opioid epidemic

US DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE / Flickr

RALEIGH — Health officials in North Carolina say the number of unintentional opioid-related overdose deaths among North Carolina residents has fallen for the first time in five years.

Government officials are bickering over hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements paid by Big Pharma, stemming from the nation's deadly opioid epidemic.

The pharmaceutical industry paid out more than half a billion dollars over the last year alone. All sides expect the scale of settlements to grow fast as more cases go to trial.

US DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE / Flickr

Like many rural counties in North Carolina, Davidson County has long been dealing with the effects of the opioid crisis. It doesn’t have the highest rates in the state for overdoses, but their rates are up there. Davidson County commissioners recently decided it’s time to take another approach to curbing opioid abuse, one that at least a couple other counties in the state have taken.

NC Counties Putting New Federal Funding To Use In Battling Opioid Epidemic

Nov 18, 2018
FLICKR/ US DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

A new grant from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will give funding to 22 North Carolina health departments to create strategies for fighting the state’s opioid epidemic.

FLICKR/ US DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

North Carolina counties got nearly $2.5 million dollars in federal grants for drug courts and treatment. These are part of the $320 million the Department of Justice awarded across the country.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Drug overdoses killed an estimated 72,000 people in the U.S. last year.  A new report from the federal Centers for Disease Control also shows that deaths from drug overdoses in North Carolina in 2017 soared at the second-highest rate in the nation. 

FLICKR/ US DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

RALEIGH, N.C. — A proposal in North Carolina's legislature would let law officers access a statewide database recording who is prescribing controlled drugs from morphine to codeine.

JOSH STEIN

North Carolina is among six states filing lawsuits today against drug manufacturer Purdue Pharma, accusing the company of using deceptive marketing that helped fuel the opioid crisis.

In a refrigerator in the coroner's office in Marion County, Ind., rows of vials await testing. They contain blood, urine and vitreous, the fluid collected from inside a human eye.

In overdose cases, the fluids may contain clues for investigators.

"We send that off to a toxicology lab to be tested for what we call drugs of abuse," said Alfie Ballew, deputy coroner. The results often include drugs such as cocaine, heroin, fentanyl or prescription pharmaceuticals.

Flickr/ US Department of Agriculture

Mecklenburg County health officials say more than 525 people came to emergency rooms with opioid overdoses in the county last year.  That’s about a 45 percent increase from the previous year.  Across North Carolina in 2017, emergency rooms reported a nearly 40 percent increase in visits for opioid overdoses.  Mecklenburg County government and partner agencies will host a summit Thursday to address the growing opioid crisis. 

The current drug addiction crisis began in rural America, but it's quickly spreading to urban areas and into the African-American population in cities across the country.

"It's a frightening time," says Dr. Edwin Chapman, who specializes in drug addiction in Washington, D.C., "because the urban African-American community is dying now at a faster rate than the epidemic in the suburbs and rural areas."

In April this year, Katie Herzog checked into a Boston teaching hospital for what turned out to be a nine-hour-long back surgery.

The 68-year-old consulting firm president left the hospital with a prescription for Dilaudid, an opioid used to treat severe pain, and instructions to take two pills every four hours as needed. Herzog took close to the full dose for about two weeks.

NCDOTCOMMUNICATIONS

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper is among those urging President Trump to declare a national health emergency, saying every day 142 Americans die from a drug overdose, equivalent to a Sept. 11 death toll every three weeks.

Updated 4:25 p.m.
The state Senate on Tuesday passed a bill to reduce the number of state appeals court judges, and gave preliminary final approval to a bill that would relax state regulations on the environment and businesses. Senators also confirmed three more Cabinet picks of Gov. Roy Cooper, for commerce, environment and cultural resources. Other bills making their way through the General Assembly would enact new restrictions on opioids, and limit lawsuits against large hog farms. 

North Carolina State Senator Joel Ford is officially tossing his hat into the race for Charlotte mayor.

"It's time for new leadership and a bold vision for our city," Ford said in a campaign-produced video released Wednesday, "We need a mayor who will focus on the issues that unite our city, not divide it."

CMPD

Between 2010 and 2015, heroin deaths skyrocketed 550 percent in North Carolina, according to the chief federal law enforcement officer in Charlotte. The U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina and the acting head of the DEA, local police and doctors detailed the problem at a conference in south Charlotte on Tuesday.

justice.gov

The chief federal law enforcement officer in Charlotte is warning about a startling rise in heroin use. 

"It's a problem that began with prescription pills," says Jill Westmoreland Rose, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina. "But it's one that has grown to epic proportions. Our deaths in this district have doubled in the past year. It's a problem that's affecting all segments of our community."