With East Tennessee's ongoing prescription drug abuse battle, some of the state's pharmacy schools are doing their part to catch signs of the problem.
Dr. Mike O'Neil, a new teacher at South College, is involved with educating the school's pharmacy students on how to recognize the tell-tale signs of these types of abuse.
"The shift over the last 10 years is to more of a prescription drugs and prescription drug addiction," O'Neil said on Thursday.
According to the Tennessee Drug Task Force, the number of prescriptions for painkillers have doubled in a four years' span. Many of those orders are for non-medicinal purposes.
"The whole idea of drug diversion is woven into various courses," O'Neil added. "It's about recognition and how you handle that."
South College is not the only school that has become involved with educating its students on recognizing these signs and patterns. Educators at East Tennessee State University and both University of Tennessee School of Pharmacy campuses also added to their pharmacy students' lesson plans in recent years.
With these new developments, experts said these future pharmacists have the ability to play a huge role in the prevention of prescription drug abuse.
"They have the opportunity to report to physicians and other providers suspicions they have about particular customers," Cornerstone Recovery's Bill Lee said on Thursday.
Dr. O'Neil said there are plans to teach other agencies outside of the classroom about the signs of prescription drug abuse with the "Center of Excellence for the Prevention of Drug Diversion and Substance Abuse."
For now, though, any help to fight such an overwhelming problem will help.
"How do we assess patients to see if they're using medications appropriately and in a timely fashion?" the doctor asked.
UT says both their Knoxville and their Memphis campus work to teach pharmacy students the signs of drug addiction as well.