Overdose deaths climb to record levels in NC, nationwide

FILE - This photo provided by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's Phoenix Division shows one of four containers holding some of the 30,000 fentanyl pills the agency seized in one of its bigger busts in Tempe, Ariz., in August 2017. Fentanyl is a potent synthetic opioid. (Drug Enforcement Administration via AP)

RALEIGH — The effects of the coronavirus pandemic are now being seen in the record number of drug overdose deaths that have occurred between April 2020 and April 2021. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 97,990 people died of a drug overdose during that time period.

That data lines up with the estimate by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), that over 100,000 in the United States died from an overdose. NCHS’s estimate, when compared to CDC data, is around a 29% increase over the same period last year.

In April of 2020, North Carolina saw 2,576 predicted overdose cases according to the CDC. In 2021, the number of predicted cases is up to 3,526. That represents an almost 37% increase.

According to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Opioid Dashboard, between 2000 and 2020, over 28,000 North Carolinians died from drug overdoses. The dashboard also says over eight North Carolinians died each day from a drug overdose during 2020. Data from the dashboard also shows that drug overdose deaths had started to decline and level off prior to the pandemic.

Opioids seem largely the source of overdose and related death increases. The CDC has linked around a third of deaths to opioids, including deaths from fentanyl, a synthetic opioid known to be a particularly deadly and addictive.

The National Institute of Health’s estimates for opioid deaths in North Carolina are pre-pandemic, but the agency estimated that 79% of drug-overdose deaths in the state involved opioids, causing the fatalities of 1,783 people.

The surge in drug overdoses follows reporting in January of this year by the CDC which stated suicide and drug overdose deaths accelerated to a record high during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The CDC reported in December of 2020 that overdose-death rates were the highest ever recorded for a single 12-month period. The data showed that between May 2019 and May 2020, around 81,000 people in the United States died due to an overdose.

About A.P. Dillon 753 Articles
A.P. Dillon is a North State Journal reporter located near Raleigh, North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_