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Prescription pills crackdown sparks heroin abuse spike in Tennessee

A former heroin addict speaks out to FOX 17. (WZTV)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WZTV) - Successful efforts to crack down on prescription pill abuse in Tennessee has had some unintended consequences, including a rise in heroin busts and overdoses, according to the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse.

What started as an escape turned into a trap for Joey Banks, A former heroin addict.

"It led me down a path of destruction," Banks said. "I literally thought I wouldn't have another happy day in my life."

Banks' battle with heroin is one he almost lost.

"It about took my life twice," Banks said. "I overdosed twice."

Banks said his addiction started with an addiction to prescription painkillers. The state says he's not alone.

Efforts to regulate prescription pills left addicts looking for another way to feed their addiction. A recent spike in heroin busts shows more people are turning to the highly addictive drug, according to the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse.

Addiction Campuses in Brentwood connects addicts with rehab services. The staff is fielding fewer calls about prescription pills and more calls from people addicted to heroin, according to Brian Sullivan, spokesperson for Addiction Campuses.

"We deal with people every day where another minute is too late," Sullivan said. "It's a huge problem. It's an epidemic that needs immediate attention."

Banks beat his addiction and now works at Addiction Campuses, helping other addicts find lifelines.

"It's the best feeling in the world," Banks said.

Banks said for every person he helps, there are others who instead of picking up the phone pick up the needle, and every time could be their last.

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