Tracking Trends and Patterns in the Opioid Epidemic in North Carolina: Early Results from the Opioid Action Plan Metrics

Authors: Katherine Jones*, East Carolina University, Huabin Luo, Department of Public Health, East Carolina University, Christopher J. Mansfield, Department of Public Health, East Carolina University
Topics: Medical and Health Geography
Keywords: Opioid, North Carolina
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: Lincoln 2, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Unintentional opioid-related overdose deaths have increased markedly over the last decade in North Carolina. In response, in 2017 the North Carolina legislature established an Opioid and Prescription Drug Abuse Advisory Committee, which created a North Carolina Opioid Action Plan. The action plan laid out a response to the crisis, including actions by the medical community, law enforcement, EMS, and drug treatment. The plan also proposed public health data surveillance to monitor key metrics associated with the crisis, and established a public data web site. The availability of historical data means it is possible to compare county-level outcomes with prevention and treatment strategies. The purpose of this study is to examine trends and associations from 2010-2017 for North Carolina counties between unintentional opioid-related death rates and two harm reduction strategies (decrease in the number of opioid prescriptions; increase in the number of EMS naloxone administrations), and two treatment strategies (increase in the number of buprenorphine prescriptions; increase in the number of Certified Peer Support Specialists). Our results show an upward trend over the period for all the metrics except prescription opioid pills, which have decreased slightly since 2015. There is a positive (not significant) association between deaths and naloxone administrations, and number of pills, and a negative association between deaths and number of peer support specialists (not significant) and number of buprenorphine prescriptions (significant). The relationship between the use of buprenorphine and a reduction in the opioid related mortality is worth monitoring in the future.

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