Revised death by distribution law offers relief to victims’ families

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) — Advocates and law enforcement in the fight against opioids in North Carolina are calling a new piece of legislation a major victory. On Thursday, Governor Cooper signed a revised version of SB 189 into law, establishing harsher penalties for people who traffic and provide bad drugs.

Under the revised bill, which treats death by distribution as a Class C felony, drug traffickers and people whose drugs result in others dying will face more serious jail time. It also makes charging those people easier, no longer requiring prosecutors to prove a transaction, just that the drugs were “delivered”.

“What this means is the families who worked to help change the law for the better won. And it means that anyone who loses a loved one in the future faces a better chance of justice,” said Barbara Walsh, Executive Director of the Fentanyl Victims Network of North Carolina.

Walsh lost her daughter, Sophia, to fentanyl in August 2021, and founded the Victims Network to help impacted families get justice — and to advocate for legislation like the revised SB 189.

Read the full article and watch the video on the ABC11 website.

North Carolina #4 in the nation for fentanyl deaths

Families Against Fentanyl issued a brief on September 26, 2023 which shows North Carolina as #4 in the nation for fentanyl deaths. Read the full brief on the Familes Against Fentanyl website.

AG Garland announces $345M in grants to tackle fentanyl epidemic

Vowing to attack the nation’s fentanyl problem on multiple fronts, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Tuesday the Justice Department has awarded $345 million in grants to support education, prevention, treatment and recovery programs.

“We know that no one — no one person and no one family — can defeat the epidemic alone. We need each other,” Garland said during a speech at the Drug Enforcement Administration’s National Family Summit on Fentanyl in Arlington, Virginia. “That is why the Justice Department is providing resources to public health and public safety programs across the country.”

Nearly a third of the funding will go toward the DOJ’s Comprehensive Opioid, Stimulant, and Substance Use Program for initiatives such as increased access to the overdose-reversing drug Naloxone, medication-assisted treatment and peer support to overdose survivors and their families. 

Twenty-five million dollars will go toward support, mentoring and other services for young people who have been affected by opioid and other substance use, as well as those who are at risk for substance abuse.

“No one, especially no young person, should have to face this alone,” Garland said.

Garland did not say how all the grant money will be spent. 

Read the full article on the Spectrum News One website.

Demonstrators call for more federal help to address fentanyl epidemic

WRAL News coverage of the National Fentanyl Rally held in Washington DC on September 23, 2023.

Hundreds of people from around the country attended the march and rally outside the White House yesterday. It was organized by Lost Voices of Fentanyl.

Rockingham County holds town hall on dangers of fentanyl

ROCKINGHAM COUNTY, N.C. — Students, teachers, and parents will attend a town hall Tuesday night in Rockingham County to talk about the dangers of fentanyl. 

It’s a hot topic that’s growing as Rockingham County joins Guilford County on the matter.

Guilford County hosted town halls last spring. The town halls came about after a survey at Northern Guilford High School showed nearly 90% of students said drugs were a problem at school.

Kathleen Smith helped plan that meeting. She’s happy to see more counties doing the same.

“It feels really good, but you don’t want to pat yourself on the back too much as a school community, knowing there’s just so much more work to be done, and you know, the problem is really pervasive. I sat down with some moms and kids not long ago on my back porch and you know, I had this girl who I highly respect, who is in college; she’s just like, ‘Ms. Smith, everybody does it,’ kind of like, get over it, but that’s not what I want. We want to raise our kids to treat their bodies, for the most part, like cathedrals,” Smith said.

Law enforcement officials said fentanyl really ramped up in 2015. They said what used to be a heroin problem is now a fentanyl problem.

Read the full article and watch the video on the WFMY News2 website.

How deeply did prescription opioid pills flood your county? See here.

For the first time, Americans can see the rise — and fall — of legal opioids entering their community. A database maintained by the Drug Enforcement Administration that tracks every single pain pill sold in the United States, tracing the path from manufacturers and distributors to pharmacies in every town and city, is now public through 2019, the tail end of the pain pill crisis.

These records provide an unprecedented look at the surge of legal pain pills that fueled the prescription opioid epidemic, which resulted in more than 210,000 overdose deaths during the 14-year time frame ending in 2019. It also sparked waves of an ongoing and raging opioid crisis first fueled by heroin and then illicit fentanyl.

The Washington Post sifted through 760 million transactions from 2006 through 2019 that are detailed in the DEA’s database and specifically focused on oxycodone and hydrocodone pills, which account for three-quarters of all opioid dosages shipped to pharmacies during that time. The Post is making this data available at the county and state levels to help the public understand the impact of years of prescription pill shipments on their communities.

A county-level analysis shows where the most oxycodone and hydrocodone pills were distributed across the country over that time — more than 145 billion in all.

Read the full article on the Washington Post website (may require subscription).

Overdoses soared even as prescription pain pills plunged

The number of prescription opioid pain pills shipped in the United States plummeted nearly 45 percent between 2011 and 2019, new federal data shows, even as fatal overdoses rose to record levels as users increasingly used heroin, and then illegal fentanyl.

The data confirms what’s long been known about the arc of the nation’s addiction crisis: Users first got hooked by pain pills saturating the nation, then turned to cheaper and more readily available street drugs after law enforcement crackdowns, public outcry and changes in how the medical community views prescribing opioids to treat pain.

The drug industry transaction data, collected by the Drug Enforcement Administration and released Tuesday by attorneys involved in the massive litigation against opioid industry players, reveals that the number of prescription hydrocodone and oxycodone pills peaked in 2011 at 12.8 billion pills, and dropped to fewer than 7.1 billion by 2019. Shipments of potent 80-milligram oxycodone pills dropped 92 percent in 2019 from their peak a decade earlier.Many of the counties with the highest fentanyl death rates — in hard-hit states such as West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio — started out with alarmingly high doses of prescription pills per capita, according to a Washington Post analysis of the DEA data and federal death records.Counties with the highest average doses of legal pain pills per person from 2006 to 2013 suffered the highest death rates in the nation over the subsequent six years.

Read the full article on the Washington Post website (may require subscription).

The politicization of the fentanyl crisis

The country’s fentanyl crisis has become a potent political weapon, reflecting its deep and emotional impact on millions of Americans.

Why it matters: The opioid epidemic was once a rare topic that brought Republicans and Democrats together. But even as overdose deaths continue to climb, the discourse around fentanyl has become more politicized and, at times, less aligned with reality — especially when Republicans talk about its connection to the U.S.-Mexico border.

  • “When it gets to the front page, sometimes the incentives can be to use it more as a partisan weapon,” said Keith Humphreys, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral services at Stanford.
  • But also, “there is a human part. Everyone’s upset. We have all these dead bodies. People are burying their children and communities are getting destroyed.”

Read the full article on the Axios website.

App State student promotes Narcan accessibility

“Naloxone saves lives!” senior Zoe Lebkuecher typed on each flyer with a Spanish translation under each line along with where students and anyone on campus can find Narcan. 

Lebkuecher’s attendance at a welcome event she found on Engage turned into what is now a passion, spreading Narcan awareness.

Lebkuecher transferred to App State last school year and attended an event hosted by the  Collegiate Recovery Community. Lebkeucher said she has been working with the group ever since because of the community she found.

The university’s Collegiate Recovery Community helps students who are in recovery or wish to be in recovery and provides resources for those who want to support others throughout their recovery journey. The organization holds weekly recovery and community meetings.

Lebkuecher started to find ways to get involved with the Collegiate Recovery Community, which works hand-in-hand with Wellness & Prevention Services on campus.

Read the full article on the App State website.