Drug and Alcohol Abuse Trends in Johnson City, Tennessee
Along the Appalachian Mountain range on the eastern edge of Tennessee, Johnson City is home to approximately 66,027. The city crosses three counties – Washington, Carter, and Sullivan. Previously, Johnson City had defined itself by robust cleanup, recycle, and conservation initiatives to brand itself “Tennessee’s Green City.” However, following the onset of the opioid epidemic, prescription opioid and overdose rates rose steeply in the state. East Tennessee counties quickly became known as ground zero in the region for opioid addiction and heroin abuse.
Effects of the Opioid Epidemic on the Johnson City Area
As a state, Tennessee ranks third in the US for prescription painkiller abuse. In 2015, Tennessee doctors wrote 7.8 million narcotic prescriptions, or 118.3 prescriptions per 100 people. The average national rate during the same time was 70 prescriptions per 100 people. The most commonly prescribed opioids were hydrocodone (Vicodin) and oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet).
Often, sufferers of opioid use disorders in Johnson City concurrently abuse benzodiazepines. Consequently, Xanax is the second-most prescribed medication in Tennessee. The co-abuse of these medications often leads to an even greater risk of fatal overdose. Thus, Tennessee’s opioid-related death rate outpaces national numbers. The US averages 13.3 fatal overdoses per 100,000 people; Tennessee came in at 19.3 in 2014. Furthermore, eastern county numbers are some of the worst in the country. Sullivan County’s rate was 28 deaths per 100,000 people, Washington County’s was 19.8, and Carter’s was 17.6 in 2014 – the only county below the national average in the eastern region.
Additionally, one of the tragic consequences of high rates of opioid abuse (including heroin) in Johnson City is the high rate of newborns suffering from the effects of opioid withdrawal. Opioid abuse among pregnant women is higher in rural areas of Tennessee, Alabama, and Kentucky. In some East Tennessee counties, neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) rates are eight times higher than the national average. Persistent opioid use among women who become pregnant has resulted in over 1,800 babies in NAS in a Johnson City hospital. In 12 months in the same hospital, 351 infants were born with NAS. Opioid withdrawal symptoms (like tremors and seizures) for these infants can be so severe that they are given morphine to wean them off of drugs.
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Johnson City Addiction Statistics
The rate of babies born dependent on narcotics is 36 per 1,000 in Northeast Tennessee.
Drug-related crime in the area has increased by 200% in the last seven years, while non-drug-related crime has gone down.
East Tennessee State University in Johnson City was awarded $500,000 to support its Center for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment program.
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Addiction Treatment in Johnson City
For Tennesseans seeking recovery from an addiction in Johnson City, an assortment of public- and privately-funded options are available. The state of Tennessee makes some rehab services (such as detox and outpatient drug rehab) available at no cost based on need. To reduce rates of recidivism, the city maintains a Recovery Court. The program is designed for adults with substance use disorders and provides detox and intensive outpatient treatment as needed over the course of an approximately 18-month program.
Typically, addiction treatment medication (like methadone) costs between $10 and $16 a day in the city. Buprenorphine, another addiction treatment medication that can reduce cravings, runs an average of $300 a month. Buprenorphine, or brand name Suboxone, has a lower risk of misuse and may be covered by Tennessee health insurance program, TennCare.
Going to Rehab
Recovery from addiction is a challenging process. Addiction is a disorder that cannot be “cured” and doesn’t “go away in time.” However, with clinical therapy, dedication to treatment, and counseling or support groups, a person can go on to lead a happy, fulfilling life.