Opioid overdoses up in January, February compared to last year

Published 12:07 am Friday, March 17, 2023

SALISBURY — Rowan County had 169 overdoses in January and February, an increase of 33 from the same time last year, according to data provided by the Rowan County Public Health Department.

Overdoses in the county have increased for the past several years: 626 in 2020, 755 in 2021 and 902 in 2022. If this year’s numbers continue at the same rate, overdoses will increase once again.

While opioid overdoses have increased from 2022 to 2023, opioid overdoses resulting in death have decreased. January and February 2022 saw a total of nine deaths, while this year there have only been three in those months.

“The issue is not going away,” said Alyssa Harris, the health department’s director, in an interview on Wednesday. “We know it’s going to continue to go up but our job is to change the trajectory of the projected numbers. A hundred people overdosing a month is just insane.”

The health department is currently in the middle of rolling out five strategies and programs they hope will reduce that trajectory: collaborative strategic planning, recovery support services, Naloxone distribution, a post-overdose response team and the syringe service program.

Between 2016 and 2020, Rowan County had a rate of 33.8 persons per 100,000 North Carolina residents who overdosed on opioids and died, according to a report conducted by the North Carolina State Center for Health Statistics. The statewide rate was only 19.3 persons. Commonly prescribed opioid medications were the leading substance contributing to overdose deaths in the county between 2011 to 2020, followed by heroin and fentanyl.

A 2021 community health survey administered by the health department and Novant Health found 47.1% of county residents listed substance use as the second highest community concern, behind crime/violence.