Tennessee Drug Rehab Offers Hope
Tennessee is a complex state. As large as it is Tennessee has only four major cities. They are the state capitol Nashville, Memphis, Chattanooga and Knoxville. The majority of the state is made up of smaller cities along with small towns and communities. One thing that all of these locations have in common is that all of them have a drug problem.
The drug problem in Tennessee causes economic hardship in the form of more required public services such as police, EMS and hospitalization. Additionally, if an employee is found to be using drugs during a random drug test, they will lose their job. This puts an additional burden upon public assistance programs. The drug problem, not confined to major cities, shows a nearly statewide epidemic of illicit and illegal drug use. This drug use can range from a common Schedule VI drug, marijuana, to a less common Schedule I drug, heroin. Included within this range of drugs are the most common substances abused by Tennesseans. These drugs are prescribed painkillers and antidepressants.
To show the depth of the problem the following statistics were obtained from the Tennessee Bureau of investigation. Of all crimes against society, drug and narcotic violations accounted for 59.25%. Drug and narcotic equipment violations accounted for an additional 29.6%. These two numbers added together account for 88.85% of all crimes against society being drug related. These statistics are for the entire state. Some areas may have a higher rate of drug related crimes than others. Conversely some other areas may have a lower rate.
The state of Tennessee has the dubious honor of ranking at the top of national statistics for the abuse of non medicated pain relievers for those aged 26 or older. For all other drug use, Tennessee ranks in the top 10 of all the states. 8% of all Tennesseans are reported the use of illicit drugs. The illicit use of nonmedical prescription drugs and marijuana are the drugs most commonly seen in drug treatment admissions. Non-prescribed medications and pain relievers are commonly used by 5 to 7% of the population of Tennessee.
The high ranking of drug use obviously contributes to a death rate that has been induced by drugs. This death rate is higher than the national average. Drug overdose deaths in Tennessee have increased dramatically. In 2001 there were 422 drug overdose deaths. In 2010 there were 1059. In 10 years drug overdose deaths increased 250%. The numbers of drug overdose deaths in Tennessee calculate to 16.7 deaths per 100,000 of population.
PRESCRIPTION DRUG ABUSE
There is a prescription drug abuse problem in the State of Tennessee. The most abused prescription drugs are:
• Hydrocodone (Loritab, Lorcet, Vicodin) 275.5 million pills. 51 pills for every resident of Tennessee 12 years of age or older
• Alpazolam (Xanax) 116.6 million pills 22 pills for every resident of Tennessee 12 years of age or older
• Oxy cocone (OxyContin, Roxicodone) 113.5 million pills. 21 pills for every resident of Tennessee 12 years of age or older
Both hydrocodone and oxycodone are prescription medications that are opiods and utilized to treat pain in patients. Opioid abuse increased in the ten years from 1999 – 2009. Opioid abuse is now greater than the abuse of marijuana or cocaine (including crack cocaine).
The State of Tennessee classifies drugs (controlled substances) into six categories. They are:
• Schedule I Heroin, LSD, Mescaline, GHB and Methcathinone (Bath Salts)
• Schedule II Morphine, Oxycodone (Oxycontin & Percocet), Fentanyl, Amphetamines (Adderall)
• Schedule III Hydrocodone, APAP (Loritab), Anabolic Steroids
• Schedule IV Benzodiazepines (Xanax), Phentermine, Zolpidem (Ambien)
• Schedlue V Codine Cough Syrup, Lomotil
• Schedule VI Marijuana
Obviously the stronger the drug, lower the number on the schedule. Civil penalties are higher for possession of a Schedule I drug than possession of a Schedule VI drug.
The ability to obtain prescription drugs is not difficult in any strata of society. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health determined that acquisition of prescription drugs is from the following sources:
• 70% Unused and over prescribed prescriptions to family and friends
• 18% Those who are licensed to issue prescriptions
• 5% The internet or a drug dealer
Utilizing the numbers cited above, it is obvious that prescription drugs are grossly over prescribed to the citizens of Tennessee. It is difficult to go to almost any medical practitioner in the state and not be able to get a “pain medication”. With a sprained wrist or ankle, the practitioner will ask “Do you want a prescription for pain?” If the answer is “yes” the prescription written is often for more medication than is necessary.
