The rate of deaths caused by drug overdose nearly doubled in the state over 12 years from 2002 to 2014.
Drug overdoses were responsible for 1,358 deaths in North Carolina in 2014, the CDC said in the study — eclipsing the number of deaths from car accidents and firearms in the state.
In 2002, the rate of fatal overdose was approximately 7.8 per 100,000 people. But by 2014, the rate increased to 13.7 deaths. All 100 counties in North Carolina have experienced an increase in the number of drug overdose deaths over the past 12 years.
Addiction to prescription opioids painkillers are the most common culprit, said Tessie Castillo, the advocacy and communications coordinator for the N.C. Harm Reduction Coalition.
North Carolina doctors prescribe painkillers at one of the highest rates in the nation, according to the CDC.
The problem is particularly prevalent in western North Carolina, where some counties recorded more than 20 deaths per 100,000 people — some of the highest rates in the country.
While the prescription drug problem has been on the rise for a decade, Castillo said addicts without access to prescription drugs are now turning to heroin more frequently.
“Heroin use has been rising very rapidly in the last four or five years,” she said.