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AG: Federal funding will only put a dent in NC opioid crisis

Posted August 8

— The federal government is giving North Carolina $31 million to combat the ongoing opioid crisis, but Attorney General Josh Stein says the funds will put only a dent in the problem.

"It is going to get worse before it gets better," Stein said.

Stein said the funds will treat only about 3,000 to 4,000 people, or about $7,700 to $10,000 for each user.

"Treatments cost a few thousand dollars per person, which is a fraction of what it costs to put somebody in prison or jail," he said. "So, what we have to ask ourselves is, what is the most cost-effective way to deal with this crisis?"

Stein said the biggest change will come when state agencies begin to look beyond prevention and focus on recovery.

United States of Opioids

Like other drugs, opioid prescriptions vary by dosage and days supply, so the Centers for Disease Control used pharmacy surveys to calculate a measurement called MME - morphine milligram equivalents. Select a county below to find out the annual MME per person for each county in 2015 and see how things have changed in the last five years. Some counties, like Camden, did not report data for 2015.

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From 2010 to 2015, nearly half of all localities reporting across the country saw a decrease in the prescription of opioids, according to CDC data analyzed by The Associated Press. But about one-quarter saw an increase of more than 10 percent. Here's a look at morphine milligram equivalents per capita for each locality that reported in 2015.

MME per capita






The CDC's study found that localities with high prescribing rates had several factors in common, including larger percentages of non-Hispanic white residents, a higher prevalence of diabetes and arthritis, higher rates of unemployment and higher rates of Medicaid enrollment. Counties with higher rates also tended to be so-called "micropolitan" areas, which have fewer than 50,000 people with urban areas of at least 10,000.

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"We have these tens of thousands of people who are presently suffering from substance use disorder, addiction to these opioids," Stein said. "We have to have more treatment options. That's where we are failing."

Stein called that failure inexcusable, but he also knows that cutting off the crisis will take time.

Recently, Stein also advocated for the STOP Act, which would add requirements for doctors, dentists, veterinarians and pharmacists to track prescriptions for controlled substances in schedules II through V, including opioid pain medications, through the state’s Controlled Substances Reporting System database.


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  • Haley Sessoms Aug 8, 10:19 p.m.
    user avatar

    So the money I have to take a drug test to make goes to fund people who are breaking the law and couldn't pass a drug test if they tried. It's not a disease I'm tired of hearing that it's a choice. A lot of people I knew in my earlier days were on pain medication and when it was in the presence of me I just said no. I made a choice just like they did

  • Chris Soucie Aug 8, 9:37 p.m.
    user avatar

    Feds fighting opiate... Well i have lived thru 3 head on collisions have broken 61% of all bones in my body, and dropped a bike and slid down the road over 50 yards and have severe gout and cant get any help with pain... Why, i work. My cousin with ZERO issues gets 120 pain pills a month, oh he has a medicaid card. But no help for me...pay over 600.00 month for ins but i work i should suffer. Thanks government.