Why Specialists Say NC Overdose Deaths Rising

CHARLOTTE, NC — North Carolina deaths climbing at an alarming rate as more people abuse pain pills like Percocet and Hydrocodone and use heroin.

North Carolina ranks number two for the highest increase in overdose deaths in the U.S. last year, according to the newest numbers released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

To see the full report, click here.

Now, we are learning why addiction specialists say opioid overdose deaths are rising here faster than almost any other state.

2,515 people died in North Carolina in 2017, according to the report’s predicted numbers

That’s up 22.5 percent from 2016 when that number was 2,053.

The CDC uses predicted numbers because drug overdose deaths require lengthy investigations and toxicology testing. Reported accounts might not include all deaths. So, that is subject to change.

“It’s a bleak report,” said substance abuse treatment specialist Ward Blanchard.

Blanchard founded The Blanchard Institute in Charlotte.

He educates doctors and the community about the epidemic of opioid abuse.

He says there are three reasons North Carolina ranks at the top.

One is location. North Carolina has major interstates running through it that connect major cities and drug distribution points.

Two, he says doctors over prescribe pain pills.

Three, he says there are not enough treatment centers and insurance does not pay for it.

“It’s hard enough to admit you have the problem because of society and the stigmas, let alone not being able to access basic health care for it,” said Blanchard.

North Carolina started limiting how many pills a doctor can give you in January, but Blanchard says implementation failed.

“I’ve talked to many physicians in the medical community as early as April and May of this year, and no one knew about the law stipulations,” said Blanchard.

He says two affluent Charlotte areas are impacted most right now.

“Law enforcement makes the most busts and they see this issue the most right now in South Charlotte and the Ballantyne area,” said Blanchard.

He’s going to schools to educate young children.

Blanchard says police, treatment centers, insurance companies and doctors need to work together to bring the numbers down. He says death numbers have not peaked yet.

Alicia Owens says the numbers are frustrating. Her son, Jason, died after using heroin for 20 months.

“He said the craving was so intense.

He said, ‘I probably would have done anything I had to get the next fix.’,” said Owens.

Owens shared one of the last conversations she had with her son.

To see the past report, click here.

“He said, ‘I need you tell my story every time you get a chance because, he said, maybe one person will hear my story, and they’ll decide, hey, no more.’,” said Owens.

While the report is bleak, she says families need to know they aren’t alone and do not give up.

“They need help and they want help. And if we all just turn and walk away, that’s never going to change.”