Opioid overdose hospital visits down in July

Published 12:29 pm Thursday, September 6, 2018

There are currently 1,974 confirmed opioid-related poisoning deaths in North Carolina for 2017, a 24.6% increase compared to 1,584 in 2016, the Office of Chief Medical Examiner reported.

44.3% of autopsies performed in 2017 have been confirmed as poisonings.

None of the deaths occurred in Tyrrell County, the report indicated.

There were 466 hospital emergency department visits for opioid overdose in July compared to 534 a year earlier, the state Division of Public Health reported.

The majority were white (80%), male (55%), and between the ages 25 to 34 (40%).

Of the 466 ED visits in July, 350 were for heroin and synthetic narcotic overdose compared to 376 this time last year. The majority were white (83%), male (59%), and between the ages 25 to 34 (43%).

The highest rates of opioid overdose (commonly prescribed opioids, heroin, and synthetic narcotics) ED visits in July occurred in Stanly (22.8 per 100,000 residents), Rockingham (18.7), and Lee (18.2) counties.

The highest rates in northeastern counties — each with fewer than five visits — were Beaufort, Bertie, Currituck, Dare, Hertford, and Pasquotank.

Northeastern counties reporting no overdose visits in July were Camden, Chowan, Gates, Hyde, Martin, Perquimans, Tyrrell, and Washington.

The report shows that opioid overdose emergency department visits through July are almost identical to the number recorded in the first seven months of 2017: 3,228 in 2018 versus 3,227 in 2017. However, the figure through July 2016 was 2,393.

There are currently 1,840 year-to-date opioid overdose reversals reported to state officials compared to 2,164 through July 2017.

From August 1, 2013, through the end of July, the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition distributed 88,630 reversal kits to community members and law enforcement agencies in all 100 counties across North Carolina.

As of July 31, there were 251 law enforcement agencies carrying naloxone, covering 90 counties, including the Tyrrell County Sheriff’s Office.

In the past three and a half years law enforcement agencies have reported 1,369 opioid overdose reversals to NCHRC.

Psychotherapist Eric Garland, at the University of Utah’s Center on Mindfulness and Integrative Health, has pioneered an approach called Mindfulness-Oriented Recovery Enhancement, or MORE, that’s already helping patients addicted to opioids, according to a report in the April 2018 issue of Mindful magazine.

“What we’re learning is that as individuals become addicted to opioids, they become hypersensitive to pain,” Garland explains. “At the same time, they become less sensitive to the things that used to give them pleasure, things like walking in nature, listening to music, talking to friends.”

The goal of MORE is to reverse that shift, using mindfulness to encourage people to savor positive, everyday experiences.

“The more patients can savor the pleasures of these life-affirming activities, the less they seek pleasure from opioids,” Garland said.