Addiction Issues in Asheville, North Carolina
Located in the Appalachian Mountain region in western North Carolina, Asheville is a city surprisingly ripe with opioids. It is estimated that prescription opioid pain medications are responsible for more deaths in North Carolina than heroin and cocaine combined. The Asheville county of Buncombe has one of the highest prescription rates in the state, with an estimated 17 million opioid painkillers prescribed in 2016.
Opioid Addiction Epidemic in Asheville
Officials are categorizing the opioid abuse in Asheville as an epidemic; the number of opioid-related deaths have steadily increased by 64% since the early 2000’s and are projected to only continue to rise. Opioids are a classification of drugs that are derived from, or a synthetic version of, opium. Many prescribed pain management medications are opioids, making them easily accessible, despite the fact that they are extremely addictive.
Over 17 million painkillers were prescribed in Buncombe County in 2016.
From January to August 2017, there were 230 documented opioid overdoses in Buncombe County.
In 2015, 399 babies born at Mission hospitals in Asheville tested positive for opioid substances.
In an attempt to reduce opioid abuse in the city, local officials have banded together to lower prescription opioid access and offer multiple drop-offs for citizens to get rid of excess pills. These drop-offs include the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office, the Asheville Police Department, the Buncombe County Courthouse, and several Walgreens across Asheville. In addition to local law enforcement, the state of North Carolina passed the Strengthen Opioid Misuse Prevention, or STOP, Act in 2017 to reduce prescription painkiller access, a law that dictates that doctors can only prescribe 5 days of opioids for acute pain and 7 days of opioids for post-surgical pain. Despite these new regulations, Asheville hasn’t seen a decrease in opioid-related overdoses as it’s estimated that 50% of people addicted to pain pills obtain them illegally from someone else or on the street.
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Teenage Opioid Abuse Is on the Rise
In addition to factors such as drug accessibility and stress, things like abuse, neglect, and household dysfunction significantly raises a young individual’s probability to abuse drugs. The chances of having an adverse childhood experience is higher in North Carolina than the national average, with 50% of children 17 years of age or younger having had at least one adverse childhood experience and 25% having had at least two adverse childhood experiences. Additionally, almost 50% of adults with substance abuse disorders in North Carolina admitted to using drugs before the age of 18. Many teenagers abuse drugs not only as a way to fit in with their peers or experiment, but also as a way to cope with personal and familial issues. Teenage opioid use in Asheville has increased in recent years, and many Buncombe County school nurses are noticing more and more students brining in prescription pills to treat injuries and other chronic pain conditions.
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HIV and Hepatitis C in Asheville
In 2016 the CDC, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, identified counties in North Carolina at risk for outbreaks of HIV and/or hepatitis C as a result of the opioid epidemic, classifying Buncombe County as one of the counties particularly at-risk. The number of people living with diagnosed HIV in 2015 ranked at 640 people in Buncombe County, the 7th highest out of all counties in North Carolina. Officials attribute the recent HIV and Hepatitis C infection outbreaks in Asheville to unsterile injection drug use in those who abuse illicit opioid drugs, such as heroin.
Although public-health programs like needle exchanges and the availability of the drug Narcan (or naloxone) for overdose reversal has helped slow the spread of communicable diseases, the percentage of opioid-related deaths involving heroin and fentanyl continue to be a huge issue for Asheville. Heroin and/or other synthetic narcotics were involved in over 60% of unintentional opioid deaths in 2016.
Recovery and Rehabilitation in Asheville
Addiction is a disease and can happen to anyone. If you are an individual struggling with addiction in the Asheville, North Carolina area there are multiple resources available to you. The state of North Carolina is home to countless rehabilitation facilities and treatment programs to help fight the battle of addiction. Contact a provider today and receive advice, on the best rehabilitation facility for you or a loved one.