Drug overdose deaths continue to soar amid pandemic, rise of fentanyl

2021 was Nashville's deadliest year for overdoses
AM AARON OPIOID OVERDOSES VO.transfer_frame_0.jpeg
Posted at 3:55 AM, Feb 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-17 13:06:45-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Drug overdose deaths have reached another record high, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those deaths have soared recently amid the pandemic and continued rise of fentanyl.

Drug overdose deaths have doubled over the past six years. An estimated 104,288 people died of drug overdoses in the 12-month period ending September 2021. In September 2015, the annual death toll was about 52,000.

According to Metro Public Health, 2021 surpassed 2020 as the deadliest year on record for overdoses.

There were 712 suspected drug overdose deaths were reported to Metro Public Health, a 15% increase from the prior year.

As for the rise in fentanyl use, a little over 75% of Metro's toxicology reports detected the drug in overdose cases. Officials believe that's a driver here locally in the rising number of deaths.

By the end of the decade, 1.2 million people are projected to die of overdoses — surpassing the worst of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, according to a new study published in The Lancet.

Stanford researchers found that the pandemic contributed to overdose deaths in several ways which included limited access to opioid addiction services, overwhelmed health care systems and added burdens of unemployment or losses of loved ones.

The DEA continues to crack down on illegal production of drugs. Agent David Olesky said the pills are starting to look more real, but are much more dangerous.

"The public's thinking that they're getting an oxycodone pill, hydrocodone pill or even an Adderall pill," said Olesky. "But what these pills are, are, they look exactly the same as you would get in a pharmacy; however, they've been produced in a laboratory in a garage in Mexico."