National Substance Abuse Prevention Month

 In 2011, President Obama issues the first Presidential Proclamation designating October as National Substance Abuse Prevention Month. The tradition continues in 2015 as communities across the nation encourage prevention efforts in promoting a healthier, safer, drug-free America.

Millions of Americans are suffering from substance abuse, disrupting families, schools and communities. It limits the success of individuals and affects all aspects of our communities. Every day, someone makes the decision to try drugs or alcohol for the first time. This decision has a great impact on their well being.

  • In 2014, an estimated 27 million Americans aged 12 or older were current illicit drug users
  • 1 in 10 individuals aged 12 or older in the US used illicit drugs in the past month
  • In 2014, out of the 139.7 million people aged 12 or older who drank alcohol, 60.9 million were binge alcohol users and 16.3 million were heavy alcohol users
  • More than one third of young adults in 2014 were binge alcohol users

An effective way to help people lead healthier lives is to focus on prevention strategies. Prevention is powerful and recent research has shown that each dollar invested in substance use prevention programs has the potential to reduce up to $18 in costs related to substance use disorders.

Substance abuse affects everyone, and we all can join in on helping the next generation make smart choices. As community members and as a Nation, it is upon us to engage in activities and programs that promote healthy lifestyles all around us. National Substance Abuse Prevention month recognizes those who work to prevent substance use in communities all across the nation. By educating people about the dangers of drugs and alcohol, we can help set young Americans on a path toward a brighter, healthier and safer future.

MDC Welcomes New Executive Director


The Metropolitan Drug Commission is proud to announce Scott Payne as its newest executive director.

Payne states, “If you want to discover what a community needs, find out what its pain is.” Payne has almost a decade of experience in crisis center management and prevention work. Most recently, Payne served as the East Tennessee Coordinator for Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network. This is where Payne began to develop a passion for understanding the importance of preventing substance abuse.

“Working to prevent suicide throughout East Tennessee has been rewarding.  However, the opportunity to work with an agency with the reputation of Metropolitan Drug Commission was too enticing to pass up. I feel fortunate to be the next executive director at MDC, and I look forward to years of leading this wonderful team as we fulfill the mission of our agency,” Payne said.

A Knoxville native, Payne cares for the wellbeing of his community. He has served as a board member for the Tennessee Alliance of Information Systems and Circle Center Consulting. Payne looks forward to getting involved with different organizations that align with the MDC mission.

MDC Board President, Keith Goodwin adds, “The board is thrilled to have Scott join the MDC team. He will be a wonderful asset to our organization.”

Payne holds a Masters of Divinity from Vanderbilt University. Prior to that, Payne received a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville.

National Recovery Month

2015-recovery-month-logoWith the start of a new school year, a new football season and the transition into fall, the month of September seems to fly by every year. But let’s not forget what else September stands for: National Recovery Month. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) sponsors National Recovery Month and September 2015 marks its 26th year. The national observance educates Americans that prevention works, treatment is effective and people can and DO recover.

Initially, substance use may be a person’s choice. But when addiction takes over, self-control is lost and treatment is necessary. Addiction is a chronic and complex disease. Craving, seeking and abusing substance not only affects organs in the body, but the brain as well.

Addiction is seen as a brain disease because of the way it changes the brain’s structure and how it works. The affect substance abuse has on a brain can change a person’s ability to think clearly and control behavior.


  • One in every twelve adults suffer from alcohol abuse
  • More than 90,000 people die yearly from alcohol and drug abuse
  • 480,000 people die each year from tobacco use

Those who suffer from a substance use disorder may feel lonely and helpless, but there is help within reach. Recovery can happen at any point. Sponsors and supporters come together during Recovery Month to host local community events. The numerous recovery and awareness events educate Americans that those suffering from a substance use disorder, can successfully recover to live a healthy, fulfilling life.

Recovery from alcohol and drug addiction is happening everyday and it is something to celebrate about. Read personal stories from those who have shared the power of recovery.

