North Carolina sees 22% increase in overdose deaths due to fentanyl, state leaders say

CHARLOTTE — The fight against North Carolina’s opioid epidemic heightens.

This week, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services announced that more than 4,000 people died from an overdose in 2021.

That is a 22% increase from 2020 and the highest number of overdose deaths on state record.

Channel 9′s Erika Jackson spoke with experts about exactly what is to blame.

Charles Odell, the CEO of The Dilworth Center, pointed to illegally manufactured fentanyl as the main culprit.

“Double-digit increases unfortunately is turning into the norm as opposed to the exception,” Odell told Channel 9.

The NCDHHS said it believes 77% of overdose deaths in 2021 likely involved fentanyl.

The Drug Enforcement Administration also found that six out of every ten fentanyl-laced fake prescription pills analyzed in 2022 contained a potentially lethal dose of the drug.

“If you get a fake prescription pill, there’s a greater chance of dying than not dying if you take it,” Odell said.

Odell told Channel 9 that The Dilworth Center is seeing what he calls a “strong demand” for treatment.

“So far this year, we’ve seen a very strong increase in treatment demand. Our census is up about 30% over what it was at the end of last year,” Odell said.

Justin Irby is also stepping in to offer help to those who are on their journey to recovery with his non-profit.

Irby said he is now four years sober and considers himself to be one of the lucky ones.

“It’s about showing these people that there is a better way,” Irby told Channel 9.

State Attorney General Josh Stein announced he is looking for funding to create a fentanyl control unit.

The goal is to prosecute more drug dealers and bring in more resources for those cases.

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