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Cornelius News

Drug epidemic strikes close to home

The biggest increase in heroin death rates occurred in North Carolina, South Carolina

“There were over 700 people at his celebration service at Hopewell High School and the stories we have heard and continue to hear about the love and compassion he showed for others moves us to tears. We also love hearing the funny Hunter stories and there are plenty of them! By all counts, Hunter was an outstanding, bright, friendly individual with a great future ahead. He epitomizes so many of the wonderful young people we are losing to drugs.”

—Debbie and Randy Dalton. Their son Hunter, 23, died of a drug overdose in December

By Dave Vieser. There is a national drug use epidemic that is causing accidental deaths, even among first-time and casual users. It’s happening in cities large and small, including Cornelius. The culprit is opioids like heroin and illicitly manufactured fentanyl, a synthetic opioid.

According to the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, deaths caused by synthetic opioids other than methadone increased 72.2 percent between 2014 and 2015, while heroin death rates rose more than 20 percent

More than 52,400 people died of overdoses last year—more people than car accidents (37,757) and gun violence (36,252). The reality, of course, is that it’s not intentional. Recreational drugs can kill you.

“We are so proud of how many lives our son impacted at such a young age,” the Daltons said. 

Hunter grew up in Cornelius and worked at Orange Theory Fitness and Birkdale Golf Course.He had a new job in corporate sales at Citrix systems in Raleigh. 

As shocking as the statistics are, there is hope. On Dec. 13, President Obama signed into law the 21st Century Cures Act. The 996-page $6.2 billion act paves the way for more prevention and treatment of addiction, as well as monitoring of opiate prescriptions for pain.

In North Carolina, the number of treatment facilities has surpassed 400, with 211 devoted solely to substance abuse. There’s a real need, especially since the worst city in America for opioid abuse according to a study by the Castlight Health is Wilmington. Three other cities in the state make the Worst 25 list for opioid abuse: Hickory (5), Jacksonville (12) and Fayetteville (18).

“There are no words which can fill the emptiness in our hearts. But if we can convey one message to parents, it would be this: Please urge your loved ones not to use hard recreational drugs. The people who are producing these drugs lace them with dangerous substances and are no less killers than those carrying weapons in the streets.”  

—Debbie and Randy Dalton

Since 2000, more than 300,000 Americans have lost their lives to an opioid overdose.

According to the CDC, there are significant increases across the country in death rates from heroin and synthetic opioid deaths, but a few states stand out.

The greatest percent increases in death rates were in New York (135.7 percent), Connecticut (125.9 percent) and Illinois (120 percent).

Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Ohio, Rhode Island, and West Virginia had the largest rate increases of synthetic opioid deaths from 2014 to 2015.

But the highest increase in heroin death rates occurred in South Carolina (57.1 percent) and North Carolina (46.4 percent).

It’s not just young people. Older Americans, including the elderly, are increasingly addicted to painkillers, which are frequently over-prescribed. Opioid addicts go to work and church, attend school. They can get stopped in their tracks trying to fill a fraudulent prescription—or die of an overdose.

“Too many Americans are feeling the devastation of the opioid crisis either from misuse of prescription opioids or use of illicit opioids,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “Urgent action is needed to help health care providers treat pain safely and treat opioid use disorder effectively, support law enforcement strategies to reduce the availability of illicit opiates, and support states to develop and implement programs that can save lives.”

“We will treasure our son Hunter as truly a gift from God that we will cherish for the rest of our lives…”

— Debbie and Randy Dalton.