Opioids caused the highest proportion of drug overdose deaths in Henderson County and in the State. This category includes Hydrocodone, Oxycodone, Morphine, Codeine, and related drugs. Henderson County's rates are higher than the State's for these overdoses. Abuse of prescribed medicines often begins with legitimate use. Pain medication, prescribed for a variety of common reasons including back pain or surgery, caesarean sections, or even dental procedures, carries the highest risk for dependence. Over-prescribing, doctor shopping, and kids having access to prescription drugs in their parents' and grandparents' medicine cabinets are all contributing to the problem.
The number of Community Survey participants that indicated they had taken a prescription drug that was not theirs was higher in Henderson County than the regional average. In listening sessions, many Henderson County residents expressed concern about the misuse of prescription medications. Participants perceived an increase in the availability of prescription medications and a concern that the medications did not always remain in the hands of the person to whom they were prescribed. According to the Henderson County Sheriff's Office:
- As many as 3-4 deaths per month are attributed to overdose
- 7-10 overdoses weekly are treated by first responders (Source: 2015 PRC Community Health Survey, Professional Research Consultants, Inc.)
- 80-85% of all crimes in Henderson County are linked to substance abuse
Henderson County has a large elderly population due to a favorable climate and regional location for retirees. Individuals age 65 and older make up 24.5% of the population, compared to 14.7% statewide. The county also has a very low non-white population. According to the 2014 US Census, the estimated population has grown to 111,149; 93% of the population is white and 3.4% is African-American. In 2014, Hispanics (of any race) made up 9.9% of the county population.
Older adults in our community are often at higher risk of substance abuse due to taking multiple medications for multiple illnesses. Unfortunately, they are also frequently victims of crimes associated with the theft of those drugs. In addition, those who have had a history of substance abuse, chronic pain or are living with mental health problems are also at-risk populations. Low-income, uneducated and unemployed individuals are frequently at risk for developing substance use issues, and there is often co-occurrence with homelessness.
The Healthy NC 2020 focus area that closely aligns with Henderson County's Substance Abuse priority is the reduction of the percentage of individuals aged 12 years and older reporting any illicit drug use in the past 30 days.