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North Carolina Is Flooded With More Opioid Pills Than People

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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The opioid epidemic is wreaking havoc in North Carolina according to the latest state data, which shows there are more pain pills in the state than people.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services released updated statistics this week on the current state of the opioid crisis in the state, showing the number of painkiller prescriptions written in the state increased again last year. Residents of the state received a total of roughly 675 million pain pills in 2016, enough to give every man, woman and child in North Carolina 65 painkillers each, reports The Charlotte Observer.

A third of counties in North Carolina had more individual prescriptions for opioid painkillers than residents. Overall, the department reports opioid overdose deaths have increased by roughly 900 percent in the state since 1999.

“Opioids cause much more pain than they relieve,” Don Teater, a physician in Waynesville who specializes in addiction treatment, told The Charlotte Observer. “Prescribing 145 opioid pills after surgery may now be considered inadequate care. They should only be used in exceptional circumstances and for a very short period of time.”

Nationally, drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death for Americans under age 50, killing 63,600 people in 2016.

Opioid overdose made up a staggering 66 percent of all drug overdose deaths in 2016, killing 42,249 people in 2016, surpassing the annual number of lives lost to breast cancer. Deaths from synthetic opioids like fentanyl, a painkiller roughly 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine, experienced a particularly dramatic increase, more than doubling from 9,580 lives in 2015 to 19,413 lives last year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Officials say the epidemic is contributing to declining life expectancy in the U.S. Life expectancy dropped for the second consecutive year in 2016 for the first time since an outbreak of influenza in 1962 and 1963.

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