Tenn. 8th highest for drug overdose deaths in the nation

Tenn. 8th highest for drug overdose deaths in the nation

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Community members gather every month at Morristown City Hall for a prayer circle to ask God to wipe away their drug problem. Community members gather every month at Morristown City Hall for a prayer circle to ask God to wipe away their drug problem.

By MONA NAIR
6 News Reporter

MORRISTOWN (WATE) - In Hamblen County, a group of citizens gather every month at Morristown City Hall for a prayer circle. They ask God to wipe away their drug problem.

The October evening of prayer coincided with the release of new statistics about drug addiction in Tennessee.

A new report by the Trust for America's Health says Tennessee is  8th highest for drug overdose deaths in the nation.  It also says the number of drug deaths, mostly from prescription pills, have doubled since 1999.

Separately, the Tennessee Department of Health released Monday that as of the first week of October, 643 babies were born dependent on drugs. That's more than in all of 2011.

"I looked at it as God saving me, because if I hadn't gotten arrested, I probably would be dead," said Jeff Johnson, who took part in the evening of prayer. He's a former addict who says at one point he was taking 40 prescription pills a day.

"The numbers are high and they are increasing instead of going down," said Hamblen County Sheriff Esco Jarnagin, who also attends the meetings.

"Rehab, do you think it works? The justice system, do you think it works? As soon as they get out of jail, they go back to their old haunts," he added, about how law enforcement fights an uphill battle.

The Trust for America's Health report also said Tennessee got a score of seven out of ten in promising strategies to curb drug addiction.

That's things like doctor shopping laws and substance abuse services.

The prayer group in Hamblen County believes their prayers are helping.

They ask anyone to join them once a month, or to do the same in their communities.

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