TN Sees Drop In Painkiller Prescriptions

Posted at 6:26 PM, Jan 04, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-04 22:06:04-05

The Tennessee Department of Health announced some promising news in the fight against prescription painkiller abuse.

The health department said over the past few years -- there's been a noticeable drop in the amount of painkillers doctors are prescribing – to the tune of 15%.

The department said it was likely because of the statewide database that's been put in place.

Since 2012, doctors have been required to check that database whenever they prescribe a painkiller to make sure patients weren't doctor shopping -- going from doctor-to-doctor to get more than one prescription.

The health department says in addition to stopping unnecessary prescriptions that could be used to fuel addictions, that database has allowed doctors to suggest treatment for those addictions.

Dr. Shawn Pruitt, a Nashville pharmacist, said he has seen firsthand how the database can prevent excessive prescriptions, but said the drop in the painkiller prescriptions may also be due to the increase in heroin use across the state.

“They find a cheaper alternative, and for many people, heroin has been that cheaper alternative,” Pruitt said.

The health department said heroin use may be a factor, but they said more doctors have been encouraging people to get treatment for their painkiller addictions, a trend for addicts that the state hopes will continue.

The state department of health said even with the drop in the amount of painkillers prescribed, they still haven't seen a drop in the number of overdose deaths in Tennessee.