NCDHHS: opioid overdose deaths up 22%

FILE - This Aug. 29, 2018, file photo shows an arrangement of Oxycodone pills in New York. The three biggest U.S. drug distribution companies and the drugmaker Johnson & Johnson are on the verge of a $26 billion settlement covering thousands of lawsuits over the toll of opioids across the U.S., two people with knowledge of the plans told The Associated Press. The settlement involving AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson is expected this week. A $1 billion-plus deal involving the three distributors and the state of New York was planned for Tuesday, July 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

RALEIGH — The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services released its 2021 statistics showing opioid overdose deaths were up 22% from the previous year.  

NCDHHS says the rise in overdose deaths in recent years is driven by illegal manufactured fentanyl, with 77% of the deaths likely involving the substance.  

“North Carolina’s communities and families are meeting the tragedy of overdose deaths and the opioid crisis head on, every day,” said NCDHHS Secretary Kody H. Kinsley. “With the right treatment and support, recovery is possible, and individuals can go on to live full and productive lives. Our goal is to break the costly cycle of addiction and the smartest investment we can make to do that is expanding Medicaid.” 

The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the crisis, the department added. Overdose deaths have increased 72% since 2019, with a 40% jump in 2020 during the first year of the pandemic.