KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Opioids and methamphetamine continue to fuel most drug-related deaths in the region, which has seen yet another uptick year-over-year, according to an annual report from the Knox County Regional Forensic Center.

The Forensic Center released its 2021 Drug-Related Death Report for Knox and Anderson counties on Wednesday which includes data on drug-related death cases the center investigated from 2012-2021. Part of the report’s purpose is to “advance the discussion regarding addiction,” according to county officials.

The report states the number of overdose deaths in Knox County increased 29% in 2021 on top of a 41% increase in 2020. In Anderson County, drug overdose deaths increased 67% in 2021 on top of an 81% increase in 2020.

“2021 was a tough year for a lot of people,” Glenn Jacobs, Knox County mayor, said. “Sadly, many of those battling addiction were without the help and support they needed, and the numbers in this report reflect that.”

The report found that mixed drug intoxications led the way in overdose deaths; however, fentanyl, fentanyl analogues, and some of the novel synthetic opioids “continue to be the most abused drugs.”

Among the stimulants, the report found that methamphetamine is the drug of choice “either alone or in combination with opioids.”

Some key findings from the report include:

  • Fentanyl and fentanyl analogues (synthetic opioids) were the most frequently identified drugs in drug-related deaths in 2021.
  • Polypharmacy, which is when more than one drug is responsible for death, was involved in 76 percent of Knox County’s and 76 percent of Anderson County’s overdose deaths.
  • The five most common drugs identified in drug-related deaths in 2021 were synthetic opioids, methamphetamine, diphenhydramine alcohol/ethanol, and cocaine.
  • Prescription opioid-related deaths continue to decrease in the Regional Forensic Center jurisdictions.
  • People 34-44 years experienced the most drug deaths in Knox County, but the sharpest increase was in individuals age 55 to 64.
  • The presence of anxiety, Anti-depressants and anti-psychotic medication was found in 30% of all drug deaths in Knox County and 38% of all drug deaths in Anderson County.

The full report is available here.