At least 1,263 Tennesseans died last year from opioid overdoses, up 97 deaths from 2013. The Tennessean calls it a “a staggering statistic that points to growing abuse despite an array of measures to stem addiction.” The epidemic is sweeping across the state, affecting people in small towns and big cities. More people died in 2014 from opioid overdose in Tennessee than in car accidents or by gunshots. It's a public health crisis that worries state health officials, emergency room doctors, clinicians and some lawmakers. “I would like to think the rate of increase has slowed, but quite frankly the 2014 numbers don't really allow me to say that,” said David Reagan, chief medical officer of the Tennessee Department of Health. “It is at epidemic proportions in our state.”
Opioids are found in prescription painkillers such as Hydrocodone and Oxycodone, sometimes called “hillbilly heroin,” as well as heroin. The problem spans all ages, but the highest frequency of overdose deaths are found in men and women ages 45-55, Reagan said. In many cases the abuse of prescription painkillers escalates to heroin usage, and it's not hard to get your chosen fix. Prescription painkillers and heroin are easily attainable illegally. Hydrocodone costs $5-$7 per pill, Percocet is $7-$10 per pill, Oxycodone IR runs $30-$40 per pill, and Oxycontin comes in at about $80 per pill. Heroin is a less-expensive option, costing around $15 per bag, says the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.