Prescription Painkiller Use In TN

By: Jessa Goddard
By: Jessa Goddard

Knoxville (WVLT) Nationwide, the amount of five major painkillers sold at retail stores rose 90 percent between 1997 and 2005.

But the biggest increase of any state was here in Tennessee, by 206 percent.

Volunteer TV's Jessa Goddard has a look at the reasons why, and what's being done.

The issue is black and white at East Town Urgent Care.

Doctors here say they won't prescribe Oxycontin to anyone, for any reason, it's simply too addictive.

And the numbers seem to back them up.

A 206 percent increase in prescriptions for Oxycodone, Codeine, Hydrocodone, Morphine and Meperdine in the state in just nine years.

Dr. Jay Hammett, with East Towne Urgent Care says, "and many doctors would unknowingly prescribe medications to a patient but the patient would then leave that office or the next day go to another doctor and another pharmacist."

The Associated Press investigation found several reasons for the nationwide increase: an aging population, marketing campaigns by drug makers, and a greater acceptance of pain management by doctors.

But it found the sharp increase in Tennessee was due in large part to the generous drug benefit from Tenncare.

Glen Farr, with the UT College Of Pharmacy says, "the problem is, there are folks who deserve an academy award for being able to dupe the health care professionals."

But this past June, the state legislature made "doctor shopping" a felony.

That's obtaining multiple prescriptions for the same or similar drugs from several doctors.

Farr continues, "but it's still a fairly liberal program, compared with other states in the ability for patients to get medications."

And while there is reason to believe the numbers are turning around in Tennessee, some doctors are calling for broader reform.

Hammett says, "that's a mistake that they overlooked, it needs to be across the board, not just Tenncare. It needs to be self-pay and private."

In fact, the state legislature is expected to pass a similar bill next year that would extend the painkiller prohibition to all patients.

At the same time painkiller use was on the rise, the accidental poisoning rate in Tennessee was also 26 percent above the national average.

And the death rate from accidental drug poisoning in the state doubled.


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  • by april Location: louisville on Apr 27, 2009 at 05:55 PM
    i understand people abuse pain killers but if your doctors know you have problems and hurting they should give you the pain meds i have neuropathy in my legs and chronic back pain and she still hesitates to give me any pain meds and there is not alot of over the counter meds i can take because im on blood thinners why would a doctor that knows all this still wont prescribe me any pain meds and im constantly hurting and i still pay my doctor but she still lets me hurt
  • by joe Location: maryville on Mar 24, 2008 at 10:20 PM
    I think before you judge others you should walk a mile in their shoes. Most people that put down addicts have never had severe pain with no alternative except medication. Usually they are fat overeaters that do the talking.
  • by nan Location: knox on Sep 8, 2007 at 01:12 PM
    i went to a pain clinic and got rejected after a month of roxicodone 15mg. which after taking them i felt like wonder women, i was... gonna go job searching.. i was then cut off. i have degenerative disc disease, arthritis and a number of other problems. plus back surgery in 2006 with the first being in 1999 and in need of another one. i went to an alternative pain plan. i have refuse any prescription for pain meds. i refuse to be treated like dog, that i have to sit up pretty to get a prescription doggie treat. the withdrawn symptoms is what i can not and i refuse to have to go thought again..tho i have come to realized the thought of going back to work is out of the question now. that maybe now realizing that feeling some of the pain may be better then being wonder woman and doing more damage to my body. of course i don't no much anymore but i guess I'll have to come to terms with it on my own. good luck everyone in whatever pain treatment you choose.
  • by Wanda Location: Clinton on Aug 23, 2007 at 11:24 PM
    I suffer from a degenerative disc disorder that has taken me from my job for over a year. Off and on I have taken Hydrocodone for pain. It helps tremendously. I am now with a pain management center and I receive my meds from them( my prescriptions rather.) I understand the reasons why pain meds are being closely watched after reading how it has climbed 200% in prescriptions in the past years. I am sure their are abusers, but I am not one of them. Has to be a better way to watchdog the abusers rather than make pain meds have to be paid for by patients. I simply couldnt afford it myself. Again the abusers win, isnt it always that way it seems. Maybe other alternatives should be presented for pain relief after a certain amount of time. Personally I went to my family Physician and I wanted something to help my problem yet all I got was another prescription. I searched for a remedy on my own with Vax D and others to help myself. It didnt work..back on pain meds again.
  • by Not Given Location: Knoxville on Aug 23, 2007 at 11:55 AM
    I am a patient at a local Pain Clinic in Knoxville. I am prescribed hydrocodone for nerve damaged caused by diabetes. I have never doctor shopped and have never thought about selling my medication or abusing it. I agree with Maggie. I'm proof it's not the drug. It's the addiction to the drug. I do know this much; if I wasn't taking them I couldn't work and then I couldn't help all these people abusing the Tencare system.
  • by maggie nola on Aug 22, 2007 at 07:07 PM
    your family is not in ruin becuase of hydrocodone, but becasue of ADDICTION. its not the drug's fault, or the doc ...
  • by Betty Location: Clinton on Aug 22, 2007 at 12:21 PM
    Seems like all you have to do is tell your Dr. that you have a bad back and you can have all the dope that you can take or sell.I've called my husband's Dr. and begged him not to prescribe painkillers to him.Told him about doctor shopping and all.Didn't do any good, I guess Dr. chose to believe the bad back story. My family is in ruins because of hydrocodone.Sometimes its the nice grandmother next door selling her pain clinic meds. I am so sorry for the people that really need help with pain, but I think Dr's are the biggest dope pushers, they don't have time to care, or they're getting kickbacks from the drug companies.I bet most of the people on meds would refuse to have their pain problem fixed, then they wouldn't have an excuse to take them.Pain clinics are legal drug pushers, they just don't have to deal on the corner. No less than four members of my family are going to pain clinics for their fix, every week, when that runs out they're buying from other so called pain wracked bums.
  • by maggie nola on Aug 21, 2007 at 10:56 PM
    tn care is a failure. its been the equivalent of replacing a mousetrap with a huge hunk of cheddar. where are all these rats comin from? Free cheese man. Oh, and everybody order lobster to go, and grab your cowboy hat.
  • by Rhonda Location: Clinton on Aug 21, 2007 at 01:45 PM
    Does this make any sense to anybody? This is WRONG, WRONG, WRONG!!
  • by Eve Location: Knoxville on Aug 20, 2007 at 11:55 PM
    I don't think we should let a bunch of drug addicts should make an influence on people who really need these medications. If everyone had to take this "out of pocket", the people who were really in pain would still be. Not everyone can afford to pay for prescriptions with no help from the insurance company who they pay to take care of them in a time of need. There needs to be stronger laws on abusing these drugs and more focus on catching people abusing them

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