'We've got a perfect storm,' NC opioid deaths up nearly 35 percent in 2020

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- New data released from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows just in 2020, opioids killed about the same number of Americans as those who died in the Vietnam and Korean Wars combined.

The nonprofit SouthLight recently expanded its opioid clinic to handle an influx of patients. Capacity doubled to handle the increase of folks suffering from addiction.

"We've got a perfect storm of the opioid addiction crisis in our community as well as the COVID crisis," said SouthLight CEO Adam Hartzell.

That battle is evident in the CDC data.

It shows opioids killed 93,000 Americans in 2020. Death rose close to 30 percent nationwide, which is the highest number ever recorded.

Opioid deaths are up nearly 35 percent in North Carolina.

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"It signals that we're going to see an ongoing problem with opioid addiction," said Hartzell.

SouthLight's opioid treatment program serves an average of 600 people a day. But behavioral health professionals worry what could happen over the next few months.

"This coming fall, we're going to see a huge spike in mental health and substance use," said Hartzell. "COVID has been hard on people. We've been isolated. We've been thrown out of work. We've had housing issues, and so people need help right now."

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If you know someone struggling with opioid addiction, there are options and cost effective ways to get help.

SouthLight welcomes people have Medicaid, insurance or none of the above. The cost of treatment is based on your income and what you can afford.
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