Bradley County Sheriff Eric Watson received information from the State of Tennessee showing generation preferences for drug use over a 20-year period. The statistics, supplied by the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services during the years 1992-2012, shows a trend toward the abuse of prescription medication in all age groups, from the 50s down to the teen years. The information was gathered from state-funded substance abuse treatment data.
Sheriff Watson said, “We unfortunately see the illegal use of prescription medication rising among those 50 years of age and even older, who formerly abused alcohol in their 30s. It simply means they are switching addictions to opioids from alcohol.”
The sheriff said he sees this as an extremely dangerous trend, in that the availability of alcoholic beverages is legal within the parameters of state laws, while, in many cases, obtaining painkillers is often done so by fraudulent means.
“The Bradley County Sheriff’s Office handles several cases per month of Prescription Fraud and the theft of painkillers in burglaries," said Sheriff Watson. "In some instances, the only items missing in residential burglaries are painkillers." Also, people who otherwise would not be involved in any sort of criminal activity, are being charged with attempting to obtain medication illegally due to their dependence on the substance.
Where veteran officers once saw just the use of cocaine and marijuana, they now see these illegal substances being used along with usually legal medications such as hydrocodone. That means more admission to treatment centers across Tennessee.
“During my eight years service in the Tennessee State House of Representatives, I participated in many committee hearings and meetings, pro-actively looking for ways to lessen the illegal possession and use of prescription pain medication,” Sheriff Watson said. “We did not want to take the medication away from those people who legitimately use it in the correct dosage. We did want doctors to have more control of that medication, by being made aware of the amount taken and how often. We also wanted pharmacies statewide to have the opportunity to communicate closely with doctors and other pharmacies to end 'doctor shopping' and multiple sales of otherwise legal medicines to people who wish to resell them illegally."
Since becoming sheriff of Bradley County last year, and continuing to work with law enforcement agencies statewide, the sheriff says it’s clear the addiction to prescription drugs ‘continues to ravage’ people of all ages. “This is not a ‘young or old’ problem…it’s a people problem. The Bradley County Sheriff’s Office will work day and night, focusing on strategies to reduce the supply and, in many cases, easy availability of prescription drugs for illegal use.”
Sheriff Watson went on to say, “We sincerely want people with prescription medication addiction to seek help soon. Many lives are being impacted by, and people are dying due to illegally obtained medications.”