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Report: Drug-Related Deaths Double in Past Five Years in Knox, Anderson Counties

Drug-related deaths in Knox and Anderson counties have doubled over the past five years with a drug-related death rate higher than either the state or the country.

Between 2010-2015, the two counties' combined drug-related deaths jumped from 101 to 200 — from 12 percent to 19 percent of the total autopsies and exams conducted in those counties.

Three-quarters of drug-related deaths in those two counties involved prescription drugs — not illicit "street" drugs — though that may change as prescription drugs become more difficult to obtain.

The Knox County Regional Forensic Center released a report Monday on drug-related deaths in Knox and Anderson county between 2010-2015, in an attempt to shed light on the growing drug-related death problem in East Tennessee and the need for a system to track and address it.

The report also found that, although the number and types of drugs linked to deaths have increased over those five years, oxycodone was always the most frequently found drug in drug-related deaths.

Drug-related deaths occurred most often among people 45-54 years old, followed by people 55-64 and 35-44.

And five ZIP codes — 37918, 37920, 37917, 37912 and 37849 — consistently had more residents dying from drug-related causes.

"Based on the Knox and Anderson county data, drug-related deaths occur mainly with people you work and go to church with and the parents of the kids our kids play and go to school with," said report author John Lott, senior director for the Knox County Regional Forensic Center. "They live next door and in our neighborhoods.

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