Drug addiction, opioid use called a national epidemic - | WBTV Charlotte

Drug addiction, opioid use called a national epidemic

(Source: WBTV/File) (Source: WBTV/File)

Drug addiction counselors say there's an honest discussion Americans need to have.

"Over the past couple of years there have been more deaths associated with drug overdoses in this country than from either guns or automobile accidents," says Charles Odell, of Dilworth Center. 

Users are taking prescription opioids such as hydrocodone, Oxycontin, and morphine to street drugs such as heroin and fentanyl - and becoming addicted at alarming rates.

"I would call it an epidemic. Nationally it’s being discussed as an epidemic" says Odell. "Locally and regionally it’s being discussed as an epidemic because we’re seeing the numbers rise every year."

The Dilworth Center is a Charlotte non-profit that treats drug addicts.

Odell says they're seeing a surge in demand for treatment. 

"Last year the Dilworth Center experienced a 56% increase in patient admissions as compared to the year previous to that. We’ve never seen an increase that steep in our 27-year history," he says. "What we're seeing are people using these drugs that are more like your neighbors – soccer moms for example. It's gone mainstream, and that to me is one of the most alarming parts of it."

The problem has become such a demanding issue across the country that President Trump has named a commission to combat drug addiction and the opioid crisis. 

NC Governor Roy Cooper is a member of the commission, which had the first meeting Friday afternoon at the White House. 

"We cannot arrest our way out of this problem, particularly at the user addiction level," Cooper told the gathering. "We need help from the federal government stopping drugs like fentanyl and others from coming into our country and fighting the drug kingpins and traffickers but at the addiction level we need treatment and prevention."

The President's Commission has been directed to identify ways to fund programs to address the epidemic, come up with ideas how best to prevent addiction and help with recovery.

Cooper says "We’re kidding ourselves if we don’t think what's happening over in Congress regarding issues of health care matters to this issue. If we make it harder and more expensive for people to get health care coverage, it’s going to make this crisis worse."

Some drug counselors say while the concern right now is the deaths, and the majority of deaths are related to opioids, the bigger picture is the addiction crisis. 

Odell says people are not intending to overdose, that the cases have been accidental because of the potency of the drugs. 

He says users think it’s heroin but, in many cases, the drug is laced with fentanyl.

Odell believes the President's Commission may spark some conversations.

"It forces a discussion like we’re having right now. If the feds put a focus on it then those of us who operate regionally or locally will also focus on it so it brings to the forefront some of the issues and encourages all of us to have robust discussions about these issues and what it means to us."

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