NC’s overdose deaths for 2020 higher than national average

North Carolina

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN)- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention counted a record number of overdose deaths for 2020 and North Carolina’s increase was above the national average.

Reported deaths for the country rose by close to 30 percent and North Carolina’s overdoses increased by 34-percent.

The CDC also notes North Carolina’s figures are likely underreported due to incomplete data.

“If I was still using I don’t think I would be alive and free,” Joe M, a spokesman of Capital Area Narcotics Anonymous, said.

He and fellow spokesman Sebastian D. with Capital Area Narcotics Anonymous spoke with CBS 17 about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their organization.

The group is a nonprofit fellowship and/or society of men and women for whom drugs had become a major problem.

They said having support systems, like NA, is crucial for people coping with addiction.

Due to the lockdowns, the CDC reported that 2020 saw the largest yearly increase in overdose deaths since 2016.

The recorded 93,000 deaths translated to one death every 11 hours.

“We look at it as a disease, and just as I would care about who is sick and needed treatment to get well, I don’t see where there’s a difference,” Sebastian D. said.

COVID-19 meant a lot of NA meetings went virtual or stopped meeting and the pandemic restrictions isolated many people making it harder to get help for some.

“The switch to virtual was a barrier for some people. You couldn’t literally walk in off the street into a meeting anymore,” Sebastian D. said.

Click here to view a schedule of NA meetings.

Support the meetings offer are as important as ever.

While North Carolina has seen an increase, neighboring states have seen their numbers rise even higher.

Virginia’s overdose deaths were up 42 percent, Tennessee’s went up 45-percent and South Carolina reached a whopping 53-percent increase.

But thanks to the pandemic there are also more avenues for support, whether in-person or remotely.

“(I) made a lot more phone calls over the last year than I did the year before, connected in other ways. Again, different but the connection is still there,” Sebastian D. said.

The options showing help are out there and people can and are getting better.

“The NA message is an addict, any addict can lose the desire to use and learn to live in a new way,” Joe M said.

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