Since the 1970s, state agencies, nonprofits, courts, and community organizations have been working to address substance misuse and addiction. Tennessee consistently ranks in the top five state in terms of substance misuse rates.

During the 1800s, opium and cocaine were discovered and used as a medical treatment, especially during the Civil War. Doctors soon discovered their unfortunate addictive properties in some people. Use, and addiction, grew extensively through the early 1900s. The first drug control legislation – the Harrison Narcotics Act – was passed in 1914. The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, ushered in several decades of strict drug control throughout the country and Tennessee.


1973: The General Assembly passed the Comprehensive Alcohol and Drug Treatment Act. The Department of Mental Health was charged with developing programs for treating and preventing alcohol and drug abuse.

1991: The Division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Services was transferred from the Department of Mental Health to the Department of Health

1995: Oxycontin approved by the FDA

2000: The South Tennessee Meth Task Force is created by officials in 18 Tennessee counties in response the growing use of meth and meth labs.

2005: Meth Free Tennessee Act is passed into law.

2006: The Meth Task Force expands statewide and becomes the Tennessee Meth Task Force.

2007: The Division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Services was transferred back to Department of Mental Health from the Department of Health.

2012: The Department of Mental Health’s name is changed to the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services

2012: Prescription opioid drugs surpass alcohol as the most abused substance in Tennessee

20XX: Dangerous Drug Task Force

2017: During the height of the opioid epidemic, 1 in 6 Tennesseans are misusing prescription opioids, and Tennessee has the second highest rate of prescription opioids.