KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The Metro Drug Coalition hosted a basic fentanyl training session along with a Q&A and panel from various community programs on Tuesday.

The session was to recognize National Fentanyl Awareness. In Knox County, so far in 2023, there have been 180 suspected overdose deaths, which is a significant increase from the 78 reported during the same period in 2022.

It was a full room for today’s awareness event. One of those in attendance knows firsthand the consequences of taking fentanyl and now wants to be a part of the change in the community.

“For me personally I’m a survivor of a fentanyl overdose so it’s very near and dear to my heart,” Stephanie Maddox, a fentanyl overdose survivor. said. “I really want to be the change and the difference I want to see in the community. It has to start with yourself in order to give back.” 

The Metro Drug Coalition is making sure to take the time to make people more aware of the dangers of fentanyl as overdose deaths in the community continue to rise.

“Fentanyl has taken the lives of many of our young people throughout the nation,” Metro Drug Coalition Executive Director Karen Pershing said. “It’s an opportunity to create awareness, to educate people on the dangers of fentanyl, what things to look out for especially if you are a parent and you have children. It can be extremely deadly to anyone but especially our young people.” 

The dangers of fentanyl are something Stephanie Maddox knows all too well. She says the number of lethal overdoses in the area has risen dramatically.

“When I was using drugs, it wasn’t as bad. It was more random overdoses occurring and now you just see your friends dying daily and weekly and it’s just an epidemic,” Maddox said.

This is an ongoing problem everywhere in the U.S. with no real signs of slowing down.

“We created a demand in this country for drugs and as long as that demand is here we’re going to be dealing with substances,” Pershing said.

There were also some take-home bags that had an overdose help kit with naloxone, gloves and the necessary instructions on how to properly use the medication as well as several pamphlets laying out what to do if you see someone overdose.

According to the Metro Drug Coalition, in 2021, there were more than 2,700 fatal overdoses caused by fentanyl across the state.