Drug Abuse Trends in Memphis, Tennessee
Memphis, Tennessee, sits along the Mississippi River with an approximate population of 652,236. It is the seat of Shelby County and one of the largest cities in the US by landmass (parts of the city extend into neighboring Arkansas). Though the city is the cultural and economic epicenter of what is known as the greater Mid-South region, crime is an issue. For four straight years beginning in 2014, Memphis was listed in the top 10 most dangerous cities in America based on crime rates. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation estimates that 80% of crime in the state is drug-related.
The most commonly abused substance in Tennessee is alcohol. It’s the second-most abused substance by teens, behind tobacco. Yet, prescription opioids and illicit, synthetic opioids are responsible for nearly three times as many overdose deaths in the Volunteer State. Tennessee ranks third nationally for prescription drug abuse; 5% of all adults there misused painkillers in 2015.
The most commonly abused prescription opioids in Tennessee are:
Opioid-related drug seizures in 2015 totaled 6,775 incidents. Moreover, two-thirds of all drug seizures involved opioids. However, prescription drug monitoring programs have reduced the number of prescriptions in the state (there were 674,033 opioid prescriptions dispensed in Shelby County in 2016). Unfortunately, this has led some opioid-dependent individuals to seek out cheaper alternatives available on the street. Heroin abuse, in particular, has skyrocketed in Memphis.
Heroin Addiction and Fentanyl Use in Memphis
Following the widespread abuse of painkillers, heroin addiction is the primary aspect of the Third Wave of the Opioid Epidemic. In Shelby County, heroin overdose deaths and hospitalizations each climbed almost 800% between 2011 and 2015.
One of the things that’s fueling this heroin uptick or epidemic is the prescription drug abuse. A lot of times, we see teens get these drugs like hydrocodone or OxyContin from the drug cabinet of a family member. They can’t afford to pay for the pills that cost from $5 to $35 per pill, and come over and buy heroin for $7 or $12 a pack. This heroin is very pure and potent, that’s where were are seeing a number of overdoses of epic proportions, not only here in West Tennessee but throughout the country.
Increasingly, heroin is being cut with the deadly synthetic opioid, fentanyl. Up to 50 times more powerful than heroin, fentanyl is manufactured both legally and illegally, then used as a cutting agent in powder heroin or pressed into counterfeit pills, and made to look like in-demand painkillers. Because illicit drugs are not regulated, drugs mixed with fentanyl can trigger overdose even more rapidly (even among experienced drug users). From 2013 to 2016, opioid-related deaths doubled in the region.
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Drug Addiction Statistics for Memphis
8% of all drug confiscations in 2015 in Tennessee involved heroin.
In 2017 in Shelby County, there were 901 opioid-related hospitalizations.
Heroin was listed as the primary cause of death in 80 cases in Shelby County in 2015.
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Addiction Treatment in Memphis
Due to its central location between Tennessee, Arkansas, Kentucky, and Mississippi, Memphis has multiple options for drug and alcohol rehabs. The state’s battle with opioid addiction has contributed to a 17% increase in publicly-funded opioid treatment admissions between 2010 and 2015. In that same time, heroin addiction treatment admissions nearly tripled.
Substance Abuse Screening in Tennessee (SBIRT-TN) is a valuable screening and referral-to-treatment initiative employed by many physicians. It focuses on early intervention and education in a primary care setting so that individuals feel more comfortable discussing drug tolerances and addictions. Additionally, the Tennessee REDLINE hotline will provide up to three treatment referrals for no cost. For those unable to pay the cost of rehab, Memphis ensures treatment through a federal block grant that provides substance abuse prevention and intervention services throughout the county and state. Outpatient drug rehab, intensive outpatient therapy, residential treatment programs, and detox are all available to Tennesseans suffering from a substance use disorder.