Fentanyl overdoses on the rise in Tennessee

Tennessee's Overdose Crisis

Tennessee's Overdose Crisis

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Nashville physician, Dr. Marshall Hall, has seen first hand the disturbing drug trend in Middle Tennessee. At the front of the fight? — Fentanyl.

In Tennessee, overdose deaths involving fentanyl increased 48 percent between 2017 and 2018.

“We have definitely seen an increase in the number of overdose cases coming into the emergency room. Fentanyl is a much more potent substance than most other opiates,” said Dr. Hall.

Fentanyl is 80-100x stronger than morphine. For more than 50 years, it’s been used for pain control in hospitals specifically for cancer patients.

More recently, Dr. Hall explained, it’s become a major player in street drugs.”It happens frequently that we’ll have a patient that believes they’re using cocaine or heroin, and it was probably actually fentanyl.”

Barry Reiman, who works with Recovery Unplugged, a detox and rehab center in Nashville, sees drug dealers gravitate to the much cheaper synthetic drug. “All they want to do is spread their profits…the more heroine they can cut with fentanyl, the longer that supply is going to last.”

The Tennessee Annual Overdose Report highlights how the extremely addictive and powerful fentanyl high has affected individuals in the state. Those between the ages of 25 to 34-year-olds had the highest overdose rate, followed by 35 to 44-year-olds.

Davidson, Rutherford, Maury, Sumner, and Montgomery counties saw the greatest increase in the number of deaths.

“People are dropping left and right and overdosing. It’s not like the bag comes with milligrams on in and you know exactly what you’re doing like it’s a pharmaceutical,” said Reiman.

Until more people step in to help the crisis, Reiman believes more people will die.

“These are not bad people that need to become good,” said Reiman. “These are sick people that need to get better. Just like any other disease. And, there’s no shame in raising your hand and saying  I’m out of control.”

If you or someone you know needs help with addiction, call Tennessee’s Redline at 1-800-889-9789.


Tennessee’s overdose crisis is evolving in the wake of the COVID-19 Pandemic. First responders and emergency rooms are reporting an increase in overdose cases. News 2 examines the disturbing trend in a special investigation. Read the latest reports here.        

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