The Prescription Drug Abuse Problem in Tennessee
Tennessee has struggled with prescription drug abuse in recent years. It is now ranked second in the nation for prescription drug abuse, and like other areas, the number of prescription drug overdoses exceeds deaths by car accidents and homicides.
No one is immune to prescription drug abuse, as Tennessee residents have witnessed. Criminal Court Judge Richard Baumgartner himself was caught doctor shopping to keep up with his drug habit. According to records in the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation file of his case, the judge obtained 73 prescriptions for more than 2,600 painkillers and more than 150 tranquilizers from six doctors, two nurse practitioners and a veterinarian. (1)
Fighting Prescription Drug Abuse in Government
Now, Tennessee has had enough, and most residents, doctors, and judges are behind the governor’s new plan. Assembled by a Public Safety Subcabinet Working Group, the comprehensive plan has a few proposals directly aimed at prescription drug abuse. “This legislative agenda is made up of a strategic group of bills aimed at impacting key issues that are crucial to tackle now,” Gov. Bill Haslam said. “I look forward to working with the Legislature on these important initiatives.” (1)
First of all, judges will be required to report their colleagues’ behavior if it is suspicious and would possibly cause misconduct, such as if a judge is impaired because of prescription drug abuse. This ethics rule would help prevent more incidences like the Judge Baumgartner one.
Regulations for Prescription Drug Database
Governor Haslam is also setting standards with regards to the state’s prescription database in order to make it more effective. Doctors and pharmacists will need to check the database before filling new prescriptions for patients, and patients’ prescription profiles will need to be checked twice a year to look for any evidence of doctor shopping. While other states are still deciding how often to require database checks and arguing over the extra work this will make for doctors and pharmacists, Tennessee is on the way to making theirs work. “We know the problem’s an epidemic,” said Russ Miller, executive vice president of the Tennessee Medical Association. “Now that we’ve seen a little more of the governor’s proposal, we’re supportive of measures to tighten up on prescriptions, on who’s writing them and on who’s getting them. I think we’re headed in the right direction. The intent’s right, but the pragmatics of it all are something we think we need to look at a little more.” (2)
Some details may still need to be ironed out, but working together is vital to fighting the prescription drug problem. Any groups that are willing to come to an agreement like Tennessee appears to be doing, will have a positive impact on their state.