Oct 12, 2021

Axios Nashville

It's Tuesday, so all we wanna do is jam to Sheryl Crow's debut album and talk about the latest news. Let's go!

☀️ Today's weather: Fall continues to play hard to get. Another sunny day with a high of about 81.

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Today's newsletter is 799 words — a 3-minute read.

1 big thing: Counterfeit pills surge

Prescription pills can be virtually identical to counterfeit lookalikes. Photo courtesy of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation

"A growing and troubling" trend is complicating the fight against the opioid crisis, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director David Rausch said at a news conference Monday.

  • Rausch teamed up with health officials to warn residents of a surge in counterfeit pills from drug dealers, and many of the pills are laced with lethal doses of the synthetic opioid fentanyl.

Why it matters: Counterfeit pills are pulling even more people into the opioid epidemic. In many cases, law enforcement officials said, people looking for prescription drugs have no idea until it's too late that they are consuming dangerous amounts of fentanyl.

  • Rausch showed examples of counterfeit pills designed to look identical to Xanax and oxycodone.
  • "The reality is they're being shipped everywhere," Rausch said. "This is hitting every community."
  • Nashville police Sgt. Mike Hotz told Axios he's seen opioids laced in pills that mimic Adderall.

Driving the news: Hotz, who leads a unit that almost exclusively investigates overdose deaths, said a "marked increase" in counterfeit pills in Nashville had exacerbated the opioid crisis' already staggering toll.

  • "It's overwhelming," Hotz says. "There are so many families that are getting torn apart by this, and it's just not slowing down or getting better."
  • This year, the DEA said it and partner agencies seized more than 9 million counterfeit pills. More than 7 million of those pills contained fentanyl, which drug suppliers may turn to because it's relatively inexpensive and potent.

By the numbers: Tennessee logged 3,032 overdose deaths in 2020, according to Tennessee Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey.

  • That's an increase of 45% over 2019, largely driven by opioids.
  • So far this year, the Metro Public Health Department has sent out seven alerts warning of overdose spikes in Nashville. At least one of them was explicitly tied to counterfeit pills.

What they're saying: "I don't think people understand just how powerful this is," Trevor Henderson, the director of Nashville's Overdose Response Program, tells Axios.

  • "In a sense we have weapons of mass destruction just sitting in one house, in a neighborhood, near you."

Get help: The Community Overdose Response Team can connect people to treatment resources at 615-687-1701. Resources are also available online.

2. Cancelations continue

A fleet of Southwest Airlines planes. Photo: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Southwest Airlines cancelations continued into the workweek, affecting several Nashville flights and leaving some passengers at BNA scrambling for a backup plan.

  • At least 23 Southwest flights were canceled Monday at BNA, while dozens more were delayed, per the Tennessean.
  • BNA was crowded as Nashville passengers were trying to find alternate routes Monday, according to WSMV.

Background: The airline canceled more than 1,000 flights over the weekend, leaving passengers stranded across the country.

Before you go: Nashville airport officials encourage travelers to check their flight status online before leaving for the airport.

3. Screen Time: Sen. Bill Hagerty

Photo illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios. Photo courtesy of the Office of Sen. Bill Hagerty

We want to help readers understand how some of the most powerful people in our community interact with technology.

  • Our regular Screen Time feature will do just that. First up is U.S. Sen. Bill Hagerty.

Hagerty has represented Tennessee in Washington since January.

  • His résumé includes stints as the Tennessee Commissioner for Economic and Community Development and U.S. ambassador to Japan.

📱 Device of choice? iPhone

⏰ First tap of the day: "The alarm clock. I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a morning person."

👋 Favorite app: FaceTime. "Having to be away from my wife Chrissy and our four children while I’m in Washington isn’t easy, and FaceTime allows me to be as close as I can in the big moments and the small."

🗞 Go-to news source: "The Wall Street Journal – the kind you can actually hold in your hands. Call me a 'boomer,' but there’s nothing like a good old-fashioned paper with your morning coffee."

🎧 Favorite podcast: "The Pacific Century" from the Hoover Institution.

📚 Reading list: " 'Tokyo Junkie' written by a friend of mine, Bob Whiting, about one of the most interesting cities in the world."

4. The Setlist: Bride can't get no satisfaction

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

👰 Mick Jagger crashed a bachelorette party and sang karaoke in Printers Alley during The Rolling Stones' visit to Nashville. (The Tennessean)

🟠 University of Tennessee President Randy Boyd backed out of a conservative fundraiser following news coverage and criticism. (Knoxville News Sentinel)

Former State Rep. Jim Coley has died. (The Tennessee Journal)

The teens charged in the fatal shooting of musician Kyle Yorlets could take plea deals. (NewsChannel5)

5. Where in the world is Adam?

Adam Tamburin/Axios

👋 Adam here! This is about as rebellious as I get, but when I spotted this mural it brought out my inner iconoclast.

📬 Reply to this email with your guess for where I am. If you're right, you might win some Axios swag!

  • Hint: It's near a record store.

🏝 Nate is enjoying some time off this week.

🎶 Adam is coping with Nate's absence by reading comforting Adele profiles.