Drug Abuse and Addiction in Memphis, Tennessee

West Tennessee is a beautiful region home to great cities and universities; Memphis, in particular, is rich with culture and music history. Along with its beauty and diversity, however, Memphis struggles with an opioid overdose epidemic, like many other regions of the United States.

A Look at Drug Use in Memphis, Tennessee

Memphis is not immune to the drug overdose problems sweeping the nation. Drug overdose deaths continue to climb, with the highest number of overdose deaths in the state. In Shelby County (Memphis), there were 484 drug-poisoning deaths per 100,000 people in 2015, compared to 413 for Davidson County (Nashville) and 383 for Knox County (Knoxville).1
Overdose deaths in the united stated in 2001 was 1,000. In 2014, it increase to 10,000 overdose deaths. Part of this is the stigma that is attached to the disease. Our nation needs to work together to break the stigma and get help for our loved ones, as well as providing prevention education in schools and local communities.
Officials with the Tennessee Department of Health tie the deaths to the misuse of opioid pain relievers, counterfeit pills and other illegal substances. The overdose death rate for the state climbed to 22 deaths per 100,000 in 2015, compared to 16.6 deaths/100,000 in 2011. More people die of drug overdoses nationwide than in motor vehicle accidents.2

Greater action from the treatment community is necessary when prescription painkiller and heroin use is on the rise. Of particular concern to medical professionals and law enforcement is the rapid increase of fentanyl in Tennessee. Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid linked to many overdoses. It can be fatal, in some cases, when absorbed through the skin. In addition to opioid-based drugs, abuse of marijuana and methamphetamines is common.3

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Combatting Drug Abuse and Addiction

4.8 million people have used heroin at some point in their lives. 4.5 million people have used nonmedical painkillers in the past month. It's important to know the difference between painkillers and heroin, as well as when to get help.
Memphis police continue to investigate a wide variety of drug trafficking crimes. Twenty-five people were indicted in May 2017 due to a drug bust concentrating on criminal gang activity and the illicit sale of heroin, Fentanyl, cocaine, marijuana, and Oxycodone pills.4 In addition, Shelby County and the State of Tennessee may sue painkiller manufacturers for not doing enough to control use of their drugs.

Nearly 72 percent of the state’s drug overdose deaths are due to opioids.5

Despite the rampant drug problems that occur throughout much of the United States, Memphis is host to great treatment facilities and vigilant law enforcement.

In 2010, the Memphis Police Department received new software that allows them to target “hot spots” for crime, drugs and other violent activities. The result was a 30 percent drop in crime in the city.6

Addiction and Abuse Treatment for Memphis Residents

Fortunately, treatment centers in Tennessee are making great strides in treating the disease of addiction. The state will receive $13.8 million to fund opioid addiction treatment as part of the federal 21st Century Cures Act.

As part of the act, the following types of treatment are set to receive greater funding:

  • Continuum of care treatment services
  • Treatment for pregnant women
  • Tele-treatment in rural Tennessee counties
  • Medication Assisted Treatment
  • Recovery support services7

Facilities, such as The Oaks at La Paloma, that offer integrated treatment plans give patients the best chance at long-term recovery.

La Paloma inpatient buildingSpecialized treatment addresses a patient’s mental health and addiction symptoms at the same time. Plus, The Oaks at La Paloma offers evidence-based therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, that give patients the skills to end substance use and avoid thoughts that lead to drug-seeking behavior in the future.

If you’re located in Memphis, Tenn. and struggling with addiction issues, there is help for you. The Oaks at La Paloma offers drug and alcohol rehabilitation services that target addiction and its underlying causes. Our admissions coordinators want to talk you through this difficult time and get you on the road to recovery. Call us today at 901-350-4575.


1 Tennessee Department of Health. “Drug Overdose Deaths.” County Health Data Rankings, 2017. Accessed 12 June 2017.

2 TDH. “1,451 Tennesseans Die from Drug Overdoses in 2015.” 15 Nov. 2016. Accessed 12 June 2017.

3 Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. “Drugs.” Accessed 12 June 2017.

4 Brown, George & Shay, Arthur. “Memphis Police: U.S. mail carrier helped gang deliver drugs, part of larger bust.” WREG. 18 May 2017. Accessed 12 June 2017.

5 Poe, Ryan. “Tennessee, Shelby County look to sue as opioid costs mount.” The Commercial Appeal, 10 June 2017. Accessed 12 June 2017.

6 IBM press release. “Memphis Police Department Reduces Crime Rates with IBM Predictive Analytics Software.” 21 July 2010. Accessed 12 June 2017.

7 Tennessee Department of Mental Health & Substance Abuse Services. “Tennessee to Receive $13.8 Million Aimed at Prescription Opioid Crisis.” 25 April 2017. Accessed 12 June 2017.