(FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) — While 2020 and 2021 will be remembered by most as the years of the COVID-19 pandemic, for thousands of North Carolina families these are the years of the overdose pandemic.
The CDC is projecting more than a hundred thousand people will die of accidental drug overdoses in the United States in 2021. That would shatter the current record of more than 93,000 set in 2020.
“That’s just a heartbreaking number knowing these are our friends, our family members,” said Elizabeth Brewington, Associate Director of the North Carolina Council of Churches’ Overdose Prevention Initiative.
Drug overdose deaths have been a growing problem in North Carolina, and much of the country, for years now. But many health experts believe the isolation associated with the pandemic is playing a huge role in the spiking deaths.
The ongoing supply chain crisis has also led to more contaminated drugs on the market.
“You cannot administer the overdose medication on yourself. So if you’re by yourself, that’s loneliness and isolation right there,” said Brewington.
The numbers in North Carolina could have been much worse. Harm reduction groups in the state say 12,392 overdoses have been reversed in the last year.
North Carolina is also slated to receive $750 million from a $26 billion settlement reached with Johnson & Johnson, McKesson, Cardinal Health, and AmerisourceBergen for their role in the overdose epidemic.
“We can make sure that medication-assisted treatment is expanded to everybody. We can make sure there’s housing for everybody. We can expand syringe exchange programs,” said Brewington.
Correction: The original article stated the CDC numbers as being the numbers for the state of North Carolina, however, the numbers are national numbers for the entire United States.