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Tennessee Drug Addiction


Street drugs, also known as illegal drugs, present enormous problems around the country. The Tennessee Drug Control Update issued by the White House reports that in 2007 1,035 people died as a direct result of drug use, which was almost as many deaths as in motor vehicle crashes (1,303) and more than those caused by firearms (924). The Tennessee rate of drug-induced deaths was 16.8 per 100,000 people, significantly higher than the national average of 12.7.

Tennessee drug addiction is common because drugs are freely available in the state. Tennessee is a transit region for illegal drugs such as cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamines headed for other states, but many drugs are also distributed within the state.

Tennessee drug addiction often begins with prescription drug abuse. For example, people who become dependent on opiate painkillers may turn to heroin because it has become cheaper than the prescription medication. The other major illegal drugs available in Tennessee are cocaine, marijuana, and crystal meth. Typical street drug users come from all walks of life and both genders.

Symptoms of Addiction

The most obvious symptom of street drug addiction is being unable to stop using the drugs even when their use is causing serious relationship problems, financial issues, and other complications, even after numerous attempts to stop or cut down. Another symptom is that the amount of the drug taken increases over time as tolerance develops through changes in the brain chemistry that occur as it adapts to the presence of the drug.

Withdrawal effects appear whenever the addict tries to cut down or stop using the drug. The effects of withdrawal almost always include intense cravings for the drug, and often also include shaking (tremors), sleep disturbances, irritability, and nausea. Denial that the drug is causing problems is also a common symptom of drug abuse and addiction.


Cocaine is a Schedule II drug, which means its use can lead to dependence, and it has a high potential for abuse. According to the Tennessee Drug Threat Assessment issued by the National Drug Intelligence Center, cocaine is the largest drug threat to Tennessee and is associated with more violent crime than any other street drug. Cocaine is available throughout the state in powdered form, but most of the powder is converted by local gangs to “crack” for distribution.

Symptoms of cocaine use include hearing sound hallucinations, paranoia, and losing touch with reality. Long-term use can result in respiratory failure, strokes, seizures, and heart attacks.


Heroin is a Schedule I drug, which means it is addictive and has no recognized medical use. Heroin is a synthetic opioid drug related to the natural opiates, such as morphine and codeine. Its use is on the rise in Tennessee since a crackdown on prescription opioid painkillers has reduced their supply and increased their price. According to Nashville.com the going rate for heroin on the street is around one third of the price of a prescription opioid pill.

Heroin is usually injected, but it can also be snorted or smoked. It is usually found in Tennessee as a black tar-like form or a brown powder. It is typically cut with other substances such as powdered milk, sugar, or other drugs such as fentanyl. The latter can amplify the effects of heroin, making it extremely dangerous and increasing the chances of an overdose.

Symptoms of heroin use include slow breathing, narrow pupils, dry mouth, and a flushed face. Over the long-term, heroin use can lead to mental confusion, kidney failure, lung damage, and heart disease.

Crystal Meth

Crystal meth is a crystalline form of methamphetamine, which is an illegal Schedule II drug, and therefore it is potentially extremely addictive. The crystal form is available in several colors, including opaque white, yellow, brown, or pink. Another common form of methamphetamine is known by the street drug names, “speed” and “tina,” and is sold as a powder.

Symptoms of crystal meth use and addiction include unpredictable, hostile, and violent behavior, mental confusion, and psychotic thoughts and actions. Another common sign is “meth bugs,” which is a hallucination of feeling like insects or bugs are crawling under the addict’s skin. Over the long-term, using crystal meth can lead to brain damage with memory loss and difficulty thinking, serious damage to the teeth, and weight loss.

Drug Addiction Treatments

Treatment for addiction to any of the street drugs begins with removing the drug from the system in a controlled manner. This is best done in a dedicated detox center or drug rehab, because the withdrawal symptoms can be serious and distressing, and having constant medical supervision available is the safest and most effective way in which to withdraw.

When the drug is out of the system, therapy to address the issues surrounding and underlying the addiction begins. This usually includes cognitive behavioral therapy, motivational interviewing, group and individual counseling, and medications such as disulfiram, methadone, buprenorphine or naltrexone. A range of alternative therapies such as music or art therapy, equine therapy, meditation, and/or restorative yoga are also available at many rehabs. A lengthy period of treatment of around 30-90 days, or longer as an inpatient, is usually required to give the recovering addict the best chance of full recovery without future relapse. During this time any associated mental health issues are also identified and treated.

After the residential period of therapy is over and the person in recovery returns to their normal life and surroundings, the risk of relapse is high. To help avoid relapse and continue their education on addiction and the processes leading to relapse, membership of a recovery support groups, such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and other 12-step groups, or SMART Recovery, is strongly encouraged. These support groups hold meetings in a number of cities in Tennessee, including Nashville, Memphis, and smaller towns.

Addiction to illegal drugs is a difficult condition to treat, but a full recovery is possible, and relapse can be prevented with the right education and support. It is best to seek help early rather than leave it until later, because untreated addictions always get worse, and the risk of accidental overdose remains high. Help is always available for street drug addiction. When you are ready to get sober once and for all, pick up the phone and dial and addiction specialist for more information.