Holly Fletcher, Kristi L. Nelson and Anita Wadhwani
May 24, 2017
A new report from the Tennessee Department of Health on drug overdose deaths sheds new light on the opioid epidemic plaguing the state, darkening the lines of an emerging portrait of the typical abuser killed by the powerful painkillers.
The drug overdose fatalities are overwhelmingly white, mostly male and increasingly less likely to have prescriptions for the drugs that kill them. And, across Tennessee, those killed are more likely to overdose on opioids — including heroin and fentanyl — than on any other kind of drug.
The report obtained Wednesday details a surge of deaths between 2012 and 2015. In 2015, at least 1,451 Tennesseans died from drug overdoses.
That’s 22 drug overdose deaths for every 100,000 Tennesseans. Over the past five years, the state has recorded 6,036 drug overdose deaths.
The data is a slice of the problem in the state — it’s hard to know how many people are misusing or slipping into addiction.
For every overdose death, the state estimates there are 14 nonfatal overdoses.
Jared Beckett knows about those.
Seven years ago, Beckett woke up in a hospital bed not knowing where he was. It was days since he overdosed on a combination of opioids and Xanax stolen from a neighbor’s house.
His friends had left him unconscious. The neighbor found him and performed CPR that likely kept him alive long enough to be rushed to the hospital, where he was put on life support.
“Here’s the sick part,” said Beckett, now 29 and a lead director of a south Nashville group home for recovering addicts. “When I woke up from the overdose, I didn’t know what was going on. I had a sort of amnesia. But I remember waking up and wondering where my drugs were.”
Read the full story on the Tennessean.