NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The number of overdose deaths in Nashville alone has grown to an average of 14 a week with three-quarters of those deaths tied to fentanyl, according to the Metro Health Department.
In Humphreys County, Captain Clay Anderson says they are also seeing high numbers of fentanyl-related overdose deaths.
“It’s more and more, and I’m going to tell you, it’s scary,” Anderson said. “It’s the most deadly drug we’ve encountered.”
Anderson said many of these deaths are people who thought they were taking another substance like a prescription drug and weren’t aware what they were ingesting was laced with fentanyl.
In fact, Anderson says he has charged alleged drug dealers with second-degree murder and seen them break down in tears after learning the substance they sold could’ve killed a client.
The Department of Homeland Security says that fentanyl flows from Mexico into the U.S., which has led many lawmakers to tie their critiques of the Biden Administration’s border policies to overdoses.
Anderson believes the border does play some role in the amount of fentanyl in the United States, but he says the best approach to curbing overdose deaths is educating children early and by going after the chemicals needed to make the man-made drug.
“They are always going to be able to smuggle large amounts of drugs across the border,” Anderson said. “But if you can stop them from making such large quantities, that’s where you can really hurt them.”
However, while fentanyl is coming to the U.S. from Mexico, according to the U.S. Sentencing Commission, 86.3% of convicted fentanyl traffickers are U.S. Citizens. Furthermore, about 90% of fentanyl seizures happen at legal crossing points or interior vehicle checkpoints, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
“They tend to draw less suspicion at the border, a U.S. citizen as opposed to a foreign national who often won’t have the proper visa or documentation to come across the border,” Anderson explained.
In Washington, Tennessee Republican lawmakers have said curbing fentanyl overdoses is a top priority.
“The Southern border the fentanyl crisis it’s a bipartisan issue,” said Rep. Andy Ogles (R-Tennessee). “When you have college kids in South Dakota or you pick a state OD-ing on fentanyl suddenly every state in the country is a border state.”
Sen. Marsha Blackburn recently went to the southern border on a trip separate from President Biden’s and mentioned how she believes the border plays a role in drug-related deaths in Tennessee.
“Over the last two years, drug overdose deaths – largely driven by fentanyl – have become the leading cause of death for adults 18-45 years old. It’s time to enforce the rule of law and secure our border,” said Sen. Blackburn and the other lawmakers who joined her on the trip.
While he believes that may be part of the solution, Anderson says he wants to see lawmakers take a look beyond the border to keep fentanyl out of the hands of his community.