Guilford County and the State of North Carolina have done a great deal to combat drug addiction and overdose deaths in recent years – and Guilford County has $20 million more on the way in the coming years to dedicate to the problem.

However, the opioid pandemic is still raging, which is one reason NC Governor Roy Cooper has declared Thursday, Aug. 31 Overdose Awareness Day in North Carolina.

Overdose Awareness Day is about “remembering those whose lives have been lost to overdose, honoring family and community grief, and renewing our commitment to ending the overdose crisis in North Carolina.”

 A press release from the state sent out on the morning of August 31 notes that the day is also meant to recognize all those in local government and in community groups who are working hard to reduce drug abuse and the deaths that result from it.

In a prepared statement included in the press release, Cooper said, “On this day, we remember those we have lost far too soon to overdoses, as well as their friends, families and communities. We will continue to build on our meaningful investments to fight this crisis, including more health insurance with Medicaid Expansion, significant investment in mental health and substance use disorder prevention and treatment and working to get illegal opioids and fentanyl off of our streets.”

In Guilford County, many government, educational and community groups have partnered together to battle the opioid epidemic – which has been especially prevalent in the High Point area.  The county and the state have already begun putting to use part of the proceeds of a $26 billion lawsuit settlement that was reached with drug makers and distributors about two years ago.

Despite intense efforts,  the problem persists and Overdose Awareness Day is meant to remind people of that fact.  In North Carolina, an estimated 1.2 million people have a substance abuse problem, and every day an average of 11 people die from an overdose.

According to statistics from the state, from 1999 to 2021, more than 33,000 North Carolinians died of drug overdoses. Those numbers rose during the COVID restrictions and the number of overdose deaths in the state has increased 72 percent since 2019.

 In 2021 alone, overdose deaths increased 22 percent, with 4,041 North Carolinians losing their lives in that way. That was the highest number of overdose deaths in the history of the state.