A Guide to Drugs, Addiction, and Rehab in Knoxville, TN

Knoxville TN Addiction Treatment

About Knoxville, Tennessee

Knoxville was first settled in 1786 and was originally the state capital of Tennessee until 1817. Throughout its history, Knoxville has struggled through a variety of economic setbacks but has since emerged with a diversified economy.

Knoxville's balmy subtropical climate and ample community projects make it a popular location for people to live and work. The city's most prominent structure is the Sunsphere, but the Tennessee Amphitheater is also a notable landmark on the cityscape.

The city has seen plenty of redevelopment in recent decades, rejuvenating and revitalizing its downtown district and redeveloping Market Square, effectively attracting business back into those areas. Knoxville is also known for a strong arts culture, with plenty of galleries, studios, theaters and venues for outdoor concerts.

Impact of Addiction in Knoxville

Despite being a progressive city for business and culture, Knoxville is also plagued with a significant drug and alcohol abuse problem. Perhaps the biggest problem within the Knox County area is the abuse of opioid drugs, including prescription painkiller medications such as Percocet or OxyCodone and illicit street drugs such as heroin.

Knoxville Police Department Chief David Rausch says that police are finding more heroin in the city that is of a higher potency. It's believed the stronger version of the drug is being shipped in from cities such as Atlanta or Detroit. He also confirms the city is plagued with more addicts today than he has ever seen since beginning work with the KPD in 1993.

Local News on Drug-Related Issues

The drug abuse problem in Knoxville has attracted plenty of negative media in recent times. However, there has also been plenty of media coverage about efforts being made by authorities to address issues.

Warning to Drug Dealers: In April 2018, the Knoxville Police Department and the District Attorney Charme Allen issued a strong warning to drug dealers in the area. The District Attorney made it clear that authorities will charge drug dealers with homicide if it could be proven their drugs were responsible for a proven overdose death.

The statement was reinforced by Knoxville Police Drug Related Task Force Sgt. Josh Shaffer, who stated that they prioritize holding drug dealers to account if their drug trafficking had been proven to result in overdose deaths. The Knoxville Police Department confirmed that they attend around 3 overdose deaths each week in the area.

266 Opiod Overdoses in TN in 2017

Drug Poisoning

Broader statistics show that a total of 604 overdose deaths as a result of drug poisoning were reported in Knox County through 2016. The statistics include opioid drugs, analgesics, sedative-hypnotic drugs, psychotropic drugs, narcotics and other drugs that act on the central nervous system. 

It was also reported that the number of deaths caused by opioid overdose reached 266 in 2017, up from 224 in the previous year. So far, the number of opioid overdose deaths recorded to July 2018 is at 176, indicating that the death toll is still rising.

Unfortunately, a high overdose death rate also correlates to an even higher usage rate.

What is Being Done to Address Addiction in Knoxville?

 The state of Tennessee has passed several new laws designed to help combat drug abuse and addiction. One such law was to charge drug dealers who sold drugs that led to overdose deaths with second-degree murder. Another law saw restrictions on pain clinic management tightened. The police department in Tennessee also carries Naloxone, a drug used as an antidote for opioid overdose.


Sober Activities in Knoxville

A person who has struggled in a cycle of addiction for a long period of time may have developed a lifestyle that is primarily focused on finding, affording, using or recovering from drug or alcohol use. Such a narrowly targeted focus usually means recovering people often have no real idea what else to do with their time if those things are no longer a primary focus.

Cultural Diversity

Yet Knoxville is an incredibly diverse city, offering a myriad of sober activities to choose from. The city boasts multiple restaurants and cafés, as well as a regional history museum, the Knoxville Museum of Art, and a Regal Cinemas theater. 

Public Parks and Gardens

Downtown's Krutch Park features plenty of public sculptures, statues and artworks throughout the tranquil park setting. Of course, there are plenty of public parks and gardens to explore right across the county, including the Knoxville Botanical Garden and Arboretum.


Knox County is also a popular location for the arts, with lots of studios, galleries and theaters in the area, as well as venues for live music and concerts. If you prefer to watch competitive sports, Knoxville offers multiple sporting stadiums to enjoy baseball games

Outdoor Fun

When it comes to finding sober activities to enjoy, many people in recovery find they begin to enjoy outdoor physical activity. The Little River or the Ocoee River both offer lots of outdoor activities to explore, including tubing or rafting.

Alternatively, you could head to Mead's Quarry for some paddleboarding. There's also a little sandy beach at The Cove at Concord Park that is a nice place to relax and enjoy a bit of sun in the warmer months.

If mountain biking is more your style, South Knoxville offers plenty of trails and mountain biking trails at the Ijams Nature Center. There are also miles and miles of hiking trails to explore around the city for those who would rather walk through nature at a more leisurely pace.

Education and Career

On a more academic level, some people in recovery find enormous benefits in enrolling in study courses or educational programs. Knoxville is the home of the University of Tennessee, so those who want to complete studies or delve into new career options have lots of options. Not only are they gaining job skills and qualifications, but they're also improving employment opportunities. Study programs also provide a great opportunity to develop new social networks.

Where to Find Drug and Alcohol Treatment in Knoxville

There are drug and alcohol treatment centers available nearby Knoxville, each providing programs designed to help people begin the recovery process. In order to locate the best treatment program, it's important to understand that not all rehab programs are the same.

What works really well for one person may not be suited to another person's needs at all. The key to choosing the best drug or alcohol rehab treatment is to consider a range of factors, including:

  • The length and severity of the addiction
  • The type of drug being taken
  • The dosage being taken prior to treatment
  • Whether the person is taking more than one substance (polydrug abuse)
  • Whether there are any underlying or undiagnosed mental health disorders that may need to be treated simultaneously
Choosing a treatment center in TN

When all factors have been properly assessed, addiction specialists are in a stronger position to customize the right combination of treatments and therapies to improve recovery outcomes.

The actual treatments used during recovery from drug or alcohol addiction will differ for each person. However, the first step in all addiction treatment programs is always the detox process.


Detox is simply the process of weaning the person off the substance of abuse so they can get clean. Many recovering people are at risk of developing potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms that could be life-threatening or may require emergency medical assistance. For this reason, it's always recommended that the detox process is conducted under medical supervision or within an inpatient residential rehab facility.

It's common for many people to think that a recovering person should be somehow 'cured' once they've gotten through detox. Yet detox is just the first step on the journey to recovery.

Detox only rids the body of the effects of the substance. On its own, it does nothing to address the underlying psychological triggers behind addictive behaviors.

Addiction Treatment

In order to increase outcomes for recovering people, a comprehensive program of treatment and therapy is recommended. The majority of drug and alcohol addiction rehab treatment centers use a combination of traditional treatments and alternative therapies to help each recovering person understand and identify their own uniquely personal addiction triggers.

Once those triggers are recognized, addiction treatment specialists are able to work with the recovering person to develop a strong relapse prevention strategy to improve the chances of remaining abstinent over the long term.

Specialized counseling sessions also work on discovering the underlying factors that could act as triggers for self-destructive behaviors. Many people fear that counseling might somehow try to change everything about who they are, but in reality, counseling styles used are more for self-directed change and finding positive motivations to stay sober after leaving rehab.

Choosing an Addiction Treatment Program: Before choosing a drug or alcohol addiction treatment program, take the time to assess the various treatments and therapies used in rehab. Just as the reasons behind each person's addictive substance use are unique to them, the treatments needed to enhance recovery outcomes are also individual to each person's own needs.