With over 10 million residents, North Carolina (NC) is the 9th most populous state in the nation. Drug overdoses in NC continue to result in high morbidity and mortality rates creating a significant burden to North Carolinians. Since 1999, the number of medication and drug overdoses in NC has increased by more than 580%, from 363 in 1999 to 2,474 in 2017. In addition, there were nearly 12,000 hospitalizations and more than 25,000 emergency department visits in 2017 related to medication and drug overdoses. As the epidemic evolved from prescription opioids, the number of heroin and fentanyl-related deaths in NC have increased. In 2017, the NC Office of the Chief Medical Examiner estimates that 75% of opioids deaths are heroin/fentanyl.
Addressing the epidemic requires high quality and timely data as well as ability to rapidly identify emerging drugs resulting in overdose. Responding to these rapid shifts requires robust surveillance systems that not only disseminate data to essential public health and public safety partners across the state but translate to action for prevention at the local level.