Overdose deaths in NC increase by 26% in 2021, leaders call for change

The effects of the opioid epidemic continue to be deadly.
Published: Jan. 30, 2022 at 5:25 PM EST
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Overdose numbers in North Carolina have skyrocketed in the past year according to new data released by the state’s Department of Health and Human Services.

Nearly four thousand people died in North Carolina in 2021 at the hands of drug overdoses. That’s a 26% increase from 2020, to be exact.

Freida MacDonald is a mother who lost her son to a drug overdose in North Carolina in 2016. She now runs an organization called “Know Hope NC”, that aims to help others from becoming one of these statistics.

“It’s gotten even more complicated now with having the ‘one pill can kill’ being such an issue,” said MacDonald. “That is very scary because many, many people don’t even know about it.”

MacDonald turned her pain and grief into a mission, and wants people to drop the stigma around drug use, and know that overdoses don’t discriminate.

“We’ve got to realize that this is a disease,” says MacDonald. “This is something that no one would want to grow up wanting to be. I said the mean age is 24, but this can happen at any age.”

New Hanover County saw slightly less emergency room visits due to opioids, however, the numbers are still high.

Leaders across North Carolina are calling for a change.

“The opioid crisis has kind of fallen from the headlines because of the COVID pandemic. You know justifiably, that’s the biggest health story,” said State Attorney General Josh Stein. “But because of COVID, opioids have become deadlier than ever. More people have died this year than any year in history and it’s the deadliest drug epidemic in American history.”

The state of North Carolina is set to receive nearly $750 million dollars from three major pharmaceutical companies for their part in fueling the opioid epidemic.

That money will go to recovery, treatment plans, and resources to try and curb this deadly epidemic.

“It does not discriminate one way or another,” said MacDonald. “I have seen it in some of the, what we would call, our best homes in the country. I have also seen it in homes where people are having trouble affording their next meal. So it doesn’t really matter what the situation is.”

For more information and resources on the epidemic, click here.

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