Why does Tennessee Need to improve?

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

our most recent numbers


In 2019, 2,089 people in Tennessee died from an overdose – more than motor vehicle accidents. 1,543 of the overdose deaths involved opioids, including prescription painkillers and illegal drugs such as fentanyl and heroin.  515 were attributed to prescription opioid painkillers, and 39.8% involved multiple drugs. 


In 2019, there were 23,910 discharges from Tennessee’s emergency departments and hospitals for treatment of non-fatal overdoses, more than 15 times the number of fatal overdoses.



In 2020, 809 babies born in Tennessee required hospitalization for opioid withdrawal symptoms (NWS) 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.

HOW we compare to others

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In 2019, over half (54.1%) of overdose deaths involved fentanyl, a 44.8% increase from 2018. Overdoses involving fentanyl (mixed with illicit drugs such as heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine) surpassed the number of overdoses involving prescription opioid pain relievers.

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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.


In 2019, Tennessee ranked 3rd worst in the nation for the number of opioid prescriptions per capita.  For every 100 persons, there were 81.8 prescriptions in Tennessee, compared to 51.4 nationally.

There were 5,029,076 opioid prescriptions filled in Tennessee in 2020, a decrease of 35.7% since 2016, and the amount of opioids dispensed (in morphine milligram equivalents) has decreased by 48.6%.