Skyrocketing rates of opioid abuse and the resulting rise in drug-related deaths have thrown the country into one of the largest public health crises in history. No place is safe, including our very own communities here in Memphis and Shelby County. In honor of National Recovery Month, will be running a series of posts throughout September on opioid addiction and treatment so that you can be better informed about ways to help combat it in your community.

Opioids are a class of drugs that include the illegal drug heroin and prescription pain relievers such as oxycodone and hydrocodone. In 2014, Tennessee ranked 2nd in the nation for painkiller prescriptions, with over half of those who abuse painkillers getting them from a friend or relative with a prescription (CDC, 2015). Too often, the tendency to want to help a loved one suffering from a sports injury or chronic pain unintentionally leads to life-altering addiction.

Of the 1,451 deaths from drug overdose in Tennessee in 2015 (the highest in state history), nearly 200 occurred in Shelby County alone, and over 70% of these deaths involved opioids (Tennessee Department of Health, 2016). Deaths related to heroin have jumped a staggering 833 percent from 2011 as well – often, those who misuse prescription painkillers switch to heroin, which costs less to purchase on the street (American Society of Addiction Medicine, 2016). The staggering number of deaths does not even begin to demonstrate the scope of the problem, however – 4.35% of Tennesseans use prescriptions drugs non-medically, which amounts to over 200,000 people (Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, 2015).

Organizations such as Count It! Lock It! Drop It! are on the ground helping to combat opioid abuse through prevention. They encourage residents to count their prescription pills every two weeks to prevent theft and improper use, and they offer lock boxes free of charge so that Tennesseans can keep dangerous drugs away from loved ones. They also operate nine drop-boxes at various pharmacies and police departments around Memphis for residents to drop their unused or expired medications for proper disposal. To learn more:

Count It! Lock It! Drop It! is organized locally by the Memphis Area Prevention Coalition. To learn more about their work, go to or email .

 Further Reading:

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