Why does Tennessee Need to improve?

Despite recent progress, our state and our communities still compare poorly to others.

our most recent numbers


In 2021, 3,814 people in Tennessee died from an overdose – more than motor vehicle accidents and homicides combined. 3,043 of the overdose deaths involved opioids, including prescription painkillers and illegal drugs such as fentanyl and heroin. 645 were attributed to prescription opioid painkillers, a number that has steadily increased in recent years. 


In 2020, there were 25,796 discharges from Tennessee’s emergency departments and hospitals for treatment of non-fatal overdoses, more than 8 times the 3,043 opioid-related fatal overdoses in the state.



In 2020, 809 babies born in Tennessee required hospitalization for opioid withdrawal symptoms (NAS) due to exposure to opioids in the womb before birth.This represents a decrease of 42.4% from 1,906 in 2017, when the number was highest since reporting began in 2013.

In most of the 254 reported cases (57.9%) of NAS as of July 2021, at least one of the substances was prescribed to the mother by a health care provider. The highest rates of NAS occur in Sullivan and Knox counties.

HOW we compare to others

1 %

In 2021, over two-thirds (71.7%) of all overdose deaths involved fentanyl, a 35.7% increase from 2020. Overdoses involving fentanyl (mixed with illicit drugs such as heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine) surpassed the number of overdoses involving prescription opioid pain relievers by over four times.

999 +

From October 2017 to September 2022, over 53,000 documented lives have been saved through the use of naloxone.

In 2019, the Nashville Fire Department alone administered 2,260 doses of naloxone to reverse opioid overdoses, a 28% increase over 2018 and a 528% increase since 2011.

In Knox County, first responders administered naloxone to 4,021 individuals, an average of 114 people per month since January 2017. Over 10% of the individuals received naloxone treatment to reverse an overdose two times or more during a two-year period.



For 2020, Tennessee ranked 3rd worst in the nation for the number of opioid prescriptions per capita.  For every 100 persons, there were 68.5 prescriptions in Tennessee, compared to 43.3 nationally.

There were 4,715,782 opioid prescriptions filled in Tennessee in 2021, a decrease of 32.4% since 2017, and the amount of opioids dispensed (in morphine milligram equivalents) has decreased by 48.6%.