By Erin Smith
In 2016, the last year for which data is available, Bladen County had a prescribing rate for opioids of 114.3 percent, according to data from the Centers For Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia. That is down slightly compared to a rate of 118.3 percent in 2015. The county’s prescription rate for opioids in 2014 was 114.8 percent.
In 2016, Bladen County reported four opioid-related deaths which is down slightly from five deaths reported in 2015 and seven deaths reported in 2014.
“I wish it wasn’t that. One death is too many,” said Bladen County Coroner Hubert Kinlaw.
According to the CDC, the data for the U.S. Prescribing Rate Map is based on retail prescriptions dispensed per 100 persons. The the three most commonly overdosed prescription opioids are Methadone, Oxycodone (Oxycontin) and Hydrocodone (Vicodin).
According to the CDC, for the period 1999 to 2015, more than 183,000 people have died from overdoses in the United States. In North Carolina, according to information supplied the by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services’ Injury and Violence Prevention Branch, for the period 1999 to 2016, North Carolina reported 12,590 opioid deaths.
In Bladen County, for the period from 1999 to 2016, there were 49 reported opioid-related deaths, according to the data supplied by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.
By comparison, for the same period, Brunswick County reported 283 deaths, Columbus County reported 111 deaths, Cumberland County reported 353 deaths, Pender County reported 84 deaths, Robeson County reported 120 deaths, Sampson County reported 93 deaths, and Scotland County reported 52 deaths.
Bladen County Coroner Hubert Kinlaw said, “I feel like somewhere, somebody is educating our people. It could be much worse.”
He said as Coroner, he has witnessed families when they were informed of the case of death of their loved ones. Kinlaw said occasionally the family will request for the obituary to reflect the cause of death of their loved ones in the hopes it will help another family.
According to CDC data from 1999 to 2014, reported overdoses were the highest among 25 to 54 years of age and men were more likely to overdose than women. In North Carolina, overdose deaths are higher among men and whites between the ages of 25 and 54, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services data.
The Bladen County Opioid Task Force is attempting to address the epidemic as it pertains to the county.
North Carolina adopted an Opioid Action Plan earlier in 2017 which includes such goals as making Naloxone readily available, reducing the number of opioid prescription drugs being diverted for illicit uses, making more treatment and recovery centers available, and raising awareness of the issue in our communities.