Nashville doctors say they’ve seen a rise in polydrug overdoses during COVID-19 pandemic

Tennessee's Overdose Crisis

Tennessee's Overdose Crisis

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – It’s a dangerous game many addicts play. “If we feel good, we always want to feel even better. If we feel even better, we want to feel even better until we get to a place where we’re not feeling at all,” said Barry Reiman.

Reiman has been sober for 24 years. No longer numb to the problem, he has dedicated his life to helping others kick their addiction at Recovery Unplugged in Nashville. He relates to the struggle.  “It’s not even about the actual substance…when we look at the disease of addiction, it’s about having something to fill that void.”

A void so deep, it often takes multiple substances to fill. “It’s a deadly cycle,” Reiman admitted.

A cycle that could lead to deadly consequences, known as a polydrug overdose. 

Emergency room physician Dr. Marshal Hall, and his colleague Dr. Robert Mildenhall, have seen an uptick in overdose patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Poly-substance abuse is absolutely a very common phenomenon,” said Dr. Hall. “It is very common that we will see a mix of methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, or other opioids altogether. Very frequently another class of drugs is benzodiazepines.”

While doctors believe the majority of overdose deaths are unintentional, Reinman explained chasing the high often put addicts in dangerous territory. 

“In a very sick way, the overdose is almost attractive to the person who is out there using because the people who are out there using are looking to push the limits.”

“No one set out to become addicted to fentanyl, or heroin, or even alcohol,” said Hall. “What happens over time is they build up a tolerance of those medications so it relies on increasing doses to get the same effect and they develop a dependency.”

Even those who survive a polydrug overdose often have lasting effects.

“Depending on the degree of injury that took place to any organs, it may be a lifelong condition they have to deal with,” said Dr. Mildenhall.

Reiman had a message for those lucky enough to make it through. “I don’t ever forget what it felt like to be hurt. I don’t ever forget how bad I felt. And, I don’t ever forget good it felt to be helped.”

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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