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North Carolina loses over 2,000 people a year to drug overdose, and the tragic loss doesn’t appear to be improving. As grim as this situation is, there is a simple solution; we can help North Carolinians battling behavioral health disorders — and cut our uninsured rate in half — by expanding Medicaid. States have seen a 6% decrease in opioid deaths after expanding Medicaid. Recovery is possible if we give folks a fighting chance.

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Loneliness is one major challenge people often face early in recovery. It’s usually a good idea to distance yourself from old friends who drink or use drugs since they can be a major trigger of cravings. However, you may not yet have any friends to replace them. People typically find loneliness stressful and depressing. Chronic loneliness has even been linked to early death. Having a pet is a hedge against loneliness. There’s always another sentient being around to keep you company. A dog is always happy to see you and a cat will at least put up with you. It’s not the same as having friends to talk to, but it helps.

In the decade-plus since the opioid crisis entered public consciousness, two intertwined realities have emerged in North Carolina, both involve a death of sorts. One of these realities is easy to grasp: From 1999 to 2016 more than 12,000 North Carolinians died from opioid overdoses. The other reality concerns programs that may or may not have the funding to fully address the crisis. Public health programs often live on grants and then die when money earmarked for a cause dries up. The result, particularly in rural areas, is a mishmash of programs that may address some, but not all the needs of people with addiction.

ROCKINGHAM COUNTY — Between January and August, Rockingham County emergency rooms saw 46% more opioid overdose cases than during the same time in 2019, according to a report by Injury Free N.C. The organization, a collaborative between the University of North Carolina's Injury Prevention Research Center and the North Carolina Division of Public Health, analyzes health risks by county.

North Carolina has a Drug Treatment Court (DTC) that helps offenders who are addicted to drugs and/or alcohol receive the intensive treatment they need to become healthy, law abiding, and productive members of society. The goal of DTC is to reduce alcoholism and other drug dependencies, to reduce recidivism, to reduce the drug-related court workload, to increase the personal accountability of the offenders, and to promote effective interaction and use of resources among criminal justice personal.