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The Nashville Opioid Epidemic

The nationwide opioid epidemic has affected nearly every single community in the US. As the coronavirus pandemic impacted all aspects of life, many turned to drugs and alcohol to cope with stressors related to job loss, lockdowns, social distancing, and other significant changes in everyday life. As the pandemic begins to wane, the Nashville opioid epidemic continues as well. Many who struggled to cope turned to opioids and are now addicted.

Opioid Addiction in Tennesse

According to the Tennesse Bureau of Investigation (TBI), Approximately 70,000 Tennesseans are addicted to opioids. Our state is seeing epidemic levels of addiction, overdoses, and death. While new legislation has helped to reduce the supply of opioids and decrease prescription opioids, Tennessee is [still] ranked third in the country for prescription drug abuse.

Misuse and abuse of prescription opioids can lead to opioid addiction. You might be prescribed a medication like Vicodin or Oxycodone for pain management from an injury or chronic illness. Due to the potent effects of opioids in the brain, which can produce a euphoric feeling, prescription opioids can be misused by those seeking relief from psychological issues. 

COVID-19 and the Opioid Epidemic 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Over 81,000 drug overdose deaths occurred in the United States in the 12 months ending in May 2020, the highest number of overdose deaths ever recorded in a 12-month period which suggests an acceleration of overdose deaths during the pandemic.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many people used opioids to self-medicate from having everyday life uprooted and disrupted. Due to strict guidelines to prevent misuse and abuse of prescription medications, many turn to illegal drugs like heroin to fuel their opioid addiction.

Opioid Statistics in Nashville

Data from the Metro Public Health Department (MPHD) of Nashville and Davidson County shows that during the first nine months of 2021 suspected drug overdose deaths have increased by 12% compared to the same time period last year. In 76% of these overdose deaths, toxicology reports detected fentanyl, a synthetic opioid pain reliever that has been the main driver in the increased number of drug overdose deaths in Nashville.

Currently, the number of non-fatal overdoses has decreased only two percent compared to last year. During non-fatal overdoses, opioids account for a far more significant percentage of emergency department (ED) visits than other addictive substances. During the third quarter of 2021 (July-September), 66% of overdose-related ED visits captured by syndromic surveillance reportedly involved non-heroin opioids followed by heroin (29%) and stimulants (5%).

Males in Nashville are more likely to overdose or die from opioids and other drugs. During the third quarter of 2021, Sixty-five percent of suspected drug overdose deaths were males while the majority of deaths have occurred among 35-44 year olds (28%). In addition, approximately 7 out of 10 overdose-related ED visits in Nashville were among males and 33% of overdose-related ED visits occurred among individuals 25-34 years old.

Without acknowledging and dealing with the opioid epidemic as a public health crisis, these numbers are likely to remain the same or continue to increase over time. As people begin to return to everyday life in a post-pandemic life, they might continue to struggle with an addiction that began as a maladaptive way to cope.

Fentanyl-Related Drug Overdose in Nashville

The MPHD of Nashville and Davidson County identifies fentanyl as a significant factor influencing the increase in overdose deaths in Davidson County since 2016. Fentanyl is especially dangerous as it is 50-100 times more potent than morphine and the presence of fentanyl in any illicit drug increases the risk of overdose.

A fentanyl overdose can be reserved with Naloxone (Narcan); however, due to the higher potency, fentanyl overdoses require more Naloxone than other opioid-related overdoses. Fentanyl can also be mixed with other illegal drugs, such as heroin or cocaine, to enhance the effects. Sometimes, people who buy street drugs are unaware of fentanyl being added.

Ending the Nashville Opioid Epidemic

Ending the opioid epidemic in Nashville requires the cooperation of the government, local community leaders, and treatment centers in the Nashville and Davidson County area. As legislation continues to create stricter guidelines for prescribing opioids, these new laws can help prevent new cases of opioid addiction. However, people currently addicted to opioids need help now to prevent overdose and death.

The Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services has created the Tennessee REDLINE as a resource for substance abuse referrals. You can call the REDLINE if you or a loved one need treatment for opioid addiction. 

The MDPH also has resources to prevent prescription opioid abuse. This includes drug disposal sites and additional resources to prevent opioid-related overdoses. Nashville is also home to detox and substance abuse treatment centers to help you or a loved one get help for opioid addiction.

Opioid Addiction Treatment in Nashville

The opioid epidemic in Nashville can touch the lives of many residents of Nashville and Davidson County. If you or your loved one are struggling with opioid addiction, Brentwood Springs Detox of Nashville, TN, is here to help address the opioid epidemic. Call us today at (615) 560-7545. Or, visit our admissions page to take your first steps in recovery from opioid addiction.

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