Overdose deaths are spiking in rural counties, but no one's sure why

Posted at 3:33 PM, Aug 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-20 20:10:56-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Some rural counties in Tennessee saw a big spike in overdose deaths in 2017, but researchers aren’t sure what caused the trend.

According to Tennessee Department of Health statistics, Cheatham County had an overdose death rate of 61 per 100,000 people. That’s nearly double the rate of deaths in Davidson County.

"Some of the really small counties look like they have high per capita rates because the counties are so small, Dr. Tim Jones, a state epidemiologist for the Tennessee Departement of Health said. "But clearly, Cheatham County is high up on that list."

Meanwhile, counties like Williamson have lower rates, just 15 per 100,000 people.

Dr. Jones said another factor could be access to addiction treatment. “We would expect to see more overdoses in places where people that are using these drugs can't get help to get off of them,” Jones said. “Right now, our drug misuse treatment options are really patchy and variable across the state."

Jones said the number of prescriptions written for opioids is going down in the state, but the number of overdose deaths hasn’t reflected that yet.