GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – Local and state groups dedicated to combating drugs and alcohol in the state met Tuesday night in Greenville with one main mission — to save lives.
Robert Childs, director of the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition, was the guest speaker during the Pitt County Coalition on Substance Abuse meeting. During his presentation, he discussed the alarming trends seen in the state involving heroin use.
Childs said there has been a 402 percent increase in heroin overdose deaths in the state between 2010 and 2014.
“We’re seeing a lot more young people who are going on heroin, and when they do that, a lot of them don’t know what they’re doing,” he said.
One way to combat the overdose is making drugs that reverse the effects of it, like Naloxone, readily available. Since 2013, Childs and his organization have handed out more than 20,000 Naloxone kits, which have been credited for saving the lives of more than 1,000 people across the state.
Another issue he sees is the difficulty in drug users getting syringes. He said because of that, there is more sharing occurring, which increases diseases like HIV and Hepatitis C.
On average, it costs between $385,000 and $620,000 to treat each case of HIV, while it costs between $100,000 and $500,000 to treat each case of Hepatitis C.
He said they are pushing for lawmakers to start a syringe exchange program, which would not only make syringes more accessible, but also expose users to different treatment methods to break the habit all together.
“We can start addressing mental health. We can start addressing some of the other barriers that have been out there for them,” Childs said.
But heroin is just part of the problem here in the East. DH Conley Senior Sarah Sudekum said in their culture, drugs and alcohol have become acceptable. She said her exposure to things like marijuana started early.
“Somebody brought it to a birthday party and I saw it, and that was probably 7th grade,” she said.
She said she tries to distance herself from people using drugs and alcohol. She said one of the biggest ways to curb the problem is giving teenagers more facts about the harm drugs can cause.