More Tennesseans are dying from drug overdose than ever before

(Photo: WKRN)

More Tennesseans are dying from drug overdose than ever before, according to new statistics from the Tennessee Department of Health.

The most recent data on overdose deaths in Tennessee shows a 12 percent increase from 2015 to 2016.

Last year, 1,631 Tennesseans died of drug overdose compared to 1,451 deaths in 2015.

David Reagan, MD, PhD, chief medical officer for the Tennessee Department of Health, said Fentanyl is the primary cause of the spike in deaths.

Overdose deaths related to fentanyl have dramatically increased 74 percent from 169 to 294 in that time period.

The highly toxic drug is laced into other drugs like heroin, or even counterfeit pills.

“That’s a real threat to your life,” said Dr. Reagan. “You don’t know what you’re taking. You don’t know how much you’re taking. It’s a powerful respiratory depressant. So people die because they forget to breathe, basically.”

For anyone suffering from substance abuse, immediate help is available. Call the Tennessee REDLINE at 1-800-889-9789.

That hotline is staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to answer questions and provide information and referrals on alcohol, tobacco, other drugs and gambling.

Click here to read more reports on Tennessee’s Opioid Crisis.