A Dose of Reality for Educators

4 out of 10 teens believe prescription drugs are less dangerous and less addictive than street drugs. The number of prescription opioid overdose deaths has decreased in Tennessee with the exception of the 18-24 year old age group, which showed a continued trend of increasing rates (5.0 per 100,000 TN residents in 2015 and 8.2 per 100,000 TN residents in 2017.)

In the 12-17 year old age group the number of Opioid (non-heroin) overdose hospital discharges decreased from 87 in 2016 to 71 in 2017. [1]

If you suspect your student is at risk

When your student starts acting withdrawn, depressed, hostile or fatigued for no reason, you may not suspect at first that anything is wrong. But many of these behaviors can also be signs of a drug related problem.

Other signs that could mean a student is at risk:

  • A decline in school performance or attendance
  • Consistently late to school
  • A “new” group of friends
  • Changing relationships with family and friends
  • Intermittent nodding off

What Educators can do

  • Understand the risk factors for abuse of painkillers: stress over school work or exams, trouble with friends, depression, anxiety
  • Talk with students and parents about the risks and dangers of prescription painkillers, especially opioids and narcotics
  • Encourage parents and students to ask healthcare professionals for non-narcotic painkiller alternatives if prescribed
  • Let parents and students know that you will stand by them and offer support if they need it
  • Review your school’s policies on drug use and encourage administrators to consider updating them to include use and/or abuse of narcotic painkillers
  • Watch students for signs of addiction

Addiction affects people from all walks of life.

TN Faces of Opioids:

The Tennessee Department of Health is sharing the stories of Tennesseans affected by the opioid epidemic and what they are doing in every county and community of our state to bring it to an end.

Learn More



[1] TDH Data includes only Tennessee residents discharged from non-federal, acute care hospitals