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Opioid death rates inching upwards

By Erin Smith

The Office of the NC Medical Examiner has released data for the State regarding the number of Opioid-related deaths. The data reveals that opioid-related poisonings increased in North Carolina in 2017, the latest year for which data is available.

The State had a rate of 5.6 confirmed poisoning deaths per 100,000 individuals in 2017 and 540 deaths that were listed as poisoning deaths, according to the data released by the NC Medical Examiner’s Office. The data also showed 655 deaths in North Carolina ocurred due to Fentanyl and 597 deaths due to other causes.

With the Opioid epidemic touching many lives in Bladen and surrounding counties, it has left many families grieving for lost loved ones. The alarming increase in opioid deaths is not just a problem for the state. Opioid-related deaths are also inching upward locally as well.

The Bladen County Opioid Task Force is attempting to address the epidemic as it pertains to the county. The group has been very active in promoting awareness of the dangers of opioids, offering a Celebrate Recovery program for those at the Bladen County Detention Center who wish to attend, and the task force has been involved in community meetings. The group is still actively seeking other ways to reduce the number of Opioid-related deaths. But even with those efforts, the numbers of Opioid-related deaths inched up slightly in Bladen County in 2017.

Bladen County Commissioner Chairman and Opioid Task Force Leader Charles Ray Peterson said that opioid addiction is not just a Bladen County problem but rather it is a societal problem and a resolution will involve everyone taking a seat at the table to develop strong, lasting solutions. He noted that even one death is too many.

“All we can really do is try to educate people and to get the community involved,” said Chairman Peterson. “We’re trying to make a difference.”

He pointed out that the group recently received a grant from the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust. Chairman Peterson said the funds will be used to hire a consultant to assist the Task Force in finding more ways to assist in combating the opioid problem.

“The Sheriff’s Office is cracking down on the dealers,” said Chairman Peterson.

Help for those battling addiction can be found at Cape Fear Teen Challenge by calling 910-588-4115, Southeastern Carolina Crossroads by calling 910-549-8487, or by calling the Eastpointe helpline at 1-800-913-6109.

He said the Bladen County Task Force has a committee that goes out in the community and visits churches, civic groups and other organizations.

“Anybody that requests help, we try to help them,” said Chairman Peterson.

In 2017, the last year for which data is available, Bladen County had a prescribing rate for opioids of 106.3 percent, down slightly from a rate of 114.3 percent which was reported in 2016, according to data from the Centers For Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia. Those figures are down when compared to a rate of 118.3 percent in 2015 and a prescription rate for opioids in 2014 was 114.8 percent.

In Bladen County, for the period from 2008 to 2017, there were 41 reported opioid-related deaths, according to the data supplied by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services’ Injury and Violence Prevention Branch.

By comparison, for the same period, Brunswick County reported 248 deaths, Columbus County reported 88 deaths, Cumberland County reported 350 deaths, Pender County reported 82 deaths, Robeson County reported 117 deaths, Sampson County reported 73 deaths, and Scotland County reported 36 deaths.

In the year 2017 (the latest year for which data is available), Bladen County reported six opioid-related deaths which is up  slightly from three deaths reported in 2016, and five deaths reported in 2015. In the year 2014, there were eight opioid-related deaths reported in Bladen County.

According to the CDC, the data for the U.S. Prescribing Rate Map is based on retail prescriptions dispensed per 100 persons. The three most commonly overdosed prescription opioids are Methadone, Oxycodone (Oxycontin) and Hydrocodone (Vicodin).

According to the CDC, for the period 2006 to 2017, the total number of prescriptions  for Opioids has declined steadily. In 2017, nationwide there were 191,218,272 prescriptions issued for a prescription rate of 58.7 percent. According to the CDC, that equates to a total of 191 million opioid prescriptions.

According to CDC data reported overdoses increased by 9.6 percent in 2017 to 21.7 overdoses per 100,000 individuals. States with the highest death rates from opioid overdoses were West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, the District of Columbia, and Kentucky. North Carolina reported a significant increase in 2017 with 22.3 opioid-related deaths per every 100,000 individuals.

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