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  Newly-unveiled Public Safety Action Plan

By Charles W. Swanson
Law Director, City of Knoxville
President, Metropolitan Drug Commission

On behalf of the Metropolitan Drug Commission's board of directors, I would like to commend Governor Haslam on the newly-unveiled Public Safety Action Plan.

Prescription drug abuse is the one of the greatest threats to our nation's well-being. It is an issue that is devastating our families, our friends and our community. Prescription drug abuse crosses all race, gender and socioeconomic boundaries, and it doesn't discriminate based on age or education. Overdoses are second only to motor vehicle crashes as the leading cause of accidental death in America. If we hope to reverse this trend, we must make prescription drugs more difficult and less appealing to abuse. Governor Haslam's plan is a giant leap forward in achieving this goal.

We are happy to see plans to strengthen the state's Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP). Consistent utilization of the PMP will help make healthcare professionals more informed before prescribing or dispensing narcotics. By sharing information with law enforcement agencies, we can prevent "doctor shoppers" from flooding neighboring states.

In addition, we hope to see more prescription drug take-back program events across the state. Medication collections have proven extremely successful locally. Since 2008, 4,026 pounds of pills have been collected and destroyed in Knox County alone. That's more than 2 million pills that will not end up in our water system or in the hands of abusers.

With the rise in prescription drug misuse, "drugged driving" has become more pervasive on our roadways. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, an estimated one in three deadly crashes in which drug tests are conducted indicate drugs in the driver's system. That number has increased about five percent in the past five years, with more than 1.4 million people driving while impaired every year. As our legislators look at strengthening our DUI laws, we hope they will consider broadening the definition of impaired driving to include narcotics.

A 2003 report compiled by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) noted that "about 70 percent of state and 57 percent of federal prisoners used drugs regularly prior to incarceration." Of juvenile offenders, "56 percent of the boys and 40 percent of the girls tested positive for drug use at the time of their arrest." Today, these numbers are likely much higher. Increasing access to addiction treatment and supporting drug courts can give these individuals a second chance to live healthy and productive lives.

We also are happy to see actionable steps to reduce the scourge of methamphetamine. Meth labs endanger hundreds of children each year. By reducing illegal access to pseudoephedrine, we will see a marked decrease in meth production throughout the state, providing a healthier, safer home environment for our children.

To make changes on a federal and state level, we must first make changes on a community level. We are glad to see commitment from our state legislators to work with local law enforcement and drug prevention agencies. These folks are "in the trenches" of substance abuse prevention, treatment and recovery each and every day. Their input can help state legislators make more informed decisions and focus their efforts on real community issues. The Metropolitan Drug Commission fully supports the governor's plan and looks forward to working with our state representatives and legislators going forward.

Published January 12, 2012

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The opinions expressed on this page are the personal opinions of the writer and not necessarily the opinions of the Knoxville Daily Sun.


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