More Tennesseans Dying from Drug Overdoses Than Ever Before

Posted at 5:42 PM, Sep 18, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-18 20:48:12-04

New statistics just released by the Tennessee Department of Health show more people across the state are dying from drug overdoses than ever before.

Data showed 1,631 Tennesseans died from drug overdoses in 2016. That is an increase from the 1,451 overdose deaths recorded in 2015. Seventy-two percent of those deaths were from opioids.

“This is more than suicides, homicides and motor vehicle accidents,” said Dr. David Reagan, Chief Medical Officer at the Tennessee Department of Health. “These are really large numbers.”

Dr. Reagan said four Tennesseans a day are dying from opioid overdoses.

“We should not kid ourselves and think it will happen to someone else,” said Dr. Reagan. “More Tennesseans found out in 2016 it does impact them and their family and friends.”

Numbers from the Health Department showed overdose deaths related to fentanyl have dramatically increased 74 percent from 169 to 294 between 2015 and 2016. Heroin was associated with the deaths of 260 Tennesseans in 2016, a 26 percent increase over the previous year.  Drug overdose deaths due to stimulants like methamphetamine also increased substantially, especially in people aged 25 – 44, where they increased from 57 deaths in 2015 to 101 in 2016.

Dr. Reagan said prevention and treatment are keys to turning around the statistics. He also said law enforcement officers need to help keep illegal drugs off the streets.

Shane Fielder said he didn’t find the statistics surprising. He battled a heroin addiction for five years.  He hit rock bottom when he overdosed on an airplane.

“Had I been inside by the window, I would have died,” said Fielder, who is from Dickson. “I was on the outside seat and the people next to me could get up and out, and they realized I had overdosed.”

Fielder has since undergone treatment and is clean. He is currently working as a Treatment Specialist at Addiction Campuses in Nashville. He has been sharing his story with others in hopes of helping them turn their lives around.

“Don’t let your pride and your ego kill you,” said Fielder. “If you know you need help, ask somebody.”

The Tennessee Department of Health encourages anyone suffering from a substance abuse disorder to call the Tennessee REDLINE at 1-800-889-9789 for immediate help. 

Addiction Campuses can be contacted online or by its 24/7 hotline at 1-888-614-2251.