Like much of America, South Carolina is suffering the devastating consequences of the opioid epidemic. A study by the CDC found that South Carolina overdose death rates jumped 42.5 percent…
Overview of North Carolina Addiction Stats
In their National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration estimated that there were 207,000 cases of substance abuse disorder in North Carolina in 2017. Like the rest of the US, opioid overdose deaths in North Carolina have sharply increased in recent years, reaching the level of a public health crisis.
In 2017, 1,953 people lost their lives to opioid overdose in North Carolina (Drugabuse.gov). North Carolina also had more opioids than the national average. In fact, there were 72 opioid prescriptions for every 100 people in North Carolina in 2017 (Center for Disease Control). Given these numbers, it’s not surprising that overdose death rates in the state are higher than the national average and on the rise. Since 2010, the incidence of heroin overdose has risen ten-fold (Duke Today). While the abuse of opioids skyrockets, small towns and communities across the state are scrambling to find a solution to the growing problem.
North Carolina, along with many other Southern states, is fighting back against addiction and the opioid epidemic. Overdose rates increased 67% in the Tar Heel State between 2006 and 2016, which is just under the national average according to data from the National Center for Health Statistics.
The good news is that North Carolina has resources for those who struggle with addiction. According to the National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services, just under 50,000 people were treated for addiction in North Carolina in 2017. SAMHSA’s Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator records also show that in 2019, there are 468 substance abuse rehabs in North Carolina.
Wilmington, one of North Carolina’s most populated cities, is home to a large concentration of addiction recovery resources, including treatment, support meetings and sober living facilities. Data pulled from SAMHSA’s treatment locator shows that there are 21 substance abuse treatment facilities in Wilmington and surrounding areas.
The city of Wilmington is located in New Hanover County, which is one of the fastest-growing counties in North Carolina. In 2017, the CDC reported that for every 100 people in New Hanover County, there were 86 opioid prescriptions, which is higher than state and national averages.
One study reported that Wilmington has a higher percentage of opioid abusers (11.6% of residents) than any other city in America. However, this number may be skewed by Wilmington’s growing addiction recovery community, aging population and other health-related demographics (North Carolina Health News).
Raleigh is North Carolina’s capital city, and the second largest by population. According to SAMHSA’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 211,000 Raleigh-Durham-Carey residents have used an illicit drug in the past year. Additionally, about 7.4 percent of the population reported having a substance abuse problem.
Most of the data regarding drug use in Raleigh and the surrounding counties is consistent with national and state averages. While drug use is undoubtedly a problem in the Raleigh area, Wake County is ranked lower than the state average. Many rural and suburban areas outside of city limits have experienced higher overdose rates than Raleigh.
Fayetteville, North Carolina is located in Cumberland County and is the fifth-largest metropolitan area in the state. Total opioid overdose deaths in Cumberland County totaled 79 in 2017, which is considered the peak of the nation’s epidemic.
Cumberland County’s prescribing rates for opioids was 76 for every hundred residents, which is higher than the state and national averages. Additionally, Cumberland County saw more opioid deaths per 100,000 people than the national and state averages. An overwhelming majority of victims are between the ages of 25 and 44 years old (Livestories).
According to data from the NCDHHS, the total number of opioid pills dispensed in the Fayetteville area is decreasing. Still, when compared with other counties, Cumberland is above the state average.
Despite being home to the largest metropolitan area in the state, Mecklenburg County has a lower opioid prescribing rate than many other North Carolina counties. Suburban counties surrounding Charlotte have seen a sharp increase in heroin death rates. Gastonia is among the most affected areas in the state when it comes to heroin. In Concord, a suburb Northeast of Charlotte, the Cabarrus County Substance Use Coalition is using funds from the state to run community programs like naloxone giveaways and syringe exchanges.
Fortunately, the Charlotte area is home to addiction treatment centers and resources to help residents find their way out of substance abuse. According to SAMHSA, Mecklenburg County has 24 substance abuse treatment facilities.
Home to Duke University, Durham, North Carolina is a well-known academic and technological hub. Durham County is also nearby Chapel Hill, North Carolina, which contains the campus of the University of North Carolina.
Because of its proximity to three major universities, drugs and alcohol safety are one of the top priorities for law enforcement and medical professionals in the area. For every hundred Durham residents, there were 41.6 opioid prescriptions. At first glance, this may seem like a high number, but it is well below the national average of 58.7 prescriptions per hundred people.
Greensboro is the largest city in Guilford County. According to NCDHHS, 21,025,000 opioid pills were dispensed to residents of Guildford County in 2017. Opioids are still being dispensed in Greensboro at an alarming rate. For every hundred Guilford residents, there are 65.5 opioid prescriptions, which is higher than the state and national averages.
High Point, North Carolina, a suburb of Greensboro, is located along Interstate 85, a well-known drug trafficking route. To help stop the rise of drug-related fatalities, Guilford County started a program called GCSTOP, or the Guilford County Solution to the Opioid Problem. This program works to counsel and educate individuals who have overdosed, as well as other harm-reduction measures like needle exchanges (News and Record).
A Look Ahead
Although addiction remains a major issue for the state of North Carolina, residents are fighting back with prevention, education and law enforcement. Police departments are holding roundtable discussions at the county level while state health agencies provide resources and information for those who are struggling and their loved ones. If you live in North Carolina and are looking for treatment options, call our helpline at (888) 492-1633.