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Overdose deaths are down 69% in Wilkes County between 2009 and 2011. We have had 28 straight months of steady declines in overdose deaths. Wilkes is still a little higher than the national average, but nowhere near the 6th worst in the nation we were in 2008. At the same time, Wilkes had higher opioid prescribing than the state average, with less than one percent change in how many Wilkes residents received an opioid pain reliever (7.5% to 8% each month; state average is 5.8%). In 2011, not a single Wilkes County resident died from a prescription opioid from a prescriber within the county, down from 82% in 2008. Hospital emergency department (ED) visits for overdose and substance abuse were down 15% between 2009 and 2010 in Wilkes County, while the rest of the state went up by 6.9%.
More opioid prescriptions don't automatically mean more deaths. It is possible to deliver good pain relief without a heavy overdose burden. But it takes the whole community to make it happen.
Sources: Wilkes Co. Health Department; NC SCHS; NC CSRS; CDC Wonder
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