If you know someone who is in need of help or a recovery group, please contact the Metropolitan Drug Commission.




MDC Welcomes New Intern

IMG_4032-1We are delighted to introduce our newest intern, Aya Harasawa, an undergraduate at the University of Tennessee. Along with interning at MDC, she is spending her senior year pursuing a degree in public relations with a minor in business administration, serving as an Executive Chairman for Delta Zeta Sorority and working part-time at Copper Cellar. Outside of working and school, Aya loves traveling and experiencing new cultures. She has been to nine different countries, including Italy through the University of Tennessee’s study abroad program. Growing up traveling internationally and being raised bicultural has given Aya the vision to pursue a career in international communications.

In the past, Aya’s work and student experiences have developed her skills in interpersonal communication, management and problem solving. In her leadership role in Delta Zeta, Aya has worked extensively with event management, planning, risk management and prevention. She is excited to test her skills while interning at Metropolitan Drug Commission.

Aya’s hopes her time at MDC is not only to grow her management and planning skills, but also to gain more experience in writing and media relations. She is excited to learn and assist in social media outreach, as well as working with the Knoxville community against substance abuse.

Welcome to our team Aya! We look forward to seeing the work you accomplish this semester.

Alcohol: Don’t Let It Be Overlooked

Summer is almost over for Knox County. School will be starting up again August 10 and now is the perfect time to talk to your kids about one drug that is often overlooked.


Coming back to school from a long summer vacation is an exciting time for teens. They’ll be greeted by their favorite teachers, get to see their friends every day and get back to playing sports and participating in other extracurricular activities. Don’t let one of those extracurricular activities become alcohol abuse.

According to the 2013 Knox County Schools High School Youth Risk Behavior Survey:

  • 60% of Knox County high school students have had at least one drink of alcohol during their lifetime.
  • 15.7% drank alcohol for the first time before 13 years of age.
  • 18.3% participated in binge drinking at least one day in the 30 days before the survey.

There are many reasons teens decide to start drinking, two of them being peer pressure and stress. It is easy for a high school student to get caught up in a social situation where they’re pressured to drink. Teenagers who believe alcohol makes it easier to socialize, for example, tend to drink more than those who don’t believe that alcohol loosens their social inhibitions. Teens are also at greater risk for developing alcohol-related problems when alcohol is readily available at home or among their peer group, and if drunkenness is acceptable.

Teenagers find it a lot more difficult to cope with stress. This leads to anxiety, exhaustion and tension. Several conditions, like college entrance exams, relationships with friends and family, grades and more, can all be potential stressors for teenagers. Unfortunately, many teens turn to alcohol to relieve their stress.

Talking to kids openly and honestly about the risks of drinking can help reduce their chances of drinking. Set the stage early by letting your teen know that he or she can talk to you about anything, without judgment or lecturing.

It is important for teenagers to understand that alcohol is a drug and consuming it at an early age can simply be the start of a lifelong struggle with alcoholism. Ethanol, commonly known as alcohol, found in beer, wine and spirits is a psychoactive drug that has a depressant effect. Some researchers believe that heavy drinking at this age, when the brain is still developing, may cause lasting impairments in brain functions such as memory, coordination, and motor skills.

Drinking alcohol is an activity that will affect your teen in his or her every day life. Drinking disrupts sleep patterns, which can make it harder to stay awake and concentrate during the day. This lack of sleep can lead to struggles with studying and poor academic performance. Drinking can also cause barriers in relationships due to a change in personality, like becoming angry or moody, when someone is under the influence.

While most people recognize the importance of discussing alcohol with kids, they are not always sure when to initiate this discussion. Adolescents are often nervous and confused as they face their first opportunities to try alcohol and are often interested to hear your thoughts on the subject. Start the conversation now and allow your kids to have a safe and happy school year.

If you or someone you know is struggling with alcoholism, GET HELP.

