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REPORT: Knox, Anderson County Drug Overdoses Double in 5 Years

Key facts:

  • The number of drug-related deaths has doubled from 2010 to 2015.

  • When comparing prescription versus illicit drug-related deaths, prescription drugs account for approximately 75 percent of all drug-related deaths between 2010 and 2015.

  • Drug-related deaths occur more frequently in 45 to 54-year-olds than any other age category.

  • Oxycodone was the drug most frequently found in drug-related deaths each year between 2010 and 2015.

  • Since 2010, there has been an increase in the number and types of drugs being used.

  • The age-adjusted rate for drug related cases per 100,000 in Knox and Anderson Counties is higher than both the national and Tennessee rates for each of the years between 2010 and 2015.

  • When comparing home residence zip codes of those who died from drug-related deaths, five zip codes (37918, 37920, 37917, 37912 and 37849) have made the top 10 list each year from 2010 to 2016.

  • Tentative 2016 figures indicate a continued increase in the number of drug-related death cases. Prescription drugs continue to be the drugs most frequently found in drug-related deaths. However, there is an increased presence of non-prescription (or illicit) drugs in drug-related deaths.

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – A new report on the drug-related deaths in Knox and Anderson counties highlights a disturbing trend, according to the Knox County Forensic Center.

According to the report, drug deaths have doubled from 2011 to 2015. What’s more, according to new data, the Metro Drug Coalition says 2016 overdose deaths appear to be on the rise.

“This isn’t just a young adult problem,” said Karen Pershing, Executive Director of the Metro Drug Coalition.

“We’re losing parents and grandparents.”

Pershing said the most common age for drug-related deaths is 45-54.

Mayor Tim Burchett this is the first time a detailed report on Knox and Anderson counties has been put together. He hopes it will help stop the prescription painkiller epidemic.

While the most common drug for drug-related deaths is Oxycodon, the Metro Drug Coalition said they have seen several deaths that are caused by combining Oxycodone and Xanax.

Medical Examiner Dr. Mileusnic-Polchan says the deaths are not only preventable, but come at a very high cost to the community. Along with the cost to law enforcement to investigate the deaths, she said there is also a big problem in East Tennessee with neonatal abstinence syndrome, when babies are born addicted to drugs.

The Knox County Regional Forensic Center put together the report. John Lott is the senior director.

“As we look at the 2016 data we are over 130 drug related deaths just in the first 6 months,” said Lott.

Pershing says she will take this new data and realign resources.

“We are going to take that map data and look at, where do we need to do our prescription drug take back event? Here’s a hot spot in our community. Should we not be doing one there?” said Pershing.

Dr. Edward Capparelli, who is on the TennCare pharmacy advisory committee, was in attendance. He says he will bring the information back to the TennCare committee.

“We are really looking at a comprehensive plan for what medications need to be available to manage people’s pain without putting more drugs on the street,” said Capparelli.

The director of the Metro Drug Coalition says they will do more education in the areas with the most deaths.

They will also focus more time in those schools. She also says those in the medical community need to look at this report and have conversations with patients about safeguarding their pills.

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