Shelby Brawner, Extension Assistant/Grant Manager
Tennessee is 3rd in the nation for prescribing opioids. In 2016, there were 1,186 opioid overdose deaths in Tennessee, which ranks Tennessee 13th in the nation. Reported cases of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) has increased in Tennessee over the past decade with the most common source of NAS from legally prescribed medication. Of the 1,493,549 youth under 18 years old in Tennessee, 23% live in poverty, and therefore, typically do not receive the proper education needed for substance abuse. In 2013, 19% of high school students in Tennessee indicated they had used prescription drugs without a doctor’s prescription. This rate is slight- ly higher than the national average (18%).
As of 2017, Robertson County had a population of 70,177 with 17,193 persons under 18. Currently, 5.01% of youth abuse illicit drugs in Robertson County. In 2016, Robertson County had 88,749 opioid prescriptions written for pain. This averages to 1,283 prescriptions per 1,000 persons. In addition, the rate of babies with NAS born in 2016 was 29.4 per 1,000 births. All drug overdose deaths in Robertson County were due to opioids in 2016.
Tennessee 4-H partnered with the Count It! Lock It! Drop It!® program to reach teens and adults in addressing the opioid epidemic. Count It! Lock It! Drop It!® is a comprehensive community program for prescription drug abuse. The program uses lock boxes in safe locations within counties to allow individuals to properly dispose of unused or expired prescription drugs in a safe manner. This coalition was the first to bring the prescription drug issue to the forefront with the Tennessee Division of Alcohol and Substance Abuse
Services (DSAS). These take back programs provide a means for all citizens to help reduce the access to prescription drugs for nonmedical use through local drop off facilities as well as home lock boxes for community members. Currently, the Count It! Lock It! Drop It!® is present in 93 of Tennessee’s 95 counties.
On Friday, September 7, 2018, UT Extension Robertson County and Northcrest Medical Center L.E.A.D hosted a Drug Take Back Event for the Robertson County community. The event was hosted at the UT Extension Office with two local law enforcement officers present to collect the prescription medication. 4-H members greeted individuals and handed out thank you ink pens. At the end of the event, 65.6 pounds of medication was collected, and over 50 individuals were educated about proper disposal of medication.