1,451 killed by drug overdoses in Tennessee in 2015

Nov. 15, 2016: Across Tennessee drug overdose deaths are spiking, with more than 1,400 people dying of drug overdoses in 2015.

The number of Tennesseans dying from drug overdoses continues to increase, with a record number of deaths recorded in 2015.

The Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) says that 1,451 people died from drug overdoses in the state in 2015--the most ever. The death rate from drug overdoses was higher than those killed in car accidents on Tennessee roads.

In the past five years, more than 6,000 lives were lost to this growing epidemic. 

“This is a disease every one of us is vulnerable to, not a moral failing. Not one of these victims deserved this, and the tragedy of lives lost to overdoses becomes even more painful knowing these deaths can be prevented and are the horrible tip of the overdose iceberg,” said TDH Commissioner John Dreyzehner. “We've made progress in reducing the amount of powerful narcotics legally dispensed and in making the overdose antidote naloxone more readily available, but there are still many people battling substance use disorders without seeking professional help and many criminals willing to sell extremely dangerous pills, counterfeit pills and gray and illegal substances."

Knox County had 153 drug overdose deaths last year, third highest in the state, behind Shelby and Davidson counties.

Drug overdose deaths by county (does not include counties with fewer than 12):

Anderson      26 
Blount            33
Bradley          20
Campbell      21
Carter            12
Cheatham    16
Claiborne     12
Coffee            14 
Davidson      157
Dickson         18
Franklin         13
Hamblen       17
Hamilton       59
Hawkins        16
Knox              153
Maury            15
Monroe          12
Montgomery  36
Putnam          15
Roane            21
Robertson     15
Rutherford     56
Sevier             28
Shelby           188
Sullivan         35
Sumner          24
Tipton             15
Washington   30
Williamson     25
Wilson             37

There were eight counties where no drug overdose deaths were documented:  Haywood, Lake, Lauderdale, Perry, Pickett, Trousdale and Van Buren.

Abuse and misuse of opioids continues to be a significant factor in Tennessee’s crisis of drug overdose deaths. TDH data show nearly 72 percent of the 1,451 drug overdose deaths in Tennessee in 2015 involved opioids. Among the overdose deaths involving opioids, the vast majority were unintentional. 

“The problem of prescription drug abuse should trouble anyone who cares about the future of our state,” said Mark Gwyn, director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. “Those who are addicted often put themselves in even more danger by buying pills from dealers on the street, without knowing for sure what they contain. Some of those pills are counterfeit, full of dangerous substances like fentanyl, which has certainly contributed to the recent increase in overdose deaths in Tennessee. It can’t be said strongly enough: Turning to the streets to find your next fix isn’t the answer, and it might very well cost you your life.”

A drug called Naloxone, when administered quickly and correctly, has been proven to stop opioid overdoses. Authorized pharmacists can dispense naloxone to people at risk of overdoses, or their family. In addition, many police officers and first responders across the state are now carrying naloxone to administer to people who are overdosing.

Do you need help?

Substance abuse is treatable and preventable. For information on treatment services, please click here or call the Tennessee REDLINE at 1-800-889-9789 or visit www.taadas.org/Redline.htm.

Tennessee confirmed drug overdose deaths and incidence rates per 100,000 people for the last five years are:

2015 1,451 deaths 22.0 rate
2014 1,263 deaths 19.3 rate
2013  1,166 deaths  17.9 rate
2012  1,094 deaths  16.9 rate
2011   1,062 deaths  16.6 rate

(© 2016 WBIR)


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