KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A little more than a year ago, December saw the most number of deaths in a single month related to suspected overdoses in Knox County for 2020 with 44 total; however, just seven days into the final month of 2021, the Office of the District Attorney General of the 6th Judicial District is reporting 13 suspected overdose deaths.

Last month, the number of suspected overdose deaths in the region surpassed last year’s total. November 2021 saw 38 total deaths.

The number of what officials are calling substance misuse continues to climb and is resulting in a record number of suspected overdose deaths. Here’s the breakdown:

Suspected overdose deaths per year in Knox County (via All4Knox.org)

  • 2017 – 293
  • 2018 – 294
  • 2019 – 259
  • 2020 – 383
  • 2021 – 432*

The All4Knox group is a joint effort of Knox County and the City of Knoxville with facilitation and coordination support from Metro Drug Coalition, the Knox County District Attorney General’s Office and Knox County Health Department.

“Our hope is to bring together our governments, businesses, nonprofit organizations, faith-based communities and many others in a coordinated fashion to address the substance misuse epidemic,” the group’s website states.

Last year, the group released its Three-Year Strategic Plan to develop the scope of the substance misuse problem and how to focus on specific goals for intervention, resources for treatment and recovery as well as strategies to aid the community as well as law enforcement. The plan was developed with support from nine community sections that were chosen based on guidance from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), a national substance misuse prevention agency.

The DA’s office states the number of suspected drug overdose deaths in Knox County is derived from information shared by the Knox County Regional Forensic Center; so in an effort to identify suspected drug overdose deaths as soon as possible, the data is initially obtained before a person’s death is determined to be an overdose. Once a determination is made by the medical examiner, the data is updated, so the reported number could fluctuate over time.

The Drug Related Death Task Force, which is what the DA’s office works with that comprises several agencies to try to curb what it calls “this increasing problem,” aims to decrease overdoses by holding drug dealers accountable when their drug trafficking leads to overdose deaths.

SAMHSA’s National Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)


*Editor’s Note: The number of suspected overdose deaths for December 2021 is not yet completed since the month is not yet over.