The Yellow Pages.Com list 2720 results for “Pain Clinics” in the State of Tennessee. The estimated population for the state of Tennessee is 6,495,978. These numbers calculate to one pain clinic for every 2388 residents of Tennessee. Pain Clinics are not the only prescribers of medication. Even the local doctor(s) in private practice prescribe medications that can and are abused.
Additionally, methadone and suboxone clinics contribute to the addiction of people. Many have reported that while they attended these clinics to lose an addiction, they became addicted to the very medications that they were provided at the clinic.
The use of marijuana, even for legitimate medical purposes is prohibited by the State of Tennessee. Even though the use of marijuana is prohibited, it is one of the most commonly available drugs in the state. Tennessee provides a nearly perfect climate and soil conditions for growing marijuana. Much of Tennessee is wooded and in many cases is inaccessible. Additionally much of the farmland that was utilized for the growing of tobacco now lies fallow. Many of those areas are now utilized for the growing of marijuana. All of these factors contribute to Tennessee being a top producer of marijuana in the country.
There are several socioeconomic factors that contribute to the production of marijuana.
• Lack of Gainful Employment
• Resistance of the population to relocate to a more prosperous area
• Established tradition of resistance to “prohibition”
Tennessee has one of the highest unemployment rates in the United States. There are multiple factors in this. However the lack of gainful employment results in poverty or near poverty status for many residents. Growing marijuana is a relatively safe method to put food on the table and clothes on the backs of children.
North East Tennessee was the first part of the state that was settled shortly after the Revolutionary War. The residents are proud of their area and strongly oppose relocation to another area. The prevailing thought appears to be “This is where my grandfather and great grandfather settled and I’m going to stay.” This in many cases this concept carries through the rest of the state in rural and semi rural areas.
During the years of the prohibition, Tennessee was a major producer of “moonshine”. A clear alcoholic liquid made from easily available ingredients, corn and sugar. It was commonly provided throughout the state and indeed throughout the entire South. Even today, one can find a quart mason jar full of a clear liquid commonly available. This tradition of yesterday’s illegal alcohol production provides a window on the psyche of today’s marijuana producer in Tennessee.
The cultivation of marijuana poses the potential of being caught by law enforcement officers. Once the plant is harvested, it can be processed inside a building with impunity. Transportation of the processed marijuana is simplified by the interstate system that flows through Tennessee. A pickup truck, van, or even a small box truck has a minimal chance of being stopped and searched by law enforcement authorities. The majority of drug related incidents involving marijuana involve the street level distribution of the drug.
Tennessee Drug Enforcement Task Forces now utilize airplanes to search for and find areas that are utilized for marijuana cultivation. This use of aircraft contributes to an indirect cost of enforcing the anti-drug laws of the state.
One of the more insidious drugs that has in the past been a severe problem in Tennessee is Methamphetamine (Crystal Meth). Methamphetamine is extremely addictive. It can be smoked, ingested or inhaled. It takes the form of a white crystalline powder (hence the name Crystal Meth) that tastes bitter but is odorless. Most of the methamphetamine that is abused is created in large laboratories in Mexico or more uncommonly here in the United States. However the creation of methamphetamine is a relatively simple process. Many small “secret” methamphetamine labs have been raided and closed by law enforcement authorities in Tennessee. However, a small meth lab can be concealed in the trunk of a car.
The basic ingredient in meth is pseudoephedrine. For this reason, cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine are no longer sold over the counter. The local drug store or retail store limits the sale of pseudoephedrine and records the purchasers name and other details. This limits the amount of meth that can be produced.
The production of meth utilizes several toxic chemicals. When a meth lab is shut down, law enforcement officers must call in a Hazardous Materials Team. The Haz Mat team has the expertise and equipment to safely remove the toxic materials. The simple possession of these toxic materials creates a potential health hazard to anyone in the clandestine lab. Anyone not properly protected while the meth is being “cooked” is subject to hazardous exposure. Additionally the vapors emitted by the meth being cooked can affect neighbors.
