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More Tennesseans Died of Drug Overdose than Car Accidents in 2014

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Experts are calling it a big problem for Tennessee.

The Center for Disease Control released a study that shows East Tennessee has some of the highest numbers in the country for overdose deaths.

"More than it can just keep you alive it can give you a life that is worth living," Tony Lyons has been clean for almost 5 years now.

He was addicted to pain killers and heroin for years.

Narcan, an antidote, or drug overdose reversal, saved his life 3 different times.

"Without Narcan, those people die. They don't have another chance," Lyons said.

He says his wake up call came when his brother died from an overdose.

"I came to visit him when he was here in Chattanooga in rehab and he actually relapsed with me and he got kicked out of the halfway house and got in the methodone clinic and five days later he was dead of a methodone overdose," Lyons said.

He says his brother was alone but if someone has been there to call 911, or give him Narcan, he'd be alive today. That's why Tony is pushing for Narcan to be prescribed over the counter or even in schools.

"Without a doubt it's a big problem and it's not going away overnight," Dr. Tom Miller is on the regional health council.

Just last week, a drug company announced it will be providing Narcan nasal spray to schools across the country. Miller thinks school nurses locally should use it.

"They treat asthma now. They know how to treat epilepsy and things like that in the schools, so when there's an overdose they have groups and training on when to give it and I think it's a good idea," Dr. Miller said.

That same spray is being offered over the counter in other states.

Lyons says he's hopeful these movements will help curb the major overdose issue we see here so others can live a life like he has now.

"I have everything now in recovery that I wanted when I was using but I couldn't have because of the drugs," Lyons said.

Dr. Miller says he's concerned about over the counter NARCAN because if it's given to someone who isn't overdosing on heroin or painkillers the effects could be dangerous.

Hamilton County Schools say they do not administer antidotes in their schools.

The Tennessee Department of Health says 58 people died in Hamilton County in 2014 from drug overdoses.

See the other county results for Tennessee here.

Dr. Miller says all ambulances have Narcan in them.

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