Tennessee is in the nation's top three states leading the charge on use of prescription drugs with 18 prescriptions per resident.
In 2010, the Kaiser Foundation reports that in the working-age category of 19-64 years old, the state averaged 15.3 prescriptions per person. Averaged.
Does this impact our workforce? Does this impact crime?
News reports have even documented real estate open houses being a target of prescription drug abusers and distributors. In desperation, those seeking their next fix are expanding their creativity by swiping pills from unattended bathroom medicine cabinets.
Ambulance stations in Virginia have reported theft of controlled substances from secure storage.
Tennessee's rate of deaths from overdoses is 26 percent higher than the national average.
Desperation and depravity lead to more desperation and depravity.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and his administration have spent his first two years crafting a comprehensive legislative approach to addressing this serious issue. And, during a bill-signing ceremony for the law in Anderson County, Gov. Haslam declared, "Prescription drugs are Tennessee's No. 1 problem," according to news reports.
The Tennessee Prescription Safety Act of 2012 will require that every prescriber (doctors, nurse practitioners, physician assistants) and dispenser (pharmacists) licensed in our state check the Controlled Substance Monitoring Database for their patients' controlled substance history before writing a prescription for commonly abused and resold medicines, such as Xanax, oxycodone, hydrocodone or any other opioids. The act places limits on the quantity of controlled substance pills in each prescription, creates a clearly documented path taken by patients to prevent doctor shopping and equips law enforcement with live technology and a charge of a Class E felony for offenders.
Tennessee's Prescription Safety Act also will increase the investigative powers of the state licensing boards that will deal with those "professionals" who are the source of the abundance of easy prescriptions.
The recent opportunity for residents to clean out their medicine cabinets was no random exercise. There is a deliberate effort to prepare for the increased enforcement ahead.
Don't stereotype those "doped up" on prescription medications to include only the downtrodden and the poor. Some best-dressed professionals are in this mix, with medicine cabinets brimming full for their teenagers to access and experiment.
The governor, Tennessee's General Assembly and our law enforcement agencies are stepping up to address this epidemic. Every household, every person must be an active part of cleaning up our act.
It's right for our community, it's great for our work force, and it's long overdue.