September 18, 2017
The number of Tennesseans who died from drug overdoses spiked 12 percent from 2015 to 2016, largely due to growing use of opioid fentanyl.
There were at least 1,631 Tennesseans who died in 2016 — up from 1,451 in 2015, according to the Tennessee Department of Health.
The number of deaths is likely higher due to inconsistencies in how counties investigate and report deaths.
Deaths from fentanyl, synthetic opioids, increased from 169 in 2015 to 294 in 2016, according to state data.
Dr. John Dreyzehner, commissioner of the health department, said that rate of increase is slower than the previous year but “is still a horrible increase, and as we feared, our data show illicit drugs.”
The opioid abuse and misuse epidemic has claimed thousands of lives in the last five years.
The public health crisis is at the center of policy debate among city, state and federal lawmakers.
Tennessee regulations and insurer policies have been aimed at reducing the number of painkiller prescriptions but use of illicit drugs has increased at the same time.
Read the full story on the Tennessean.
Holly Fletcher covers health care for the Tennessean’s business desk, working to explain how the changing health care landscape will impact the people who need health care (everyone) and the businesses that provide care.