The effects of ingesting meth are of a euphoria that can be intense. The effects are however can be short lived. This often results in repeated doses being taken. This is often referred to as being a “crash and burn” pattern in users.
People who use meth on a regular basis often suffer from a craving for the drug. The effect of meth is so intense that the craving for the drug is commonly just as intense. The user can go through a period of inability to experience normal pleasure through everyday experiences along severe depression when in withdrawal from meth. Frequent meth users will often have their teeth decay quickly and eventually fall out. This condition is called “Meth Mouth” and is very evident in a user. One of the most troubling effects is a drug related psychosis. Even after the user is “clean” from meth use, this psychosis can last for an extended period of time even up to years after its last use.
COCAINE AND CRACK COCAINE
Tennessee due to its proximity to many major cities can be both a transportation hub and distribution center for Cocaine. The I-40 corridor provides an easy method of transporting cocaine from importation areas in the southwest and Texas. Highly organized Mexican cartels have used and do use Tennessee for trafficking.
The availability of cocaine in Tennessee accounts for its usage. The predominant form of cocaine usage is crack cocaine. Crack cocaine is placed into a pipe and smoked. The term “crack” comes from the sound that it makes when heated and consumed.
While cocaine and crack cocaine is prevalent in metropolitan areas, the usage in small cities and rural areas is fairly common. While powdered cocaine usage is not common in smaller towns, semi –rural and rural areas the usage of crack cocaine is.
The majority of crack cocaine is produced locally from powdered cocaine. The availability of cocaine in the state along with the relatively inexpensive cost of crack cocaine to the user makes this drug a concern to law enforcement officials.
Users of crack cocaine report enhanced energy and alertness. Crack cocaine also provides an elevated mood and a belief of supremacy for the user.
Heroin is not considered a major problem in the State of Tennessee. The majority of users are those who have been long term users of this drug. Drug trafficking has made attempts to be established in Eastern Tennessee and the Memphis area. These attempts have been largely thwarted by the Drug Task Force in the respective area.
Rohypnol, commonly known as “roofies” is a date rape drug. Rohypnol (Flunetrazepam) can be dissolved in a drink and the person who is ingests it will never know that their drink has been altered. The drug is a sedative that is similar to Valium however it is far stronger then valium.
Roofies are an inexpensive drug. At a cost of $2.00 to $3.00 per pill even teenagers, who know the right people, can afford it. Once ingested, the person taking it becomes relaxed and will appear drunk. Within 20 – 30 minutes the victim will become unconscious and can remain in that state for up to 8 hours. Upon awakening, the victim will have no recollection of what happened to her / him.
In a college bar, there are over 90 colleges and universities scattered throughout Tennessee, a roofie can be covertly placed into a victims drink. The victim can be carried off to any location, have anything done to them and wake up with no memory.
Date rape numbers are difficult to quantify since the victim has no recollection of how they got to where they woke up or what happened to them while they were comatose. The victim may choose to go to a hospital for a rape kit, however without any obvious perpetrator, the who in question may be never known.
Without a doubt the State of Tennessee has a drug problem. However it is not the problem that existed ten to twenty years ago. There is incontrovertible evidence that the major drug problem in the state today is the illicit use of prescription drugs. A secondary problem is the usage of marijuana. While civil authorities can work to stop the growing of marijuana, it appears that there is little that can be done to alleviate the illicit use of prescription drugs.
The State of Tennessee has in the past years cracked down on medical professionals who have been found to over prescribe pain medications. There have been pain clinics closed and individual physicians censored. The supply side of pain medications does not however stop at the Tennessee borders. A person who is seeking hydrocodone or oxycodone can merely drive 12 hours and be in a state that has minimally regulated pain clinics. There they can receive all that they need and return to their home within a day.
Through the efforts of the DEA, Tennessee DTF and the State Legislature the existence of local crystal meth laboratories has been dramatically reduced. This reduction provides a sense of assurance and relief as to the well-being of the general populace.
The removal of marijuana will be a much more difficult problem. The usage and availability will provide a stiff challenge to authorities should they choose to completely eradicate the problem. The widespread sentiment for “anti-prohibition” actions allows growers to become more creative in concealing their crops thus hampering law enforcement officials.