NORTH CAROLINA (WECT) - Emergency department visits for opioid overdoses increased 31 percent in North Carolina from July 2016 through September 2017, according to a new study released Tuesday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Researchers from the CDC looked at emergency department data from 45 states, including North Carolina.
"Overall, ED visits for suspected opioid overdoses increased 35 percent in these 45 states hit hard by the epidemic," according to a press release.
In New Hanover County, EMS with New Hanover Regional Medical Center (NHRMC) responded to 529 opioid overdoses in 2017 and 535 opioid overdoses in 2016, according to information provided today by the hospital.
"In February, the number of opioid prescriptions dropped by 22% from the 12-month average of Fiscal Year 2017. The number of opioid pills prescribed declined by over 26%, which means 93,775 fewer opioid pills were in the community in one month's time," according to a press release from NHRMC.
The states with the largest increases in overdose-related visits during the period were Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Missouri.
State and county health departments play a key role in combating the opioid epidemic by providing naloxone to the public and first responders, increasing access to addiction treatment, and supporting harm reduction programs for injection users, according to the report.
People who have an overdose are more likely to have another, which highlights the importance of emergency departments in making sure the user has education and access to treatment, according to the report.
"Long before we receive data from death certificates, emergency department data can point to alarming increases in opioid overdoses," said CDC Acting Director Anne Schuchat, M.D. in a press release. "This fast-moving epidemic affects both men and women, and people of every age. It does not respect state or county lines and is still increasing in every region in the United States."