Over the last decade, North Carolina has experienced a sharp rise in the number of drug overdose deaths, largely fueled by the opioid epidemic. Substance use disorders are having devastating impacts on families and communities across the state. The state currently has a drug overdose death rate of 20.4 per 100,000 people (2018 figure) and has set a target to reduce this to 18 per 100,000 people by the year 2030. [1]

This is just one statistic that underlines the extent of the alcohol and drug addiction problem in North Carolina. While the state government has undertaken many initiatives to control substance abuse, individual citizens struggling with addiction in North Carolina can get timely treatment by calling a drug and alcohol hotline. A North Carolina drug hotline can provide those who are battling substance abuse with the right tools and resources to overcome the addiction. Callers can learn about effective drug rehab programs nearby and obtain useful information about drug addiction recovery.

In the following paragraphs, we will go over some of the numbers that demonstrate the scale of the alcohol and drug problem in North Carolina. The goal is to help you understand the crisis better, so that you take timely steps if you or someone you love needs addiction treatment.

Drug Trafficking in North Carolina: An Overview

North Carolina has a population of around 10.5 million (70% White, 22% Black). The median household income in the state is $54,000. It is the 9th most populated state and the 28th largest state in the United States.

The vast stretches of rural terrain in North Carolina, specifically in the western parts of the state, are ideal for criminal groups engaged in drug-related activities. Drug enforcement officials often find methamphetamine labs located in the mountains and woodlands of western and central NC. Also, cannabis cultivation is widespread in the western parts of the state.

Criminal groups mainly use interstate highways to transport drugs to and through North Carolina. It is not uncommon for drug seizures to be made from vehicles travelling to New York City and the North East from Florida or vice versa.

In 2019, based on the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), roughly 11% of adults (18+) in North Carolina reported past-month use of illicit drugs. This is lower than the national average of more than 12.5% for the whole of the US. [2]

Alcohol Abuse in North Carolina

Excessive alcohol use is a problem in North Carolina like elsewhere in the United States. The CDC’s Prevention Status Report 2013 for North Carolina indicated that binge drinking in the state among adults was 15.2%, which was lower than the US national average at 18.3%.

On average, adults in North Carolina drink 7.6 drinks per occasion, an intensity which is comparable to the national rate of 7.7. Alcohol consumption in gallons per person for people over 14 years old in North Carolina was 2.0 in 2010, which again is lower than the national average of 2.3 gallons/person. Between 2003 and 2011, binge drinking among high-school students showed a downward trend, mirroring national trends. [3]

More recently, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) in 2019 showed that approximately 53% of adults (18+) in North Carolina report past-month alcohol use. This is lower than the national average of around 55%. However, alcohol use within the past 30 days among young adults aged 18–25 years in NC is close to 55%. Nationally, binge alcohol use among young adults is 34.5% and among 18+ adults is 26%. The figures for binge drinking within the past month in North Carolina are comparable, at 34.6% for the 18–25 age group and 25.7% for the 18+ demographic.

Alcohol addiction can be treated. Teenagers, young adults, and older adults can obtain help at an alcohol rehab center by calling a North Carolina alcohol hotline. Representatives at the helpline can help anyone struggling with excessive alcohol use to find appropriate addiction treatment programs nearby. Most alcohol hotlines are toll-free numbers and operate 24/7, including holidays.

Opioid Addiction in North Carolina

Like the rest of the country, North Carolina is battling an opioid epidemic. The numbers are staggering. Of the nearly 1,800 drug overdose fatalities in the state in 2018, an estimated 79% involved opioids. Fortunately, deaths involving prescription opioids (narcotic pain pills like OxyContin and Vicodin) declined in 2018 compared to 2017. However, providers in North Carolina wrote 61.5 opioid prescriptions per 100 persons in 2018, which is considerably higher than the average for the whole of the US at 51.4 prescriptions per 100 persons.

Neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) occurs in infants who were exposed to opioids during pregnancy due to opioid drug abuse by the mother. In North Carolina the incidence of NAS, also known as neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome, was 10.5 cases per 1,000 hospital births in 2017. This is significantly higher than the national rate of 7 cases per 1,000 hospital births in the US overall.

