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North Carolina

Overdose calls in Raleigh top more than 500 so far this year but fatal ODs are down, data shows

Fewer folks have died from overdoses in Raleigh at this time of year than in the previous two years. But the neighborhood remains to be in the grip of the disaster.

“By that point, we were all overdosed,” stated Dr. Jennifer Carroll, an NC State University medical anthropologist and hurt reducer. “It’s something that none of us in our families, friends and communities have been able to escape. Every single death is a life lost.”

As of this week, Raleigh Police say they have responded to 520 overdose calls. That’s more than one a day and almost twice as many as in five years. It’s almost identical to the number of calls they responded to at this point last year. However, compared to 2020, it increased by 35%, while fatal overdoses in the city fell by more than 20% over the same period.

“The largest factor for me is that folks are calling 911,” Carroll said. “Because folks do not like to try this.”

Policies, such as the Good Samaritan Laws, are one of the reasons those who work with people living with addiction believe there is an increase in calls. Another reason is the prevalence of fentanyl in the drug supply.

“I discover it more useful to consider overdose than one thing that occurs when your margin for error decreases,” said Dr. Jennifer Carroll, an NC State medical anthropologist who is also a harm reducer. “Fentanyl is a really powerful drug. We know people who use fentanyl regularly and have built up their tolerance, but the margin for error is much less. So if you need to go to a new supplier in case there has been a drug market disruption or anything has changed for you which can create unpredictability and put you at risk of overdose.

While overdose service calls have increased, prescribing practices have changed. Last year, the number of opioids distributed in North Carolina hit its lowest level on record — from 2.1 million pills in 2016 to 1.3 million pills.

dr Michael Baca-Atlas, a UNC primary care physician who specializes in addiction medicine, says he sees many patients who still become addicted after being prescribed painkillers, but less frequently now.

“We know that decreasing opioid prescriptions shouldn’t be sufficient to actually include the opioid disaster that we are having,” Baca-Atlas said. “We know this is basically associated to different ailments of desperation.”

Baca-Atlas said its patients often face other issues, such as mental and physical health issues, and turn to substances to help cope.

“I actually assume that some sort of habit or creating an habit has so much to do with the breakup,” Baca-Atlas said. “What we’re really trying to do for people in addiction treatment is reconnect them with social support. Whether it’s peer support or mutual support groups, it’s really about bringing people back rather than isolating them.”

Isolation is among the causes habit specialists consider there was a spike in fatal overdoses in 2020, as folks have been utilizing alone and there was nobody round to name for assist or administer naloxone.

According to the Raleigh Police Department, 48 folks have died from drug overdoses so far this year. That’s the fewest since 2019, even because the police reply to more calls for overdoses.

While there are legal guidelines that increase entry to narcan and supply protections to those that name for assist, specialists consider more might be executed. According to Carroll, a current proposal is to increase the Good Samaritan’s protections to everybody on the scene of an overdose, not simply the individual calling the authorities — as required by the present regulation.

Both Carroll and Baca-Atlas have been stunned to listen to that Raleigh Police Department has responded to fewer fatal overdoses this year, but cite end-to-end companies and a holistic strategy as potential causes the town is seeing enhancements.

“We can keep bringing that number down, we can do it,” Carroll stated. “We know the loved ones behind these numbers whose lives are being saved.”

And these coping with the disaster say a multi-faceted strategy to managing the disaster is required.

“We really need to meet people where they are,” stated UNC’s Baca-Atlas. “Rather than expecting people to necessarily show up at traditional centers where people are cared for.”

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