Tennessee sets record with 1,631 overdose deaths in 2016

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Health officials say Tennessee saw a record number of overdose deaths in 2016.

A state Department of Health news release Monday said 1,631 Tennesseans died from drug overdoses last year, a 12 percent increase from 1,451 in 2015.

“Each of these numbers represents a person, with family and friends who are now facing the loss of someone dear to them to a cause that is preventable,” said TDH Commissioner John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH. “The rate of increase in these deaths is slower than in the previous year, but it is still a horrible increase…”

State data show illicit drugs, including fentanyl, are driving the increase. Fentanyl-related deaths increased 74 percent, from 169 to 294, from 2015 to 2016.

The biggest fentanyl-related increase came in people ages 25 to 34, where 42 recorded deaths in 2015 increased to 114 last year.

Officials said heroin was associated with 260 deaths in 2016, a 26 percent increase over the previous year.

Deaths where both opioids and stimulants, such as methamphetamine, were used jumped from 65 in 2015 to 111 in 2016.

“If this is a threat to any of us, it’s a threat to all of us,” Dreyzehner continued. “Now more than ever, we have to work across our sectors and communities, recognize this epidemic is changing and evolving and find new and better ways to address it together.”

In Shelby County, 188 people died from an overdose in that same time frame, the data showed. Hospitals also treated more than 2,000 patients for overdoses.

In all, an estimated 674,000 painkiller prescriptions have been made available in Shelby County.