2020 expected to be Tennessee’s deadliest year for overdoses

Tennessee’s overdose epidemic continues to worsen. Though 2020 data is still preliminary, the Tennessee Department of Health says the increasing trends combined with the exacerbating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have formed what will be the state’s deadliest year for overdoses.

A new report from the Office of Informatics and Analytics says fatal overdoses in 2020 are expected to greatly exceed those in 2019. Estimates gathered from January to September 2020 had already surpassed the total number for all of 2019 with the highest number of opioid overdoses reported in May than any other month in 2020.

In 2019, more than 2,000 Tennesseans were lost to drug overdose. Overdose deaths involving illicit fentanyl and stimulants have seen another spike. For the first year, the report says fentanyl was involved in more than half of deadly drug overdoses.

Impact on hospitals

The epidemic also leaves an impact on healthcare. According to the report, hospitals in the state have reported a higher number of nonfatal drug overdoses than in previous years.

For every drug overdose death in 2019, nearly 12 nonfatal drug overdose discharges were identified in the Statewide Hospital Discharge Data System. Outpatient visits for overdoses went up from 232.9 per 100,000 in 2016 to 255.5 per 100,000 in 2019.

The average cost for a nonfatal overdose inpatient stay gradually increased from $4,510.55 in 2016 to $4,927.29 in 2019. The average cost for an outpatient visit saw a decrease of more than $100.

Writing fewer prescriptions

In what health officials call a “promising sign” indicators show Tennessee’s overdose epidemic moving away from prescription pain meds.

For the past three years, the number of overdose deaths involving prescription pain relievers has decreased, just as the Department of Health says Tennessee’s doctors are writing fewer prescriptions for opioids.

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