The Transylvania Times -

Database Compiles Opioid Pill Amounts – Transylvania County, NC


August 19, 2019

Transylvania County received 10,957,690 prescription opioid pills, an amount that equals roughly 49.1 pills per county resident per year, in shipments from pharmaceutical companies between 2006 and 2012, according to a Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) database.

The data was made publicly available after The Washington Post reporters submitted Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for the information in response to the rise in opioid addiction and opioid-related overdose deaths in recent years. The article referenced can be read here:

Neighboring counties received proportionally similar amounts of opioid pills during the time frame compared to Transylvania County, with Henderson County receiving 51.4 pills per person per year, Buncombe County receiving 45.3 pills, Haywood County receiving 54.9 pills, Jackson County receiving 43.3 pills and Pickens County, S.C., receiving 52.2 pills.

The data tracked the distribution of every prescription opioid pill in the United States from 2006 to 2012 after the DEA began investigating the sudden rise in opioid prescription rates in the mid 2000s.

During the six-year period in Transylvania County, the CVS Pharmacy in Brevard received the highest number of pills at 2.48 million and Cardinal Health was the largest supplier of pills at 3.5 million.

According to The Washington Post reports, the data comes after the Post and publishers of the Charleston Gazette-Mail in West Virginia fought a year-long court battle to gain access to the DEA’s Automation of Reports and Consolidated Orders System (ARCOS) database, “which the government and the drug industry had sought to keep a secret.”

“I feel like that (data) can be a really useful tool for both policy makers and practitioners, for pres-cribers, and folks who are working with those who have substance problems to be able to unpack that data and see where the problems are coming from,” said Tara Rybka, the health educator with Transylvania County Public Health.

Transylvania County reached a peak in opioid pills dispensed in 2015, and since then, the opioid pill supply in the county has steadily been decreasing from 2.39 million in 2015 to 2.09 million in 2017, according to the N.C. Opioid Dashboard.

Transylvania County has also seen a fall in unintentional opioid-related overdoses, in recent years, but the numbers were always relatively small.

“Our numbers are very small. We see zero to three deaths per quarter,” said Rybka.

Rybka also compiled the 2018 Transylvania Community Health Assessment and said that while Transylvania County is a relatively healthy place to live, one of the big problems when looking at the age-adjusted mortality rate for residents is substance abuse.

In 2018, Rybka and Transylvania County Public Health conducted a random digit dial survey of community members.

“We saw 42 percent of residents said their lives had been negatively affected by their own or somebody else’s substance abuse… that includes all substances, not just opiates,” said Rybka.

Rybka and law enforcement officials believe the majority of substance abuse in the county does not come from opioid use.

“The opioid problem has, like everywhere else, (been) an issue, but we’re still seeing an issue with methamphetamine…It’s just our numbers are smaller. This is a retirement community. What we’re seeing is methamphetamine really taking over the other drugs at the moment,” said Transyl-vania County Narcotics Investigator Robert Shular.

According to the N.C .Opioids Dashboard, there were no deaths related to heroin or fentanyl use in Transylvania County in 2018 and one death related to unintentional opioid related overdose.

Rybka is hopeful the new data coming out from the ARCOS database will add to the data North Carolina has already begun collecting when it comes to fighting opioid abuse and provide more accurate data for pill distribution.

“This prescribing data can be really useful in trying to be thoughtful and strategic and to address some of those problems that might lead to addiction in the future,” said Rybka.


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