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State health department statistics: Over 1,200 Tennesseans died in 2014 from opioid overdoses


NASHVILLE, Tennessee — Statistics from the Tennessee Department of Health revealed that 1,263 Tennesseans died in 2014 from opioid overdoses despite measures designed to stop the addiction.

In 2014, the state saw 97 more deaths caused by opioid overdoses than in 2013, The Tennessean ( reported. According to the report, more people died from opioid overdose in 2014 than from car accidents or by gunshots.

David Reagan, the health department's chief medical officer, said the highest frequency of overdose deaths are found in men and women ages 45 to 55.

The newspaper reports opioids are found in prescription painkillers such as Hydrocodone and Oxycodone, which are easily attainable illegally. Hydrocodone, according to the report, can cost between $5 to $7 per pill while one pill of Oxycodone ranges from $30 to $40.

Dr. Omar Hamada of Maury Regional Medical Center says two to three people come into the emergency room each week with an overdose that requires medical intervention.

Reagan said most people who become addicted to opioids don't do it with the intention of becoming addicted.

"They never intended for that one incident to end up in dependency and addiction," Reagan said. "This wasn't their idea."

To combat the high death rates, several legislative measures designed to stem addiction have been passed. In 2012, the state began new oversight over pain management clinics and started to expand the information tracked by its controlled substance database, the paper reports.

Starting in July, Tennessee will require chief medical officers of pain clinics to be pain specialists.

State Sen. Ken Yager, who sponsored the 2012 legislation, wants to see some funding for addiction in the state's next budget.

"It is an epidemic of biblical proportions that we need to fight on every front," Yager said.

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