Opioids are a class of drugs that include both pain relievers prescribed by a doctor (such as Vicodon®, OxyContin®, Percocet® and morphine) and illicit drugs (such as heroin and most types of fentanyl). Visit MorePowerfulNC to learn more about the various types of opioids.
This page provides some key indicators of opioid harm. These include overdose deaths and Emergency Department (ED) visits for overdose, the proportion of overdoses that involve illicit drugs, and people with prescriptions for opioids.
These numbers describe some of the impact of opioids on the people of our state. You can learn more about the impact of opioids on people’s lives on MorePowerfulNC. More opioid indicators are available on NC Opioid & Substance Use Action Plan Data Dashboard.
Fatal overdose is one of the most visible harms of opioids. Over-prescribing of opioid medicines ignited the current epidemic of overdose deaths, and fueled follow-on waves of deaths from heroin and fentanyl. Learn more about overdose deaths from the CDC.
Emergency Department Visits for Overdose
For every death, there are many more non-fatal overdoses: Emergency Department (ED) visits for overdose outnumber deaths by 5 to 1 in our state. Each non-fatal overdose represents an opportunity to connect survivors to recovery resources and treatment.
Overdose Deaths Involving Illicit Drugs
People use drugs for many different reasons. Opioids may be prescribed to relieve long-term (chronic) or short-term physical pain, after surgery or injury (medical use). People also use drugs because of past traumas in their lives, to cope with social pressures, or to relieve stress or mental anguish. Use of drugs for non-medical reasons is termed “illicit”. Percent of overdoses deaths involving illicit drugs is one indicator of non-medical use of opioids in a community.
People with Opioid Prescriptions
Limits on opioid prescribing help control the flow of opioids into our communities, and is one of our state’s strategies in the Opioid and Substance Use Action Plan. The percent of people prescribed opioids is an indicator of the availability of opioids in a community. These indicators reflect opioids that were prescribed and then dispensed (i.e. picked up from a pharmacy).
Last Updated March 9, 2022