Under the new law, regular refills of painkillers, anti-anxiety medications and other controlled substances face increased scrutiny, including the database checks and possible urine samples for drug screens.
"It's more time-consuming, and it adds expense, but at the end of the day it is probably better for practicing good medicine," said Brian Kalla, a physical medicine and rehabilitation doctor at Siskin Spine & Rehabilitation Clinic, which treats many patients requiring pain medicine.
Prescriptions for benzodiazepines like Xanax and Valium, which are used to treat such anxiety and panic attacks, decreased by more than 3 percent since the law went into effect, while prescriptions for opioids — painkillers like Vicodin, OxyContin and morphine — dropped by 0.7 percent.
But Tennessee remains tied for first in the nation for having the highest per capita rate for painkiller use, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
More than 70 Tennessee doctors said in a survey said they have changed treatment plans after checking the database, and more than half said they are now more likely to recommend substance abuse treatment for patients.
Kalla said tests showed some patients had not taken the prescribed medicines, meaning they had likely been passed along to others to abuse. Other patients had combined the medicines with illegal drugs like cocaine or meth, he said.
"Some of these are people that I had suspicions about," Kalla said. "But others completely surprised me."