In November 2015, groups and organizations in Wake County working to prevent and respond to heroin and opioid overdoses formed the Wake County Drug Overdose Prevention Coalition. This collaboration helps combine resources to be more effective in preventing drug overdoses. The Coalition meets quarterly for educational information and exchange, progress updates on the Coalition work plan and networking.Subsequently, the Wake County Drug Overdose Prevention and Tobacco Use Initiative was established. The Initiative's goals and objectives, key activities, implementation and performance measures are described in this table.

The Drug Overdose Resource Pocket Guide 2019 includes a listing of resources for individuals living with substance use disorder and their families. The guide also includes ways to recognize the signs of an opioid overdose and what to do.


Coalition work focuses on the following areas:

Education and Outreach
Conducting drug use and overdose prevention education and outreach with a focus on vulnerable populations
Access to Naloxone
Improving access to Naloxone kits to prevent deaths
Data Analytics
Collecting and applying data to better use interventions and measure prevention efforts​
Recovery Initiation and Maintenance
Establishing mechanisms to connect those in need to specialized care and recovery resources​
Syringe Exchange
Supporting syringe exchange programs that reduce the spread of disease and connect individuals to treatment​
Law Enforcement, Policy and Diversion Changes
Identifying and supporting community-based treatments that meet the needs of drug offenders​

Subcommittees meet regularly between Coalition meetings to complete work plans.

Coalition meeting dates for 2019 are:

Tuesday, Jan. 29 – 9–11:30 a.m.

Tuesday, April 30 – 9–11:30 a.m.

Tuesday, July 30 – 9–11:30 a.m.

Tuesday, Oct. 29  9–11:30 a.m.

Meeting locations vary, please call 919-212-8376 for information.

An Epidemic

Drug overdoses in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s were largely from use of street drugs such as crack cocaine and heroin. Since the late 1990s overdoses from prescribed drugs as well as heroin have been on the rise and become a deadly public health problem.


Opioids include prescription pain medications, such as Percocet, and illegal drugs, such as heroin. In North Carolina, most overdose deaths are caused by prescription opioids such as methadone, oxycodone and hydrocodone, but heroin death rates are rapidly increasing. Many communities are seeing a switch from the use of prescription pain pills to the use of heroin because it can be easier to get and cheaper to use.

Opioid Use Disorders

People can become dependent on opioids – both from prescribed use and misuse. People misuse opioids when they:
  • Take more than is prescribed
  • Take them to get high
  • Take opioids that are prescribed for others
  • Combine them with alcohol or other drugs

Effects on Families and Health

Consequences of opioid and heroin use disorders can include:
  • Being unable to find or keep a job and turning to crime to feed a habit.
  • Having relationships and families torn apart by loss of trust, abuse and violence.
  • Being at risk for serious health issues such as hepatitis C, HIV and STDs. Babies can suffer withdrawal at birth and have long-term health problems.
  • Having family members and friends die from overdose.

Effects on Everyone 

Communities also feel the effects in:
  • Loss of productive community members
  • Costs of crime
  • Increased use of child welfare services
  • Having access to adequate emergency and treatment resources and services.
The worst effect of opioid and heroin abuse is the loss of human life.