The Nashville Opioid Epidemic: A Growing Problem
Opioids are a class of drugs that include prescription pain relievers as well as heroin. While some of these drugs can be prescribed by a doctor, if misused they can also be highly addictive. Since not everyone gets opioid addiction treatment quickly, abuse can lead to a myriad of other problems, including the risk of overdose. In Nashville, Tennessee, there have been several problems with these drugs that have only recently got worse.
The longstanding opioid problem in Nashville
The Nashville and Tennessee opioid crisis as a whole has been a problem for the past several decades. From 2005 to 2019, the total number of opiates detected by the Forensic Chemistry Unit of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Crime Lab rose from 3,224 to 7,408. Heroin and fentanyl, in particular, soared in the state during this time.1
In Davidson County, where Nashville is located, there were an average of 4.1 opioid overdose deaths per 100,000 people in 2002. By 2018, that number rose to 27.28 deaths per 100,000 people.2 The next year, 2019, the Nashville opioid epidemic reached the then record-high level of a fatal drug overdose. 468 people lost their lives to drug overdoses, the majority involving some type of opioid.3 Unfortunately, the problems didn’t stop there.
How the coronavirus pandemic impacted the Nashville opioid epidemic
While the world may have been focused on the coronavirus pandemic, the Nashville opioid epidemic continued to rage. Although the problems were already mounting, the coronavirus pandemic made the situation worse and more desperate.
In 2020, Nashville saw fatal drug overdoses increase by 32%.4th With 619 deaths in Nashville, more people died from drug overdoses than from COVID-19 in 2020.3 A worrying 80% of these drug overdoses had traces of fentanyl, a powerful opioid that is 100 times more potent than morphine.4th This deadly drug has grown in popularity in recent years and is often combined unnoticed with other drugs such as heroin or cocaine.
One reason people believe the coronavirus pandemic negatively impacted the Nashville opioid crisis is because it overshadows it. In the light of the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, attention and health resources have been diverted to address this immediate problem. It is believed that lockdowns and social distancing also lead to increased mental health problems, often linked to higher levels of substance abuse. With more limited access to addiction and mental health care in Nashville, many people have struggled to cope on their own.
Fighting the Opioid Epidemic in Nashville
As Nashville’s opioid-related issues mount and life returns to pre-pandemic norms, efforts to combat the Nashville opioid crisis have also increased. In addition to the state’s efforts, local city guides are doing their part to improve these numbers.
In January 2021, the Nashville Fire Department began reaching out to people who suffered an opioid overdose a few days after they were released from the hospital. The goal of these calls is to get these people to see a counselor. Those who agree will be referred to the Mental Health Cooperative immediately.5
Another point of contact for the public is the Tennessee REDLINE, a 24/7 hotline that offers current information on addiction and advice on care. The state has also invested in naloxone, a life-saving opioid overdose reversal drug. Free kits and training may be available at the. available Nashville Prevention Partnership website.6th
At Vertava Health Midtown Nashville, we want to do our part to fight the opioid epidemic in Nashville. Because substance abuse and poor mental health are often linked, those in need of mental health help should seek help before being tempted to turn to drugs and alcohol. Our Nashville mental health experts are here to help you find healthy ways and learn to manage life’s stressors. To get started or just learn more, contact us today.
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