According to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, opioid addiction in Tennessee has reached epidemic levels, with approximately 70,000 people statewide dependent on the substances. Opioids are a class of drugs that causes calm and sleepiness. They include both naturally derived substances and those created synthetically in a lab.
Heroin is an example of an illegal opioid. However, many others are prescription medications that doctors use to treat patients with chronic pain. Help is available for people with opioid addiction.
What is the relationship between prescription opioids and heroin use?
In the 1960s, few people became addicted to heroin after first taking prescription opioids. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the percentage of people who used heroin initially was 80%. Over the intervening decades, that trend has reversed, and 86% of those who use heroin report first taking prescription opioids for nonmedical purposes.
Sometimes people who initially received a personal prescription for opioid medications start using them for nonmedical reasons when the prescription is no longer valid. Other people start using opioids that they get from family or friends with valid prescriptions. Sometimes friends and family with prescriptions share the drugs willingly. Other times, people who use the drugs take them without the knowledge of the person with the prescription.
Where can someone get help for opioid addiction?
People who have had prescriptions for opioids can help prevent them from falling into the hands of those who may abuse or overdose on them by disposing of them in take-back boxes available in multiple locations statewide.
Resources are available for people addicted to heroin or other opioids. Two state agencies provide referrals to treatment and information about addiction through the Tennessee REDLINE, a toll-free number.