Raleigh nonprofit discusses rising fentanyl overdoses
RALEIGH, NC (WNCN) — Fentanyl has become increasingly prevalent in recent years — a concern for law enforcement and those who work with people struggling with addiction.
Justin Garrity is the Director of Recovery Services at Healing Transitions. The Healing Transition Overdose Response Team partners with Wake EMS to provide peer support for people following an overdose to get help and build relationships. He said the team has been notified of 554 overdoses in Wake County so far this year.
Garrity said he noticed a slight increase in the presence of fentanyl, especially in the squeezed pills.
“So someone might think they’re getting some type of pill when in fact it’s a pill that’s basically a squeezed fentanyl pill,” Garrity said.
On Wednesday, the County Durham Sheriff’s Office’s Crime and Narcotics Unit intercepted a kilo of fentanyl pills as part of an ongoing fentanyl trafficking investigation.
According to the DEA, that’s enough to kill half a million people. The sheriff’s office said the intercepted fentanyl was worth about $110,000 in market value.
“It’s a difficult journey to lose someone unexpectedly and tragically to fentanyl,” said Freida MacDonald.
His son Michael was mourning the death of his older brother who was shot in 2012 and turned to drugs to cope.
“He was taking things to feel better about trying to work his way through this loss,” MacDonald said.
Michael was 24 when he died, taking what he thought was heroin. Instead, it was fentanyl.
“It’s absolutely heartbreaking because in 2016 when we lost Michael, his toxicology report said he had no heroin in his system, it was all fentanyl, and that was way more than anyone would have. been able to survive, and that was my introduction to that,” MacDonald said.
Now, MacDonald runs a nonprofit she founded called Know Hope North Carolina to support those in recovery and honor lost lives.
According to North Carolina’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, in 2021, 3,163 people in North Carolina tested positive for fentanyl when they died. An increase of 30% compared to 2020.
The number has increased over the years. In 2015, 243 people tested positive for fentanyl when they died, according to the report.
MacDonald said raising awareness and stopping stigma are key to lowering those numbers.