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New report shows drastic increase in drug-related deaths from 2016 to 2017

A report issued Wednesday by the Knox County Regional Forensic Center shows drug-related deaths in Knox and Anderson counties increased by more than 41 percent from 2016 to 2017.

While the drug epidemic continues to affect all demographics, the number of African Americans who died of drug-related causes surged 113 percent in the two counties as compared to 2016.

While all age groups also saw significant increases in drug-related deaths, they occurred most frequently in people aged 45-54 years old.

Officials say that the 2017 data shows an alarming, continuing upward trend in drug deaths in Knox and Anderson Counties. They also reported some demographic shifts and the introduction of more illicit drugs such as Fentanyl and its analogues.

Approximately 60 percent of all the drug-related deaths included in the report involved a mixture of drugs, with Fentanyl the most frequently found drug, an increase of 179 percent from 2016.

Following the report’s release, Anderson County District Attorney General Dave Clark issued a statement uin which he wrote, “Sadly, this news is not news to law enforcement. The reality is that too many in this community and around the country have become addicted to very expensive prescription opioid pills.” However, because of the cost, many addicts are switching to the less expensive heroin. Clark points out, however, that “the dosing of heroin and the unknown strength of drugs bought on the street along with the frequent lacing of heroin with the ultra-powerful fentanyl cause addicts to sometimes accidentally take a fatal dose.”

In his release, Clark states that he has asked Tennessee’s Congressional delegation to work on ways the federal government can stem the flow of fentanyl from China and heroin from Mexico, as well as asking state leaders for additional tools to fight this epidemic.

The full report can be found here.

About Jim Harris

Jim Harris has been WYSH's News & Sports Director since 2000. In addition to reporting local news, he is the play-by-play voice for Clinton High School football, boys' and girls' basketball and baseball. Catch Jim live weekdays beginning at 6:20 am for live local news, sports, weather and traffic plus the Community Bulletin Board, shenanigans with Ron Meredith and more on the Country Club Morning Show on WYSH & WQLA. Jim lives in Clinton with his wife Kelly and daughter Carolina, his mother-in-law and cats Lucius and Oliver.

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