For decades, the number of fatal opioid overdoses nationwide had been steadily increasing, according to numbers from the National Vital Statistics System. But in 2018, the number of overall opioid deaths dropped to 46,802.
In 2017, there were 1,269 opioid-related overdose deaths in Tennessee, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse's "Tennessee Opioid Summary." That puts the state's opioid death rate at 19.3 deaths per 100,000 people -- which is higher than the national rate of 14.6 deaths per 100,000.2
During recent years, opioid deaths have been steadily increasing. In particular, fentanyl deaths have skyrocketed: rising from 77 deaths in 2012 to 590 deaths in 2017 -- an increase of over 500%.
Opioid deaths in the state have increased every year from 2008 to 2016. In particular, heroin deaths skyrocketed more than 1,400 percent from 2010 (when there were 17 deaths) to 2016 (when there were 260 deaths).
In Knox County, drug overdose deaths increased from 224 in 2016 to 316 deaths in 2017 -- 41.7 percent.
About 50 percent of those deaths were due to fentanyl and its analogues.