August 31st is International Overdose Awareness Day. This annual global event is aimed at raising awareness of drug overdoses while reducing the stigma from drug-related deaths. This annual awareness day is used to relay the message that this is a preventable tragedy. International Overdose Awareness Day is also a time to acknowledge the grief families and friends have as they remember those who have a permanent injury or died as a result of a drug overdose.
In 2016, four North Carolinians died each day from either a drug overdose or from unintentional medication. Responding to this unprecedented loss of life, North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services decided in 2017 to distribute 40,000 units of the opioid reversal drug naloxone to families, friends, and first responders with the intent of saving lives in the event of an opioid overdose.
North Carolina has taken several steps to address this crisis including:
- Increase access to office-based opioid treatment (OBOT) for opioid use disorder: Remove duplicative state registration of buprenorphine prescribers that NC doctors widely cite as a barrier to prescribing medication-assisted treatment in the office-based setting; and
- Improve the ability of syringe exchange programs to prevent the costly spread of disease: Remove the ban on using state funds to purchase supplies for syringe exchange programs.