Out of a total of more than 38,000 new HIV diagnoses in the United States in 2017, nearly 1,300 occurred in North Carolina. Approximately 6.6% of new HIV diagnoses in the state were attributed to intravenous drug use in males and 10.7% in females. [4]

Heroin Addiction in North Carolina

The 2019 NSDUH found that in the whole of the US, 0.36% of young adults (ages 18–25) and 0.31% of all adults (ages 18+) reported past-year use of heroin. The figures for the state of North Carolina were comparable, with 0.37% of people in the 18–25 age group and 0.31% of all adults reporting that they used heroin within the past year. The perception of great risk from using heroin once or twice was also similar to the overall US figure, with 88% of adults (18+) in North Carolina reporting they understood this risk.

person with hand in face

Cocaine Abuse in North Carolina

In the United States, approximately 2% of people age 12+ report past-year use of cocaine. Usage is highest among young adults (ages 18–25), with over 5.5% reporting cocaine use in the past 12 months. In North Carolina, cocaine use is slightly below the national average with 1.93% of people aged 12+ reporting past-year cocaine use. Among young adults (ages 18–25 years), approximately 5.2% in North Carolina report using cocaine within the past year.

Cocaine is a powerful and highly addictive drug. If you or a loved one has become prey to cocaine addiction, it is important to get help as soon as possible. Calling a cocaine hotline in North Carolina can help you identify rehab programs in your community. You can speak to friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable representatives and get useful information about addiction treatment in North Carolina. Most cocaine hotlines operate around the clock, including weekends and holidays.

Methamphetamine Trends in North Carolina

Also called ice or glass, methamphetamine is a popular party drug and a highly addictive stimulant. By the early 2000s, meth had replaced crack/cocaine as the predominant drug threat in North Carolina. Treatment admissions for meth abuse increased from 57 in 1996 to 136 in 1999. Most of the methamphetamine sold in NC comes from Mexico and South-Western US states like California. However, small quantities of meth are also produced in North Carolina.

The 2019 NSDUH found that 0.6% of adults 18+ in North Carolina reported methamphetamine use in the past year. This is lower than the national average of 0.76% for the whole of the US.

Marijuana Use in North Carolina

Based on 2019 figures, nearly 1 in 3 young adults aged 18–25 years in North Carolina reported past-year use of marijuana. Additionally, close to 1 in 5 young adults (18–25 age group) reported using marijuana within the past month.

Substance Abuse by Youth in North Carolina

The North Carolina High School Youth Risk Behavior Survey in 2019 revealed some eye-opening findings, which are summarized below: [5]

  • 15% of high-school students in North Carolina had their first alcoholic drink before the age of 13.
  • More than 24% of teenagers reported currently drinking alcohol.
  • 12.5% of the adolescents surveyed in North Carolina said they were currently binge drinking.
  • Over 38% of students indicated that they obtained alcohol from others.
  • 39% of the youth in North Carolina had used marijuana at least once in their lifetime.
  • 7.5% of students reported they had tried marijuana before age 13.
  • 22% reported they were current marijuana users.
  • Over 16% of North Carolina high-school students reported taking a prescription pain pill without a doctor’s orders.
  • 4.8% reported using cocaine at least once in their lifetime.
  • 8.2% reported abusing inhalants (sniffing glue, etc.) to get high.
  • More than 1 in 5 students reported they were offered (given or sold) illegal drugs on school property.

A youth drug hotline in North Carolina can advise parents and guardians on getting help for young people who are addicted to alcohol or drugs. Calling an alcohol or drug hotline can help North Carolina youth take the first step towards reclaiming their lives and getting clean.

Last updated: March 9, 2023


1 North Carolina Institute of Medicine. Health Indicator 10: Drug Overdose Deaths. Available online. Accessed on June 27, 2021.
2 SAMHSA. 2018-2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Available online. Accessed on June 27, 2021.
3 CDC. Prevention Status Report 2013 North Carolina. Available online. Accessed on June 27, 2021.
4 National Institute on Drug Use. North Carolina: Opioid-Involved Deaths and Related Harms. Available online. Accessed on June 27, 2021.
5 CDC. High School YRBS. North Carolina 2019 Results. Available online. Accessed on June 27, 2021.