Fighting heroin: Medics in NC county have administered 1.4K doses of Narcan to date

More than 3,000 people in North Carolina have died from opioid overdoses since 2012


By Joe Gamm
News & Record, Greensboro, N.C.

HIGH POINT, N.C. — More than 3,000 people in North Carolina have died from opioid overdoses since 2012.

But recently, some communities have been especially hard-hit.

Law enforcement agencies in Guilford County this year have administered 24 doses of Narcan, a medication that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose.

Firefighters have administered 176 doses.

Paramedics through June administered 1,359 doses, according to Jim Albright, director of Guilford County Emergency Services.

Albright read off the stats as he gave a presentation at Tuesday's Opiate Awareness Seminar, held at the Wesleyan Academy Performing Arts Center in High Point.

About 50 people, including federal and local law enforcement agencies, health care providers and members of the public participated in the event, organized by the U.S. Attorney's Office.

"We've got to take a look at this and come up with a holistic effort to stop it," Assistant U.S. Attorney Rob Lang told listeners. "This thing is deep, and it is wide, and it starts in our own homes."

Members of a law enforcement panel, officers from the Greensboro and Lexington police departments and a State Bureau of Investigation agent, explained that many people begin using prescription opioids they've received to control pain, or that a family member has received.

That started their addictions to opioids.

As the price of pills has increased, it has surpassed how much people pay for heroin, which may be mixed with fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid that can be 100 times more powerful than morphine. The problem, panel members said, is that very small amounts of fentanyl can be deadly and how much is mixed in with the heroine is inconsistent.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Randall Galyon, who moderated a discussion panel during the event, said the office recently prosecuted someone who sold cocaine laced with fentanyl, leading to two deaths.

Law enforcement officers said the narcotic of choice has moved from crack cocaine to heroin.

Greensboro police Capt. Rich Culler, who has headed the department's vice and narcotics division for about four years, said officers have seized more heroin this year than the first three years combined.

"It's amazing to me, the amount of heroin we're seeing," Culler said. "We've had 20 to 25 deaths from heroin (this year)."

Some remain unclear because investigators haven't received toxicology reports for all yet, he said.

He said officers responded to 39 reports of overdoses in August.

Folks fighting the heroin epidemic face an uphill battle, he said.

Culler said Greensboro police follow up on all overdoses to which they are called.

Narcotics officers visited a man whom paramedics had saved using Narcan, he said. They told the man he was going to die if he continued using heroin.

He said he knew he was going to die, "but the high was so good," Culler said. The man died the next day.

In another incident, officers were eating at a Chick-fil-A restaurant. A couple walked in. The boy went into the men's room and the girl to the women's, he said.

Both overdosed and one died, Culler said.

"Police were in the restaurant," he said. "That's how powerful that addiction is.

"I don't know how you combat somebody wanting to get high."

Contact Joe Gamm at (336) 373-7090, and follow @joegammNR on Twitter.

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(c)2016 the News & Record (Greensboro, N.C.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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