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Growing Number of Overdose Deaths a Growing Concern

A national drug epidemic is hitting closer and closer to home.

Chattanooga Police Department Assistant Chief Zac McCullough says it's the worst he has seen. In just one recent 24 hour period, four people died from an overdose in Chattanooga. McCullough says that makes five this month. It's still not clear what kind of drug caused four recent overdose deaths, but police say it was an opioid-based drug and is being distributed in pill, powder and rock form. McCullough says we are on track to seeing a 50 percent increase in drug overdoses compared to last year. As of two weeks ago, Chattanooga police used 109 doses of Narcan to treat overdoses.

But so far in 2019, there have been 33 drug overdose deaths. McCullough says men and women, ages 25 to 45 are the main victims and are typically from out of town. McCollough says "They're smoking it, they're injecting it, they're snorting it, they're ingesting it orally so it's a little bit all over the place. Most of them are participating in other illegal activities to help feed their habit. That's looking at the users and then there's a network of combination dealers and users and then there's a network of dealers." But McCollough says the dealers aren't in plain sight. Some are communicating with customers through social media, like Facebook, Instagram, and other messaging apps. So where are they getting the drugs from? It's a question several Hamilton County police agencies are trying to answer.

“What we believe is occurring is that it's coming in from China or Mexico in large quantities and it's been broken up just like you would see with a cocaine or marijuana illicit drug network,” McCullough said. “I'm optimistic that we're at the peak of it and we can start getting a handle on it, but we need a lot of help. We need partner because it's not just a law enforcement problem.”

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