WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - In 2018, over 67,000 drug overdose deaths happened in the United States. Over 2,259 of those were North Carolinians, according to the CDC.
August 31 is International Drug Overdose Awareness Day. It’s a global event that aims to raise awareness that overdoses are preventable. It also works to reduce the stigma attached to addiction.
“Stigma, in my opinion, is the number one barrier for patients to come in for addiction treatment or mental health treatment,” said Dr. Heather Manos, the Medical Director for Outpatient Addiction Medicine for Novant Health. “I think that they assign blame to themselves for continuing to use. I think the more we can do to educate the public, to educate the families, everyone, to educate the patients themselves on the fact that addiction is a disease and there is treatment for it.”
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a significant influx in overdoses—18 percent according to a recent report. And there are a variety of reasons people are turning to drugs recently.
“Social isolation—not really having the tools or the outlets or the community in the way that they had before,” said Buffy Taylor, the Opioid Quick Response Team Supervisor for Coastal Horizons. “They kind of turn to drugs or alcohol. Financial stressors—that’s been a huge thing with the loss of jobs. So, trying to navigate your way in putting food on the table and putting a roof over your head, people are turning to drugs.”
In 2017, Governor Roy Cooper announced the Opioid Action Plan as a way to fight a public health crisis in North Carolina. The goal of the plan is to reduce overdose deaths by 20 percent by the year 2021. Taylor says before the pandemic, the numbers were on track but there was still a lot of work to do.
“As of now, we may even have more work to do,” said Taylor. “I think we’re definitely off track a bit from that projection.”
Taylor says the Wilmington Fire Department and local paramedics have done around 260 overdose reversals since March 2020.
Coastal Horizons offers an array of treatment programs and services. To learn more about those, visit their website or call 910-833-2052.
Novant Health also offers resources and information regarding the opioid epidemic.
There is a virtual International Overdose Awareness Day rally happening Monday night via Zoom. It’s from 5 until 8:30 p.m. Click here to register.