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The Daily Tar Heel

Here's why we're covering the opioid epidemic

Kiana Cole

Last year, 116 people died per day from opioid-related overdoses in the United States. A total of 11.5 million Americans misused opioids, and the United States consumes – and prescribes – more opioids than any other country. 

You’ve probably heard this before. 

It’s been covered and covered again. And maybe, like me, every new story you read or statistic you see doesn’t surprise or shock you anymore. Maybe you feel numb, or keep scrolling when a headline about the epidemic crosses your screen. 

It’s easy for statistics to be impersonal. So easy, in fact, that we get dangerously close to forgetting that every number is an individual life, and every statistic is a collection of people who love and are loved.

When we’re acutely aware of this – that every number is a colored and complicated life – we regain our capacity to feel, to be shocked and saddened and, most importantly, to spread awareness and maybe even prompt change. So when one of my writers had the idea of exploring a series on how the opioid crisis has affected North Carolina, it seemed like something worth pursuing, if we could do it right. 

We also wanted the coverage to be fresh. That’s why we decided to approach this as a series, looking into how the opioid epidemic has affected several spheres: college students across the state, local municipalities and UNC’s own campus and curriculum. 

We want to keep the conversation going and learn from you, too. If you have a story to share about how the opioid epidemic has affected you or someone you know, email us at

And if you or someone you know needs substance abuse services, visit the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services’ website for more information. 

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