Overdose Prevention and Response
Drug and alcohol overdose deaths are the number one cause of unintentional death in North Carolina according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS). The rise reflects the growing problem across the nation and as of 2018, overdose deaths are the leading cause of preventable injury death in the United States. Mirroring national trends, the number of overdose deaths in our county have tripled in the past ten years alone and the problem only continues to grow and devastate lives.
While drug overdose and addiction is preventable, it continues to be a major public health problem. Addiction is a disease that can happen to anyone. Whether you or someone you know is impacted by addiction, help and hope are closer than you think.
Learn the signs
Sometimes it can be difficult to tell if a person is just very high, or experiencing an overdose. The following will present some information on how to tell the difference. If you’re having a hard time telling the difference, it is best to treat the situation like an overdose -- it could save someone’s life. Call for emergency medical attention if any of these signs appear:
- Failure to respond when spoken to
- Failure to wake up when prompted
- Slow or no breathing
- Tiny pupils (the center of the eye)
- Fingernails or lips are turning blue or purple
- Body is very limp
- Opioid overdose is life-threatening and requires immediate emergency attention. Call 911 immediately.
- If the person has stopped breathing or if breathing is very weak, begin CPR (best performed by someone trained).
- If Narcan® is available, use it as directed.
Reversing an Overdose with Naloxone
Naloxone (also known as Narcan®) temporarily blocks or reverses the effects of opioids. In most cases the effect is immediate (within 30-40 seconds), blocking the effects of the overdose and allowing the person to breathe again. This gives time to seek emergency medical assistance.Naloxone has no potential for abuse. Naloxone may be injected in the muscle, vein or under the skin, or sprayed into the nose. Its use is supported by many organizations, including the Office of National Drug Control Policy and the World Health Organization.
NC 911 Good Samaritan Law
If an individual is aware that the victim and caller are protected from prosecution in the event of an overdose, many deaths from opioid misuse disorder and substance abuse can be prevented. The NC 911 Good Samaritan Law states that individuals who experience a drug overdose or persons who witness an overdose and seek help for the victim can no longer be prosecuted for possession of small amounts of drugs, paraphernalia, or underage drinking. Read more here
Virtual Recovery Resources
The coronavirus pandemic has put severe stress on millions of people in recovery for substance use issues and friends and family trying to stand by them. Connection is considered an antidote to addiction, but the bans on gatherings have abruptly shut down support groups, leaving many people floundering for safety nets.
Many organizations are quickly making virtual meetings and counseling available on numerous platforms. Apps help people track their habits, meditate and find a community of peers. Here are some options, almost all of which are free.
Support for Patients, Family & Friends
- SAMHSA's National Helpline: 1-800-622-HELP (4357)
- Facts and Recommendations for Individuals and Families
- Medication and Drug Overdose (NCDHHS, Injury and Violence Prevention Branch)
- Opioid Overdose Emergency Department Visit Report (NCDETECT) January 2020*
- The NC Opioid Data Dashboard displays the metrics tracked in the North Carolina Opioid Action Plan for the state and individual counties.
- Visit the IVPB Poisoning Data page for monthly surveillance reports, county-level overdose slide sets and data tables on overdose deaths, hospitalizations and ED visits.
- Castlight Health Report: Opioid Crisis in America’s Workforce (2016)
- Ranks Jacksonville, NC 12th in the nation for opioid abuse
Treatment and recovery support services are available for those with a substance use disorder. In North Carolina, Local Management Entities/Managed Care Organizations (LME-MCOs) coordinate care for mental health, substance use and developmental disabilities. To find out which organization manages care in your county, visit: www.ncdhhs.gov/providers/lme-mco-directory
To find treatment options in your area please visit https://www.morepowerfulnc.org/get-help/finding-treatment.
If you or someone you know needs help with a substance use crisis, specific resources for your county can be found here.
If this is a medical or a life-threatening emergency please call 911.
Carolinas Poison Center, 1-800-222-1222
Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
A standing order is a medical order that authorizes the dispensing of a medication, like naloxone or the flu vaccine, to any person who meets criteria designated by the prescriber. North Carolina’s standing order for naloxone, signed by the State Health Director, authorizes any pharmacist practicing in the state of North Carolina and licensed by the North Carolina Board of Pharmacy to dispense naloxone to any person who meets set criteria. These criteria include:
- Being at risk of opiate-related overdose due to medical conditions or history;
- Being the friend or family of someone at risk of opiate-related overdose, thus being able to respond in case of overdose; and
- Being in the position to assist another person at risk of opiate-related overdose.
Naloxone is available under the statewide standing order, without a prescription, at the majority of retail pharmacies in North Carolina. It is covered by most insurance policies. First signed in June 2016, North Carolina is the third state in the country to adopt a statewide standing order for naloxone.