MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - Prescription drug abuse is a growing problem in the Mid-South. Tennessee is leading the way with one of the highest abuse rates in the country.
The Tennessee Drug Diversion Task Force, part of the TBI, reported the use of painkillers, or "opioids," doubled between 2005 and 2009, but one Memphis pharmacist is trying to fight the problem.
It's kind of ironic that a pharmacist is encouraging people not to take prescription pills. He says there's an alternative way to fight pain, a safer, less-addictive solution.
Brett Wright, owner of Benevere Pharmacy in Collierville, is not surprised prescription drug abuse is high in the Mid-South. He says the biggest problem is that these drugs are available everywhere. Wright says pain meds can be highly addictive.
"The problem is when you take an opioid the opioid is saturated with dopamine and causes your body to continue to stick that out. That's what leads to the use and abuse of these medications over time," Wright told abc24.com.
Wright is helping people fight pain by making cream base medications. He says they can be more effective and safer than prescription pills.
“The creams do have prescription medications in them but they're not flooding the brain with dopamine, which again, is what causes the body to seek out the use of opioids or the narcotics," said Wright.
The latest figures from the Tennessee Health Department show 887 people died from a drug overdose in 2010. The majority of the drugs come from prescription pills. That's up from 644 deaths in 2005.
Only 4 pharmacies in the Memphis area, including Wright's pharmacy, make cream pain meds. He hopes this will help fight drug abuse and maybe save lives.
The CDC says more people die from overdosing on prescription pain killers than from heroin and cocaine combined.