NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) and the Tennessee Department of Health have shared new details on prevention and education initiatives in place to fight substance abuse in the Volunteer State.

The Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (TDMHSAS) is receiving $5.4 million through the Overdose Data to Action grant, which will be used for substance use prevention activities and data collection over the next five years.

Last year, the state began distributing fentanyl test strips to help people find possible contaminants in their drugs. According to new data from the TDMHSAS, 94% of people who used the strips reported feeling better able to protect themselves and 85% reported a positive behavior change from using the strips.

“Addiction wrecks too many families, costs too many lives, and we must do more,” said TBI Director David Rausch.

Inside TBI’s laboratories, authorities expect fentanyl will be the third most-seen substance, behind cannabis-marijuana in second place and methamphetamine in first place. Rausch also warned of a rise in xylazine, or horse tranquilizer, in the region.

Overdose death rates in Nashville through June, according to the Metro Public Health Department, show a fairly even spread among age demographics, with an increase in overdoses for individuals under the age of 35.

  • Ages 0-34: 25%
  • Ages 35-44: 25%
  • Ages 45-54: 27%
  • Ages 55-64: 21%

The local office for the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) said there’s a rise in overdoses among children under the age of 14. Therefore, parents are encouraged to start conversations on drug prevention early.

“It’s on all of us, it really is. We need to have open and honest conversations with children about the dangers of fentanyl,” said DEA Assistant Special Agent in Charge Brett Pritts. “It’s the deadliest drug we’ve ever faced.”

Pritts said only 2 milligrams of fentanyl, enough to fit on the tip of a pencil, is considered a deadly dose.

He warned parents about drug sales happening on social media, adding that nobody should ever take a prescription medication that hasn’t been recommended by their doctor. After all, many overdoses happen when people are unaware of what’s really in the pill.

Saturday, Oct. 28 is National Prescription Drug Take Back Day. From 10 to 2 p.m., Tennesseans will have the opportunity to dispose of expired or unneeded prescription medications safely and securely at dozens locations across the state. 

“You may not realize it, but theft from medicine cabinets of family and friends is one of the most common and preventable forms of drug diversion,” Rausch explained.

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During the previous Drug Take Back Day in April, the DEA said more than 663,000 pounds of drugs were collected from nearly 5,000 sites across the country collected. In the Volunteer State, specifically, the TBI director said authorities retrieved about 8,200 pounds of medications from more than 120 locations that day.

“It’s a help,” said Rausch. “Every little step is a step in the right direction.”

You can find a map of Drug Take Back Day events happening across the Tennessee, as well as lists of accepted and prohibited items, by clicking here. There are also permanent Take Back Boxes, which can be found here.