts long-term opioid prescriptions from being written, physicians may still write an opioid prescription at any dose for a three-day supply. Physicians who fit the state criteria to be considered “pain management specialists” do not have to adhere to these regulations

Opioid Addiction in Tennesee 

Upon reviewing the various socioeconomic factors that have supported the spread of opioid addiction in Tennessee, the state’s third-place ranking in the U.S. for prescription drug abuse isn’t surprising. As stated by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, nearly 70,000 Tennesseans are addicted to opioids, with 5 percent of Tennesseans having used pain relievers in the past year for non-medical purposes. 

As medical professionals entrusted with the health and wellness of their patients, doctors are, unfortunately, among the top contributors to the current opioid crisis. A study revealed that physicians in Tennessee wrote approximately 82 opioid prescriptions for every 100 persons in 2018 while the average U.S. rate was 51 prescriptions per every 100. 

We’re Here For You 

The opioid epidemic remains a huge problem in Tennessee and across the U.S. with individuals continuing to lose their lives to addiction every day. Fortunately, help is available for those battling opioid addiction. Depending on the stage of an individual’s addiction, they may require detox, an intensive treatment program, or both. Fortunately, Knoxville Recovery Center offers various services to those struggling with this addiction. 

Services offered: 

Detox – Our on-site detox clinic accommodates and supports clients as the body sheds all residual traces of opioids. Clients are under medical supervision during the detox process to ensure that they remain safe and comfortable. 

Addiction Treatment –  During our addiction treatment program, clients will engage in introductory therapies and exercises that work to prepare them for continued, more intensive treatment outside of our facility. The goal of our addiction treatment track is to stabilize clients so that they are treatment-ready. 

Mental Health Treatment – Our mental health treatment program introduces behavioral therapies rooted in self-expression and holistic exercise. Art therapy, music therapy, and yoga are just a few forms of therapy we offer at the center. Our goal is to help the client reclaim their voice and expose them to treatment within a professional facility. 

Aftercare Planning – Aftercare is designed for individuals who have benefitted from our introductory addiction services and are transitioning into a more intensive addiction treatment program. Once a client is stabilized, they will be encouraged to pursue continued addiction treatment. Our experienced case managers will then work with our clients to place them in a program that addresses their specific wants and needs

Addiction is difficult to overcome alone. If you feel that you or a loved one is struggling with opioid addiction, our specialists are on standby and ready to help. Call Knoxville Recovery Center and speak with an addiction expert today.

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