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Knox County Regional Forensic Center releases 2022 annual reports, highlights fentanyl presence in drug-related deaths

According to those reports, there were 544 drug-related deaths in Knox County in 2022.

KNOX COUNTY, Tenn. — On Tuesday, the Knox County Regional Forensic Center released its 2022 annual reports. The reports provide an extensive overview of the Regional Forensic Center's data from cases collected over the past year.

The Drug-Related Death Report included data on drug-related death cases the Center investigated in 2022 along with data from past years for comparison.

The Center highlighted overdose deaths in relation to the ongoing opioid epidemic. In 2022, Knox County saw 544 overdose deaths and 66 deaths in Anderson County. 

According to the report, Knox County saw an increase of 2% in drug-related deaths from 2021 to 2022. However, the Center notes the percentage rise is lower than the 29% increase the County saw in 2021.

Similarly, the reports showed that Anderson County had a decrease in overdose deaths by 22%, a significant decrease from the 67% in 2021.

The Center noted that mixed drug intoxication remains the leading cause of death. The report stated that polypharmacy, when more than one drug is responsible for death, occurred in 65% of Knox County's overdose deaths and 62% of Anderson County's.

The Center reported fentanyl, fentanyl analogues and some new synthetic opioids continue to be the most abused drugs. Fentanyl and fentanyl analogues were the most frequently identified drugs in drug-related deaths in 2022, with fentanyl identified in 463 of the total drug-related death cases.

The report showed that methamphetamine is frequently used in combination with opioids. The Center also reported that cocaine use has risen but trails behind methamphetamine.

The Center reported that xylazine, a non-opioid tranquilizer used in veterinary medicine, is being identified in cases more frequently in the past five years, bringing it up to one of the top 10 drugs identified in drug-related deaths. The center warns that xylazine does not respond to naloxone and can cause tissue necrosis and wound infections.

The study also contains information related to suicides and homicides.

According to the Knox County Regional Forensic Center, a total of 224 suicides occurred in 2022. Knox County suicides increased by 30% while suicides in Anderson County decreased by 5%. 

They also said that the number of homicides increased by 17% in Knox County from 2021-2022, Anderson County increased 200% in homicides. Most of those homicides involved a firearm, according to the report — 74 out of 94 total homicides. 

Overall, they said that 10,067 deaths were reported in both counties, making up around 1.76% of the county population. Around 70% of those deaths were reported to the Medical Examiner for work.  

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