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NC paramedic recounts stories from front line of heroin epidemic

A weekend piece at Salon takes a look at North Carolina’s opioid epidemic through the eyes of a Guilford County paramedic.

The piece, by Salon’s Young American journalist Lauryn Higgins, is worth your time – particularly if you’ve been following our recent coverage of the issue at NC Policy Watch.

From the piece:

In 2015, “the number of deaths from heroin overdoses in the U.S. surpassed those from gun homicides,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while a recent report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration indicated that, “4.31% of people in the U.S. ages 12 or older have used prescription pain relievers for non-medical purpose in the last year.”

North Carolina ranks among the nation’s top ten in opioid related deaths

These numbers are a harrowing reminder that heroin abuse is growing at an alarming rate, and statistics show this is because the drug does not discriminate. Every socioeconomic class, gender and race is affected by this epidemic. Smith adds, “In some cases heroin is more accessible and even cheaper than alcohol. It gives, from what I understand, a more consistent high; you don’t develop a tolerance quite as quickly, and it’s easier to hide.” For many addicts, these characteristics allow users to live their lives as normally as possible, some even masking their addiction until it’s too late.

In the Northwest North Carolina region, the foster care system has seen an increase in children needing homes by more than 25% from 2011 to 2015, with Smith’s backyard of Guilford County seeing the highest number; 560 individual children having sought placement in the last year. It’s led officials to deem this a “state of crisis,” for the system, and identify the heroin epidemic as an underlying cause for the recent spike.


Read the whole piece here.

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