Prescription Drug Addiction in Young Athletes

In today’s society it seems like young athletes are experiencing more and more pressure to be the best at their sport. They practice year-round, participate in club leagues when they’re in the off season, take private lessons and more. Despite the increased work ethic and desire to succeed, young athletes are already more prone to injury because their bodies are still growing and developing.

What typically comes along with sports-related injuries? Prescription pain killers.

When these athletes are injured, it is natural for a doctor to treat the pain as well as the injury. “Young athletes who become addicted to pain pills (or heroin) almost always start out using simply wanting to get back on the field; it is only later that they become addicted to the drug,” Dr. Chris Stankovich, “The Sports Doc”, said. A study found in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Substance Abuse states that 12% of male and 8% of female high school athletes reported abusing painkillers in the last year.

Young athletes and their parents need to understand that although the teen’s pain is temporarily relieved by painkillers, it doesn’t mean their body is in the right condition to get back to their sport. The longer you postpone the healing process, the longer it will take to get back to 100 percent. Masking an injury this way can only lead to the risk of a greater injury and consistent use of painkillers can lead to a lifetime of addiction.

Accidents happen, but there are ways to prevent injuries in these athletes. The American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness recommends that young athletes should limit their sports-specific activities to five days a week with one complete rest day from all physical activity. In addition, the same council recommends young student athletes take at least 2 months off a year from a specific sport to properly rest and rebuild their bodies.

Addiction in athletes is not a myth; it is a problem that can be found at high schools all across the nation. Read From Athletes to Addicts, an article that tells the stories of real high school athletes in Albuquerque, New Mexico who were prescribed painkillers after suffering sports-related injuries and later became hooked on less-expensive and more easily attained opiates like heroin.

Don’t Let Booze Float Your Boat

The 4th of July, along with Memorial Day and Labor Day, typically account for more than one third of all boating related accidents and fatalities. Celebrate the holiday by boating sober. Not only is boating under the influence unsafe, it’s illegal.

Just like driving a car, it is against the law to operate a boat under the influence of drugs or alcohol. If you are convicted in the state of Tennessee, it will result in fines of up to $2,500 on the first offense, $2,500 on the second offense and $5,000 for the third offense. A jail sentence of 11 months and 29 days may also be imposed for any conviction and operating privileges may be suspended from one to ten years. Additional federal penalties may also be charged.

In 2013, 10% of all boating accidents were a result of alcohol abuse. Of that 10%, there were 75 deaths and 187 injuries. Alcohol use was #1 contributing factor in all deaths from boating accidents. Alcohol mixed with wind and sun exposure is a dangerous combination. Boaters are exposed to sun and wind, which can be dehydrating and increases the effects of even small amounts of alcohol.

Alcohol is a depressant; it slows the function of the central nervous system and alters a person’s perception, emotion, movement; vision and hearing. When under the influence of alcohol, people can experience loss of coordination, staggering, slurred speech, feeling of confusion and disorientation and a dramatically slowed reaction time – all of which are necessary to safely operate a watercraft.

For example, if you’re under the influence of alcohol, imagine if you fall in the water – because you’re intoxicated you lose vital coordination skills. It will become much harder to swim back to safety or grab on to a life preserver. The shock of the cold water can also add to cramping and the very real possibility of drowning.

When you choose to operate a watercraft under the influence of alcohol you’re breaking the law and endangering yourself, your passengers and other boaters. Is it worth it?

Make this holiday weekend fun and safe. Boat sober.

National Safety Month: Keeping Your Family Safe

The National Safety Council is taking a stand against prescription drug abuse for this year’s National Safety Month.

Among people 35 to 54 years old, unintentional drug overdoses cause more deaths than motor vehicle crashes. People who take opioid painkillers can quickly develop a tolerance and dependence to this class of drugs. When a person becomes dependent, he or she experiences unpleasant symptoms when they stop taking the drug.

