Drug overdoses are now the leading killer of Americans under the age of 50, driven largely by the opioid epidemic that is ravaging every nook and cranny of every state — and North Carolina is no exception.
But Bladen County, which has its own set of discouraging numbers to show how opioid abuse is getting a foothold here, isn’t merely shrugging it collective shoulders at the problem.
On Tuesday, the Bladen County Board of Commissioners took the lead with an Opioid Forum Planning Session (you can read more about that on Page 1A today in a story by Staff Writer Chrysta Carroll) that brought together leaders from law enforcement, medical, religion, elected officials, media and others to begin the discussion and set a course for active solutions.
Why is it important? Let’s look at some numbers:
— In 2014, an estimated 30,000 deaths were attributed to opioid overdoses. That’s an increase from about 6,242 in 2000.
— In 1991, physicians wrote 76 million opioid prescriptions. In 2011, they wrote 219 million — an average of 650,000 per day.
North Carolina …
— In 2015, there were 1,370 deaths by drug overdose — an increase of 391 percent since 1999. Opioids is considered to account for 47 percent of those overdoses.
— Males overdoes at a greater rate than females, 63.5 percent to 36.5 percent.
— Whites, at 83.6 percent, have the highest rate of overdoses.
— Those between the ages of 45 and 54 have the highest number of overdose at 27.6 percent.
Bladen County …
— In 2016, the county was the 22nd worst among the 100 counties for opioid prescriptions per resident at 1.315 per person. The state average is 1.06 per person.
— In 2016, the county was the 20th worst among the 100 counties for opioid pills per resident at 101.1 per person. The state average is 78.3 per person.
The planning session on Tuesday served as the stepping-off point for a more in-depth effort that will begin in earnest on Sept. 12, when the Bladen County Leadership Forum on Opioid Abuse will convene at Bladen Community College. Currently as many as 40 or more county leaders from a wide variety of areas are being invited to attend and become part of creating solutions.
We applaud the county commissioners, as well as those representing a variety of areas from the county who participated in the planning session. Each of these individuals know how devastating the opioid abuse epidemic is now — but also how much worse it can get.
You will hear more about the opioid abuse issue over the next several months. We hope it continues to be taken seriously.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“Nobody woke up one morning and said, ‘I want to be a heroin addict because it sounds super awesome.’” (Unknown)