Monday numbers: A closer look at the scourge of opioid abuse, and your chance to shape where recovery resources go

By: - August 1, 2022 6:00 am

(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

It has been a year since a coalition of state attorneys general announced the National Opioid Settlement. That historic $26 billion agreement with three major pharmaceutical distributors (Cardinal, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen) and manufacturer Johnson & Johnson is intended to help communities dramatically harmed by the opioid epidemic.

North Carolina’s share of the settlement is $750 million. Now communities are deciding how to use their share of the settlement to prevent future addiction, address the trauma of addiction, and increase treatment access.

This week, Wake County will hold its first meeting seeking community input on how to best spend its portion of the funds – about $35 million over the next 18 years.

“The opioid epidemic hits close to home for so many families, and even if your family hasn’t faced addiction problems, I’m sure you know a family that has,” said Sig Hutchinson, chair of the Wake County Board of Commissioners in a statement. “For all these reasons and more, it’s important for residents to be able to weigh in on the best use of these funds to help the individuals and families in our community.”

In addition to evidence-based addiction treatment, strategies the county will consider include recovery housing, naloxone distribution, addiction treatment for those who are incarcerated, as well as re-entry programs.

Today, we take a by-the-numbers look at the significant impact of these highly addictive painkillers.

28,000+ – Number of North Carolinians who lost their lives to drug overdoses between 2000 and 2020 (Source: NCDHHS)

20.9 – Percentage of North Carolinians who received dispensed opioid pills in 2016, representing more than 2.1 million patients (Source: NC Opioid and Substance Use data dashboard)

12.9 –Percentage of North Carolinians who received dispensed opioid pills in 2021, representing more than 1.3 million patients

3 in 4 – Nearly 75% of the nation’s drug overdose deaths in 2020 involved an opioid. (Source: CDC)

9+ – More than nine North Carolinians died each day from a drug overdose in 2020. (Source: NC Opioid and Substance Use data dashboard)

5 – For every one overdose death in North Carolina in 2019, there were five emergency department visits due to overdose.

NC saw an increase in overdoses ED visits during the pandemic. (Source: NCDHHS, 2021)

1 in 3 – More than a third of the people who come to an emergency department with an opioid overdose in North Carolina have no health insurance.

43 – The nation’s overall opioid dispensing rate in 2020 was 43.3 prescriptions per 100 people. And while that number has declined steadily over the last decade, some counties in 2020 had rates that were nine times higher than that. (Source:

200 – Estimated number of people who died in 2021 as a result of drug overdoses in Wake County (Source:

1000+ – Number of hospital emergency department visits were attributed to overdoses in Wake County in 2021

546 – Number of reported overdose reversals using naloxone in Wake County in 2021 (that’s 49.1 times per 100,000 residents, above the state’s rate of 39.6)

45.7 – Percentage of children in foster care due to parental substance use in North Carolina in 2021 (Source: NCDHHS)

40 – Formerly incarcerated inmates with substance use issues are up to 40 times more likely to die of an opioid overdose than other North Carolinians. This finding underscores the need for greater access to drug-treatment in reentry services.  (Source: American Journal of Public Health)

US County opioid dispensing rates-2020.  (Source:

1 – the number of days before Wake County holds a community meeting where county leaders, healthcare workers and those who have experienced addiction will come together to prioritize ways money from the landmark settlement can be used to address the opioid epidemic

Tuesday’s meeting to address the opioid epidemic in Wake County runs from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. at the Wake County Commons Building, 4011 Carya Drive, Raleigh. A virtual option will also be made available.

Interested in taking part? Register at You can find the agenda here.

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Clayton Henkel
Clayton Henkel

Communications Coordinator Clayton Henkel manages the NC Newsline website and daily newsletter, while also producing daily audio commentaries and the weekly News and Views radio program/podcast.