Friday, 18 June 2021 17:09

OPIOID EPIDEMIC: Hamlet averaging 1 overdose per month

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OPIOID EPIDEMIC: Hamlet averaging 1 overdose per month RO file photo

HAMLET — There has been roughly one drug overdose per month in the past two years within the municipal limits of the Seaboard City.


According to Lt. Antonio Henderson, patrol commander of the Hamlet Police Department, officers have responded to 45 suspected overdoses since July 20, 2019.

Of those, Henderson said 30 have been taken to a hospital.

Just between April 6 and June 9 of this year, there have been eight reported overdoses.

Since Henderson joined the department in April 2020, at least three overdoses have been fatal.

Most of the overdoses have been heroin or opioid related. However, Henderson said one case involved a juvenile who had taken a mix of Tylenol and Benadryl.

“It’s an epidemic,” Chief Dennis Brown said late Thursday morning. “We had overdoses in Perquimans County … it’s an epidemic all over North Carolina.”

Brown served as chief of the Hertford Police Department before coming to Hamlet earlier this year.

According to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, more than 16,500 state residents died from unintentional opioid overdoses from 2000-2019, with an average of nearly five per day in the final year.

As the RO previously reported, the number of opioid-related deaths in Richmond County spiked at 11 in 2015 at a rate of 24.2 — higher than the state average of 10.5. As of September of 2020, there had been eight for the year.

Last year also saw 76 opioid overdose emergency department visits in the county, among the highest in the state.

In Perquimans County, records show opioid deaths ranged from none to two from 2000-2019. However, that number spiked to five by September of 2020. That county also had 21 emergency department visits in 2020.

The state’s metrics include deaths caused by prescription opioids, heroin and other synthetic opioids like fentanyl.

Richmond County has more than three times the population of Perquimans, and Hamlet is more than twice the size of Hertford.

“It’s pretty pervasive,” Brown said.

One issue that leads to overdose increase, according to the chief, is the manufacture of designer drugs which are a mix of prescription medications, like Zoloft, and fentanyl.

Sometimes a “bad batch” will get circulated with a higher dosage of fentanyl than users are used to which leads to a rise in overdoses.

Officers are on the streets trying to make drug arrests, but finding the source of the drugs leading to the overdoses has its obstacles, according to Henderson.

He said overdose victims are often uncooperative with providing information and sometimes even deny using drugs.

The department is also running low on Narcan, a nasal spray used to counteract the effects of opioids on overdose victims.

On June 15, the department only had 13 boxes left. Each box contains two doses.

Henderson said the department is trying to order more, but hasn’t heard back from the company that supplies Narcan for free. Other suppliers charge $70 per box.

While completely eradicating drug use is a lofty goal, it’s also a near impossibility.

For those who do use heroin or other opioids, Henderson encourages them to be mindful of who they are getting their drugs from and to not be afraid to call police or EMTs in the event of an accidental overdose.

“We don’t mind helping, but you’ve got to ask for the help.”