opioid epidemic

JOSH STEIN

North Carolina is among six states filing lawsuits today against drug manufacturer Purdue Pharma, accusing the company of using deceptive marketing that helped fuel the opioid crisis.

In a refrigerator in the coroner's office in Marion County, Ind., rows of vials await testing. They contain blood, urine and vitreous, the fluid collected from inside a human eye.

In overdose cases, the fluids may contain clues for investigators.

"We send that off to a toxicology lab to be tested for what we call drugs of abuse," said Alfie Ballew, deputy coroner. The results often include drugs such as cocaine, heroin, fentanyl or prescription pharmaceuticals.

Flickr/ US Department of Agriculture

Mecklenburg County health officials say more than 525 people came to emergency rooms with opioid overdoses in the county last year.  That’s about a 45 percent increase from the previous year.  Across North Carolina in 2017, emergency rooms reported a nearly 40 percent increase in visits for opioid overdoses.  Mecklenburg County government and partner agencies will host a summit Thursday to address the growing opioid crisis. 

The current drug addiction crisis began in rural America, but it's quickly spreading to urban areas and into the African-American population in cities across the country.

"It's a frightening time," says Dr. Edwin Chapman, who specializes in drug addiction in Washington, D.C., "because the urban African-American community is dying now at a faster rate than the epidemic in the suburbs and rural areas."

In April this year, Katie Herzog checked into a Boston teaching hospital for what turned out to be a nine-hour-long back surgery.

The 68-year-old consulting firm president left the hospital with a prescription for Dilaudid, an opioid used to treat severe pain, and instructions to take two pills every four hours as needed. Herzog took close to the full dose for about two weeks.

NCDOTCOMMUNICATIONS

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper is among those urging President Trump to declare a national health emergency, saying every day 142 Americans die from a drug overdose, equivalent to a Sept. 11 death toll every three weeks.

Updated 4:25 p.m.
The state Senate on Tuesday passed a bill to reduce the number of state appeals court judges, and gave preliminary final approval to a bill that would relax state regulations on the environment and businesses. Senators also confirmed three more Cabinet picks of Gov. Roy Cooper, for commerce, environment and cultural resources. Other bills making their way through the General Assembly would enact new restrictions on opioids, and limit lawsuits against large hog farms. 

North Carolina State Senator Joel Ford is officially tossing his hat into the race for Charlotte mayor.

"It's time for new leadership and a bold vision for our city," Ford said in a campaign-produced video released Wednesday, "We need a mayor who will focus on the issues that unite our city, not divide it."

CMPD

Between 2010 and 2015, heroin deaths skyrocketed 550 percent in North Carolina, according to the chief federal law enforcement officer in Charlotte. The U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina and the acting head of the DEA, local police and doctors detailed the problem at a conference in south Charlotte on Tuesday.

justice.gov

The chief federal law enforcement officer in Charlotte is warning about a startling rise in heroin use. 

"It's a problem that began with prescription pills," says Jill Westmoreland Rose, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina. "But it's one that has grown to epic proportions. Our deaths in this district have doubled in the past year. It's a problem that's affecting all segments of our community."