KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Suspected drug overdose deaths in the area reported by Knox County officials are ticking up again despite a dip in January as well as recent drug busts, community events and outreach efforts.
As of March 31, the Knox County District Attorney General’s Office reported 106 suspected overdose deaths year to date: 45 in March, 36 in February and 24 in January. A year ago within the same timeframe, there were 42 deaths in January, 36 in February and 34 in March. The total number of overdose deaths in 2021 was 476.
The data is provided by the Knox County Regional Forensic Center, where medical examiners investigate and determine overdose deaths.
In February, a Metro Drug Coalition panel hosted an event discussing the hit Hulu series, “Dopesick” which explores the opioid epidemic, Big Pharma’s role, and the realities of opioids drug misuse across the country and locally.
The Knox County DA’s office said last month they’re trying to tackle the opioid epidemic by devoting a group of four full-time prosecutors to drug-related cases; an overdose death task force is already active.
In November, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data estimating more than 100,000 Americans died of drug overdoses from May 2020 to April 2021. The CDC reports opioids and mainly synthetic opioids are currently the main driver of drug overdoses deaths; with more than 70% of drug overdose deaths involving opioids. The CDC also says methamphetamine is on the rise, “drug overdose deaths involving psychostimulants such as methamphetamine are increasing with and without opioids involvement.”
Earlier this month, the Knox County Sheriff’s Office arrested three people on drug and traffic-related charges and also found more than 300 grams of a substance believed to be meth during the traffic stop-turned-drug bust. Meth was also believed to have been seized during another KCSO bust in a dollar store parking lot earlier this month.