NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The number of Tennessee residents who died of drug overdoses has risen more than eight percent, setting another record in 2017.
The state Health Department said 1,776 Tennesseans died from overdoses last year, the most since reporting began. The number was up from 1,631 in 2016, also a record and a 12 percent increase from 1,451 in 2015.
The agency said almost three-fourths of drug overdose deaths in Tennessee last year were associated with opioids. Of the 1,268 deaths linked to opioids, 644 were associated with prescription opioids for pain. That was the largest group associated with overdose deaths.
The Health Department said in a news release that there was a 70 percent increase in deaths associated with fentanyl, which is similar to heroin but more potent and dangerous.
Today David feels like he's getting to a better place after he said he's overdosed twice on fentanyl.
"Probably one of the worst experiences I've ever had to go through," he said.
He is now spending his time at Turning Point, an addiction treatment center in Southaven.
We talked to him about new numbers released by the Tennessee Department of Health, highlighting the dangers of fentanyl.
"That's the deadly part about it people aren't knowing what they're actually cutting their drugs with so when people get it and they're thinking its what they've always been getting it's just gonna hit them that much harder," he said.
We showed the statistics to Tiffany Centers, Clinical Director at Turning Point.
"It's disturbing and really sad. However it's not surprising," she said.
Saying the problem has been growing.
"In our industry we've been saying for years that all the doctors have been over flooding the system with prescriptions. Just the other day I had a patient say to me, 'How am I going to go back out because I can just go out and get another script and they asked for an extension in services here," she explained.
She believes the community awareness is important, not just for users and their families.
"Having the doctors as well getting educated as to what is over prescribing when do I cut a patient off when they're drug seeking? What does that look like? "
Once he completes treatment David hopes to inspire others too.
"Find my help and really get my head focused as this being a disease of addiction."
If you or someone you know needs help, you can reach Turning Point at their 24/7 hotline 1.888.614.2251 and their website.
You can also learn more about the plan to end Tennessee's opioid crisis here.
The state also offers Tennessee REDLINE at 1-800-889-9789 for help.