KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Drug overdoses continue to be a big concern for many in Knoxville. In just this month alone, District Attorney Charme Allen suspects 32 people have died from drug overdoses.
So far, it’s estimated that 300 people have died this year from overdosing. First responders say they are receiving more overdose calls than they ever have.
“I watched my friends die when I was 16,” Zack Moles said. “My best friend died in my arms, Joe Elmore, and that didn’t really put me over the edge but it’s what kept me using.”
For some, it’s easy to fall into a life of drug abuse.
“We’re losing people like crazy. I know that back home I just buried a good friend of mine who died of an accidental fentanyl overdose,” said Brandy Bowden, who is a recovering addict.
“It’s just best to stay sober man,” said Marcus Campbell, who is also recovering from addiction. “Anytime that I do go out and use I lose everything, every time.”
But there are dozens of people and organizations in East Tennessee, ready to help anybody overcome addiction.
Many groups were out at Volunteer Landing for a big event on International Drug Overdose Awareness Day. It was a time of fellowship, education and an event to show support for those struggling right here at home.
Moles is on his third step of recovery.
“If it weren’t for them, I probably wouldn’t be here because I had three people OD in the back seat the month before I came to Integrity House,” he said.
“The drugs don’t love you at all,” Campbell said. “They’ll kill you; they’ll kill your family. Get off them, that’s my message to them.”
“Recovery is a beautiful thing,” Metro Drug Coalition Executive Director Karen Pershing said. “The great thing about this event, being the last day in August, tomorrow will be National Recovery Month, the beginning of it. And so, we know recovery is possible. Recovery is happening every day and we just encourage people who are recovering to reach out.”
Several recovering addicts at Wednesday’s event say opioids laced with fentanyl are a major factor as to why people are dying from drug use.
“We are definitely seeing a rise in fentanyl cases,” Metro Drug Coalition Overdose Prevention Specialist Jessica Stanley said. “It’s becoming something that is wiping out an entire generation, more generations. It is continuing to grow so that means we’re going to fight harder.”
In August, the Knoxville Fire Department reported first responders rushed to more than 200 overdose calls. While Pershing says that is alarming, she’s thankful those lives can be saved.