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Overdoses Continue to Rise in Nashville

NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - The Metro Nashville Health Department released new numbers on Monday showing suspected drug overdoses continue to rise this year.

  • As of Friday, 411 people have died of a drug overdose in 2020. Over the past 12 weeks, an average of 11 people have died from a drug overdose each week.

  • Fentanyl has been found in 80% of overdose deaths for which toxicology reports have been completed

  • Calls to EMS for suspected overdoses are up 42% compared to 2019.

  • The past 12 weeks have shown an average of 128 suspected drug overdoses reported each week.

“We’ve got to talk about this as a community. Stigma, if we can get past it, we can get to hope, treatment and long-term recovery. It’s not hopeless, but when we don’t talk about it and it stays in the shadows, it means that we’re going to lose more people,” said former Nashville Mayor Megan Barry.

Barry’s son Max died from an overdose in 2017. “With the pandemic and COVID, I think the isolation really plays into this,” said Barry. Former Nashville Mayor Megan Barry said the worst day of her life was the day her son, Max, overdosed and died. She's hoping by sharing, she may be able to help others.

Monday was International Overdose Awareness Day. Nashville Recovery Center opened its doors to people in recovery and families to reflect on the people they’ve lost to addiction over the years, including the last few months.

“We’ve got to know the kids, and to watch them die,” said Ryan Cain, CEO of Nashville Recovery Center. “To hear the news, whether we give the news to families or we hear it from families, it’s devastating.”

The numbers show there hasn’t been a slowdown.

“It’s still increasing. It’s still higher than last year, and we’re not seeing any kind of slow down,” said Cain.

Not only is it a concern for him and Barry, it’s also troubling to Jacqueline Perrine, who lost her son to a drug overdose in 2015.

“Five years ago the resources weren’t there. The stigma was much worse than it is now, so you didn’t talk about it,” said Perrine. “Even as an addictions nurse, I didn’t want to admit my son was an addict.”

Now she advocates to keep her son’s memory alive, but to also educate families on addiction.

“Families have to have hope, whether they’ve lost their child, their child is still using or they suspect their child is using,” said Perrine. Barry’s message to the community is to be an advocate and ask legislators to fund programming and treatments, clean out your medicine cabinet so drugs are not readily available, and carry Narcan. The opioid crisis hit close to home in Nashville in July when the mayor's son died of an overdose of several prescription drugs.

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