KNOX COUNTY, Tenn. (WATE) — An opioid seminar was held for the public by Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs and the Metro Drug Coalition to address the state over opioid use and overdoses in the county.

For the last two years, Knox County has increased its numbers for opioid use. In fact, in August alone there have been 18 suspected overdoses in Knox County.

Mayor Glenn Jacobs held an opioid seminar in conjunction with the Metro Drug Coalition at the East Tennessee History Museum at noon on Wednesday. Critically acclaimed author Sam Quinones was in attendance via Zoom to field questions about his two books speaking directly about the opioid epidemic.

Quinones’ time living in Mexico gives a lot of firsthand knowledge of how the original opioid epidemic turned towards synthetic opioids, like fentanyl and fentanyl analogues, and other drugs, like methamphetamine. 

It is important to discuss how East Tennessee is affected by this national public health problem, according to Karen Pershing, Executive Director of Metro Drug Coalition.

“It’s transitioned to Fentanyl and Methamphetamine,” Pershing said. “We’re the ones here in this community talking about it, but sometimes it helps to bring in another perspective, another voice”.

The main emphasis of the seminar was the lethality of these synthetic opiates. The drugs are incredibly dangerous. Pershing said some people are dying from using an illicit fentanyl product once. 

Despite the troubling reality of this epidemic, Knox County Mayor, Glenn Jacobs, is offering ways that Knox County and organizations in the county are providing hope for those affected.

“We are working in that respect with the All for Knox Initiative as well as the Metro Drug Coalition,” Jacobs said. “Next month they’ll be opening the ‘Gateway Center,'” and it will be a place where people can connect to others during the recovery process and receive additional support.