‘Tennessee Faces of Opioid Crisis’ campaign aims to end stigma

The “Faces of the Opioid Crisis” campaign shares stories from Tennessee residents whose lives have been affected by addiction. (Adobe Stock)

The Tennessee Health Department has launched a new campaign to raise awareness of how the opioid epidemic impacts individuals, families and communities.

The ‘Tennessee Faces of the Opioid Crisis’ campaign shares the stories of residents from counties across the state whose lives have been affected by opioid misuse and connects those who need help to resources. State health commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey said opioid-related overdose deaths in Tennessee continue to climb.

“We are continuing to see an increase in overdose deaths,” Piercey said. “Our overdose death data is finalized through 2017. We have some preliminary 2018 numbers, but they were still on the rise, and they were still on the rise in both men and women.”

Data released in July by a federal court in Ohio revealed how pharmaceutical companies and distributors funneled an estimated 12.6 billion hydrocodone and oxycodone pills to pharmacies in towns and cities from 2006-12.

Robbie Monahan is a pharmacist and minister in Washington County who is participating in the campaign. He said he’s hopeful that over time, opioid use will lessen its grip on communities.

“In the pharmacy world, we’re seeing a decrease in opiate prescriptions, namely a decrease in first time, long-term opiate prescriptions,” Monahan said.

In 2017, more than 1,200 people died from opioids in Tennessee, and a significant portion of those overdose deaths involved fentanyl, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.