The OD Epidemic: WBIR highlights drug overdose crisis

July 3, 2017: Knox County could hit a record 300 suspected fatal drug overdoses this year, if the numbers continue to climb. During the month of July, WBIR will be focusing on the epidemic every day and the toll it is taking on East Tennessee.

Knox County is on pace -- right now -- to record 300 suspected drug overdose deaths in 2017.

Three hundred. Almost one a day.

As Knoxville Police Department Chief David Rausch told 10News recently, if that many people were dying that often because of any other cause, such as shootings or car crashes, citizens would demand immediate action.

This month, starting today, 10News will highlight our drug overdose crisis.

We hope this community-targeted project, called The OD Epidemic: Heartache, Hope, Help will raise the public's awareness about the epidemic and spur citizens to act.

Each weekday this month we'll be telling you the latest figures on suspected ODs – suspected deaths to date and how that compares with last year at this time.

We'll also be bringing you stories of people on the front lines - medical experts, volunteers, first responders, law officers, families, patients. In addition, we'll present Facebook live discussions with experts who can answer your questions about how to confront the crisis.

We'll also tell you what help is out there and solutions being pursued to curtail the scourge.

"Inside Tennessee", Channel 10's public affairs program that airs each Sunday, also will broadcast specials this month focusing on opioid abuse.

Related: Judge leads statewide opioid program

TN among hardest hit

Evidence is growing daily about just how severe our problem is.

In 2015, 170 Knox Countians died in drug overdoses, primarily from opioids such as heroin and prescription pills.

In 2016, the number of suspected overdose deaths reached 221.

Through June, we've already reached 164 suspected overdoses, with almost six more months left in 2017.

Last year,  America's drug czar visited Knoxville to discuss what's happening here and across the country.

President Trump is proposing some $2 billion to help states address the problem. Leaders say much more is needed.

Related: Medical professionals try to curtail prescription abuse

Tennessee is among several states with pronounced opioid abuse problems. Ohio and West Virginia also have seen an upswing in overdoses and deaths.

In late June, health insurance provider BlueCross BlueShield released its own report about the epidemic, calling it "one of America's foremost health crises."

Opioids, including prescription medications, are now killing more than 33,000 people a year in this country, the highest of any year on record and greater than the death rate when HIV epidemic was at its peak.

Opioid abuse and overdose is now a leading cause of shortened life expectancy in the United States, the BlueCross report states.

OD Epidemic: Drug Take Back

A team that includes Knoxville Police Department officers, University of Tennessee pharmacy students, CAC AmeriCorps students and staff and volunteers from the Metro Drug Coalition will be on hand for the collection.

 

MORE: WBIR to hold drug take-back July 28


Suspected overdose deaths in July 2017

July 1: 3

July 2: 1

July 3: 1

July 4: 3

July 5: 0

July 6: 1

July 7: 1

July 8: 1

July 9: 1

July 10: 1

July 11: 0

July 12: 1

July 13: 0

July 14: 1

July 15: 1

July 16: 1

July 17: 0

July 18: 1

July 19: 1

July 20: 0

July 21: 1

July 22: 0

July 23: 1

July 24: 0

July 25: 1

July 26: 0

July 27: 1

July 28: 1

July 29: 0

July 30: 0

July 31: 0

Total in July: 24

Total so far in 2017: 188

Editor's note: These numbers represent suspected overdose deaths within Knox County. The numbers for each day of the month will be added the following week day. 

© 2017 WBIR.COM


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