Tennessee sees increase in drug overdose deaths


CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WDEF) — Tennessee Department of Health data shows deaths from drug overdoses increased in 2017.

Chad Thompson and Tyler Sykes know addiction all to well. Thompson was addicted to meth for twenty years.

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“I eventually got tired of it and its affects and the consequences I was getting. So I decided to change my life,” Thompson said.

For Sykes he got hooked on opioids at 19.

“I had a bad car wreck. I snapped my right femur in half. I was prescribed pain medicine. It started from there with the opiates. It progressed afterwards,” Sykes said.

They now are clean and helping those who are struggling. The two men were saddened to learn that deaths in Tennessee from drug overdoses increased in 2017.

Data from the Tennessee Department of Health shows more than 17 hundred Tennesseans died. It’s the highest number since reporting began. Prescription opiods were the most common drugs associated with the overdose deaths.

“My addiction didn’t include opioids. I know a lot of people that did. It just seems like once you get into that you lose a lot of self worth,” Thompson said.

Health experts say fentanyl was associated with 500 deaths, which is a 70 percent increase from 2016.

“It is incredibly powerful an very very dangerous and it is really hard to use it safely,” said Dr. Nita Shumaker.

Dr. Shumaker says the medical community is being more careful about who gets prescribed opioids.

“It is really dangerous to take pain killer medication like opioids and it is incredibly addictive so the sooner we can get off medication the better,” Dr. Shumaker said.

For people battling addiction, Sykes says there is hope.

‘If I can do it anyone can,” he said.

September is national recovery month. On September 16, people in recovery will gather at the Walnut Street Bridge and hold hands.