Opioid Crisis

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A new state law creates harsher penalties for those who illegally sell drugs that result in a fatal overdose.

Under the "death by distribution" law, drug dealers can be charged with second degree murder if someone overdoses on an illegal substance they've sold.

Sarah Dessen is a North Carolina native and UNC alum.
Seth Abel

North Carolina native and author Sarah Dessen reads the obituaries in The News & Observer every day. Over the last few years she noticed more young people showing up in those pages with no explanations about the cause of death.

Photo of prescription bottle and pils
Eric Norriss / Flickr Creative Commons

In addition to its harmful impacts on families, the opioid epidemic has hurt the labor force. But a bright spot finds the negative effects on businesses can be reversed in areas with the political appetite for action.

child doctor
Alex Prolmos / Flickr / Creative Commons

North Carolina House Republicans touted a bill on Tuesday that would expand health coverage to more uninsured adults who make too much to qualify for Medicaid. 

Heroin syringe
Thomas Martinsen / Flickr/Creative Commons

State lawmakers have introduced a bill that would implement stiffer penalties for people who distribute drugs that result in another person's death.

Closing arguments are done and the criminal trial of pharmaceutical executive John Kapoor is now in the hands of the jury. Deliberations begin on Monday.

The federal government has accused Kapoor and his four co-defendants of bribing doctors and deceiving insurance companies. In bringing criminal charges against corporate executives, the federal government is widely seen as trying to demonstrate that it is acting aggressively against drug companies and the role they allegedly played in the opioid epidemic.

Driven by greed

Opioid related Emergency Department visits.
N.C. Department of Health and Human Services

Some state lawmakers say a bill filed this week would help fight the opioid epidemic by punishing drug dealers for causing deaths by overdose.

This Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017 photo shows an arrangement of pills of the opioid oxycodone-acetaminophen in New York.
Patrick Sison / AP

In response to the opioid epidemic, some police departments in North Carolina are taking a new, more holistic approach to dealing with low level drug offenders. Programs that offer an alternative to arrest are gaining traction in cities like Wilmington, Hickory and Fayetteville. The change is also taking hold in smaller communities.

WUNCPolitics Podcast
WUNC

The effects of the opioid epidemic extend from small North Carolina communities, to countries around the world.

Taylor Knopf of North Carolina Health News recently traveled to Europe for a reporting trip to better understand how other places have tried to curb a drug crisis. She has written a series on what she learned during her trip, and talks about it on this week's politics podcast.

Fayetteville Police Department Captain Lars Paul demonstrating how police use a naloxone injectable kit to reverse opioid overdose.
Raul Rubiera / For WUNC

North Carolina emergency departments saw 5,343 opioid overdose related visits in 2018. That's down eight percent from the high of 2017, but still well above any other year in recent history.

The data show that although programs to tackle the opioid crisis show early signs of paying off, the state still has a long way to go before the epidemic is in the rearview mirror.

Photo of prescription bottle and pils
Eric Norriss / Flickr Creative Commons

A new study from Duke University shows that life expectancy is decreasing for Gen-Xers and older Millennials. The study comes after widely-publicized health research that shows life expectancy for white Americans has gone down for the first time in decades.

Fayetteville Police Department Captain Lars Paul shows a naloxone injectable kit and a naloxone nose spray Fayetteville police use to reverse opioid overdose.
Raul Rubiera / For WUNC

Last year, public attention turned to the opioid crisis for months. Policymakers implemented plans to curb overdoses and providers across the health care spectrum vowed to do their part to stem the crisis.

Kristin D. stands in the Bright Spaces room at the Healing Transitions women's campus in Raleigh. Women in the program live on campus for 12 - 18 months and are slowly given greater responsibility, freedom, and trust as they progress through the program.
Madeline Gray / For WUNC

Kristin walked confidently through the halls of Healing Transitions as she gave a tour on a recent morning.

Carla Hollis, center in black and white dress, CEO of Triangle Springs cuts the ribbon.
Jason deBruyn / WUNC

Veteran Duke basketball fans will remember the name Marty Clark. He played for the Blue Devils in the early 1990s, including on the back-to-back championship teams of 1991 and 1992.

But after college, things turned for Clark.

Photo of prescription bottle and pils
Eric Norriss / Flickr Creative Commons

A non-profit advocacy group says children whose parents have a history of substance abuse are entering foster care at a higher rate. 

UNC at Greensboro

Guilford County and The University of North Carolina at Greensboro have created a community-engaged response to the opioid problem.

Photo of prescription bottle and pils
Eric Norriss / Flickr Creative Commons

Jeffrey Halbstein-Harris had already beat addiction twice by the time he was in his 30s. But a doctor assured him that the opioids he was prescribing for Halbstein-Harris’s diabetic neuropathy were both effective and non-habit forming. Nevertheless, Halbstein-Harris became dependent and went through a painful withdrawal process.