KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The Knox County Health Department released its 2023 comprehensive mental health report detailing the urgent issues around mental health impacts and treatment.
Part of the report shows an increase in deaths related to drug overdoses. According to the report, there were 3,814 deaths related to drug overdoses in Tennessee in 2021 which is a 23% increase compared to the year before. In Knox County, there were 452 deaths related to drug overdoses in 2021 which is a 32% increase compared to the year before.
Knox County Health Department Division Director of Epidemiology Dr. Corinne Tandy was not surprised by the statistics.
“We are seeing what we sort of have unfortunately come to expect to see these days,” Tandy said.
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Jessica Stanley, an overdose prevention specialist with the Metro Drug Coalition, believes the data shows that there is more work that needs to be done.
“Our reaction is there is a lot more work that needs to be done and we just continue to be on the front lines,” Stanley said. “The more that we know the better we can do as well.”
The Metro Drug Coalition is a nonprofit organization that offers prevention education, harm reduction programs, and recovery support services.
“We receive data from the Department of Health and so what we do is basically focus on areas that are showing rises on our maps,” Stanley said.
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Dr. Tandy believes the drug epidemic is impacting those from all different types of backgrounds.
“This is an issue that impacts anybody in the county,” Tandy said. “I think often it is frame of an issue of certain populations and we see it across the county, across all socioeconomic, race, gender – you name it.”
There is a new drug that federal officials are warning about called xylazine, also known as ‘tranq’. Tranq is a drug used by veterinarians to sedate horses and cattle before procedures.
“We have seen it a little bit in Tennessee, we have more specifics data to kind of the amount of overdose deaths that we have seen it with,” Stanley said. “It is something that is not opioid, so it does not respond to naloxone and it also isn’t a stimulant.”