“More Americans overdose on prescription painkillers than on heroin and cocaine combined,” said Deborah A.P. Hersman, president and CEO of NSC. “Yet, these medications are marketed as the Cadillac option for treating pain. If doctors and their patients understand the risks and side effects, they can discuss safer, more effective options. Without an honest dialogue, we’ll continue to see a cycle of addiction and overdose that has made opioid painkiller use a public health crisis.”

Prescription opioid painkillers account for more drug overdose deaths than heroine and cocaine combined. If your doctor suggests taking opioid painkillers, be sure to tell him or her about any pre-existing conditions that will increase your risk. Some of these conditions include, but aren’t limited to: any personal or family history of addiction, anxiety, depression or sleep apnea.

In order to keep you and your family safe, it is important to keep all prescription medications locked up and out of sight. Never keep leftover medications. Dispose of unused drugs properly by checking with your local police department to find drug take-back programs in your community.

If you’re in Knoxville, unwanted or unused prescription drugs can be dropped off any time at the Knoxville Police Department’s Safety Building located at 800 Howard Bake Jr. Avenue.

To get more help on overdose deaths and any substance addiction, please visit

Men’s Health Month

June is Men’s Health Month! The purpose of Men’s Health Month is to heighten the awareness of preventable health problems and encourage early detection and treatment of disease among men and boys. This month gives health care providers, public policy makers, the media, and individuals an opportunity to encourage men and boys to seek regular medical advice and early treatment for disease and injury. The response has been overwhelming with thousands of awareness activities in the USA and around the globe.


  • Men are at greater risk for death in every age group. More males than females are born (105 vs 100), but by age 35, women outnumber men.
  • Currently, men are dying an average of 5 years younger than women and lead 9 out of 10 of the top causes of death. Among those being, heart disease, cardiovascular disease, liver disease and more.
  • Men have a higher suicide death rate than women. Men account for 92% of fatal workplace injuries.
  • 1 in 2 men are diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime compared to 1 in 3 women

Data from the 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health show that men ages 18 or older have almost twice the rate of substance dependence as adult women. These substances include prescription drugs, alcohol, sedatives, cannabis, tranquilizers, hallucinogens and cocaine. If your loved one is suffering from addiction, get help.

Men, June is your time to man up and be healthy! Schedule your annual check up and view the Blueprint for Men’s Health to see how you can start living a healthier lifestyle.


You can make the difference – be aware of drug and alcohol abuse at summer music festivals

Once a year, over 85,000 music lovers from around the world congregate on a 700-acre farm in Manchester, TN. Why? One word – Bonnaroo.

Bonnaroo is an annual music festival held in June and this year is hosting 150+ bands over a four-day time period. We want to think that this would be a fun time for people to simply enjoy their favorite artists, but music festivals have come to be known for drug and alcohol abuse.

Bonnaroo appears to be making strides to combat this problem. According to, every vehicle is searched upon arrival and there are strict guidelines on what is and is not allowed into the venue, placing a limit on the amount of alcohol allowed per vehicle and stating that no illegal substances will be tolerated.

On their website, Bonnaroo highlights the dangers of abusing drugs and alcohol, “There’s one easy way to wreck your weekend (and your friends’): drugs and alcohol. Drugs raise your body temperature (sometimes fatally) and drain H20 from your cells, while alcohol dehydrates you. Under the brutal June sun, your body and mind can fry way too easily, and the dangers of combining substances are only multiplied in this environment.”

This is accompanied by a reminder that their number one concern is the well-being of festival-goers. They have a “no questions asked” policy and encourage everyone to seek help at a medical tent if they or a friend are in danger –warning signs.

There are several support communities that attend a number of music festivals throughout the year to act as a safe haven for “sober ravers”, one of them being Soberoo. Soberoo conducts daily meetings and has its own tent set up at Bonnaroo.

Bonnaroo is making an effort to educate people, but we still see continued abuse of illegal substances. If you or any of your friends are making the trip to Manchester this weekend, make the smart decision and report any illegal drug activity or alcohol abuse you see.