North Carolina fights back against youth overdose epidemic
Thursday, September 21, 2023
In the wake of the devastating overdose epidemic in North Carolina, the state's Department of Health and Human Services is stepping up to aid families and provide resources for youths battling substance abuse disorders.
State data show in 2021 alone, overdose deaths in North Carolina spiked by 22%, and nationwide, teen overdose deaths rose by 20%.
Kelly Crosby, director of developmental disability and substance use services for the North Carolina Division of Mental Health, said recognizing many adults with substance use disorders start using during their teenage and young adult years, it is crucial to educate and support young people in preventing substance abuse and overdoses.
"In North Carolina, among kids 12 to 17 years old, around 5% had a substance use disorder in the past year," Crosby reported. "That's more than 41,000 kids."
Crosby pointed out the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated mental health challenges and substance use, with increased reports of anxiety, depression and substance misuse.
Sara Howe, CEO of Addiction Professionals of North Carolina, said to help address youth substance use challenges, a range of resources are available in the state. Some resources include education, harm reduction and treatment and mental health support.
Howe noted parents can get additional help at AlcoholDrugHelp.org.
"They can look, they have a list of what they provide, what insurance they take, do they take Medicaid, do they take commercial insurance, and do they have intensive outpatient, residential," Howe outlined. "This is a resource that we have right in our backyard that we can take advantage of today."
Research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed other protective factors to youth substance abuse disorder are family engagement, conversations around the disapproval of substance use, and mental health support.
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