Statewide prevention effort aimed at reducing drug, alcohol, and tobacco use

In counties and communities across Tennessee, anti-drug coalitions are working to reduce dependence on harmful and potentially lethal substances such as prescription drugs, alcohol, and tobacco.

These local efforts, funded by the State of Tennessee since 2008, help get the word out about the dangers and consequences of substance use. At the start of 2016, Tennessee provided funding for 33 county coalitions and two statewide. The approach has been so successful that effective July 1, an additional nine more county coalitions were funded.
The nine new coalitions are located in the following counties: Bradley/Polk, Carter, Cheatham, DeKalb, Gibson, Monroe, Obion, Sevier, and Unicoi.
“These coalitions are made up of people who care a lot for their communities and want to make them safer, and free of drugs. Their members include police officers, school teachers, doctors, nurses, elected leaders, mayors, council members, parents and students,” said E. Douglas Varney, Commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.

“They are people who come from all walks of life, see what’s going on in their area, and then take action, informing citizens about potential threats, and to help prevent substance use and abuse.”
A recent survey of Tennesseans, 18 years of age and older, found an alarming 373,000 acknowledged having an alcohol or illicit drug addiction. Among youth, ages 12 to 17, 26,000 admitted to an alcohol and drug dependence, and approximately one-quarter of all Tennesseans acknowledge they currently use tobacco products. *The number of people using e-cigarettes is not yet known.
“We have found our coalitions to be very effective in reaching people where they live with programs and information that make people think about the decisions they make around drugs, alcohol and tobacco,” Commissioner Varney said. “This is a critical time in many communities where young people as well as adults are combating an addiction to potentially lethal substances.”
“Where coalitions are most active, communities thrive,” Commissioner Varney said. “They promote health and wellness, helping to improve graduation rates, and promote campaigns that encourage teens and adults to avoid binge drinking and smoking. Their impact is far reaching.”

Eight Ways Coalitions Benefit Tennessee Communities:
• Increase the number of community permanent prescription drug take-back boxes per community
• Conduct community based drug take-back events
• Work to standardize penalties for alcohol and drug offenders
• Education for individuals handling alcoholic beverage transactions
• Monitor current smoke-free ordinances to encourage enforcement
• Post anti-drug, anti-alcohol, anti-smoking billboards in the community
• Offer a reward for information on illegal drug manufacturing
• Engage youth to participate in drug, alcohol, and tobacco-free efforts

“As a result of these efforts and others, communities tend to see reductions in youth having easy access to alcohol and other harmful substances,” Commissioner Varney said. “We can’t just rely on law enforcement and the courts to solve these problems. By being proactive with outreach efforts, we can truly save lives.”
“Armed with the facts about what can happen during a crisis situation like a drug overdose and excessive consumption of alcohol or an addiction to tobacco, Tennessee’s anti-drug coalitions offer a positive influence,” Commissioner Varney said. “Their message is one of hope and opportunity that young people, as well as adults, need to hear. Instead of just living for the moment, we want them to be focused on their health, wellbeing, education, and a future that’s full of great success.”
If you or someone you care for is in need of substance use treatment, call the Tennessee REDLINE anytime at 1-800-889-9789 for help now. Resources are available across the state. Those seeking help ending their nicotine addictions can find assistance at the toll-free Tennessee Tobacco QuitLine, 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).