The Fentanyl Victims Network of North Carolina will rally at the N.C. State Capitol Building later this month, pushing for stronger penalties for illegal distribution of the synthetic opioid and more funding for early intervention, Naloxone and processing toxicology reports. They are also asking state lawmakers for opioid overdoses to be investigated as homicides.
As NC Newsline has reported, North Carolina has been hard hit by fentanyl, an epidemic within the larger opioid epidemic. Some 13,671 North Carolinians have been killed by fentanyl in the last nine years, according to data from the N.C. Office of the Chief Medical Examiner — an average of eight people per day.
Even those numbers likely do not take in the full scope of the problem, medical experts say.
In North Carolina, death certificates don’t have a specific code for fentanyl’s involvement in a drug overdose. There is a code – T40.4 — for “other synthetic narcotic overdose.” The Epidemiology, Surveillance and Informatics unit of the N.C. Division of Public Health’s Injury and Violence Prevention Branch notes that most of these cases are “due to illicitly manufactured fentanyl and fentanyl analogues,” but can also include prescription fentanyl and other, less potent synthetic narcotics like Tramadol.
An analysis of statistics from the state medical examiner’s office found overdose deaths with the T40.4 code rose from 442 in 2016 (the first year for which the office had such statistics) to 3,163 in 2021 — an increase of 616%.
As of April, according to OCME data, there were 1,116 fentanyl-positive overdose deaths in the state so far this year.