The Opioid Crisis in North Carolina's Farming Industry
North Carolina has a diverse economy, with many lands rich in agriculture. With the farming lifestyle comes many things: hard work, stretches of isolation, and often, injuries from repetitive stress or working with farm equipment. Like many states, rural communities in North Carolina have often been given the short end of the stick regarding opioid addiction resources.
With farming being such a vital part of the state economy, it’s impossible to ignore the opioid crisis, which has been rampant in the past few years.
Rural Communities and the Opioid Crisis
The Coastal Plain region may be known for its fertile soil and long growing seasonal crops; this region also includes areas such as the Inner Banks, Outer Banks, and the Wilmington area. Unfortunately, due to its proximity to the ocean, renowned beaches, and reputation as a tourist area, there are also a lot of drugs in the Coastal Plain region. The Piedmont region is also known for its agriculture, but the types of crops grown are different than those in the Coastal Plain, such as Christmas trees. In addition, tending to a farm on a large plot of land can be isolating.
There are fewer resources for getting clean and sober in far-flung places.
In 2021, 4,041 people in North Carolina died from overdoses, the highest number of opioid deaths on record. People are struggling with substance use across the state. Yet, the farming community is often overlooked even when it comes to funding, though it has high rates of opioid use.
Why Is Opioid Use So Prevalent in Agricultural Communities?
Agriculture is a physically demanding industry that often involves long hours of manual labor, which can lead to chronic pain and injuries. So, it may seem natural that many farmers and farmworkers may turn to prescription painkillers to manage their pain - and continue working. But unfortunately, these medications can be highly addictive and lead to a cycle of dependence and misuse.
Research has shown that nearly 26% of farmers and farm workers have misused opioids. Some of these people met the criteria for opioid use disorder, while others were misusing the drug or taking a pill a friend offered them.
Farm work is backbreaking, and many people in rural communities struggle to access regular healthcare. In the US, nearly 100 people are injured working on farms daily. As a result, they often need medical help, and getting a prescription painkiller is a part of that. For others, however, it may be easier to seek out opioids than access healthcare for pain, so they buy opioids from somebody they know or get them online.
Improving Access to Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder
North Carolina has implemented several initiatives to address opioid addiction in the agricultural communities, but many people face many barriers to getting help. Much of the state’s opioid lawsuit money has gone to more heavily populated areas, with harm reduction often left to cities but few resources in the country.
Telehealth has increased access to addiction treatment and support services for farmers and farmworkers.
The DEA, however, may soon be changing the rules to make it harder to access MAT services online. For example, while most visits to MAT providers can occur online, the DEA may require a certain number of in-person doctor visits. For now, however, these rules have not been finalized, and people from all over North Carolina can get help for their opioid use via telehealth.
If you or somebody you love is struggling with opioid use, hope and help are available today! Please give us a call to learn more about your options.
If you are in need of help, please call us at: 910-295-7246 or message us.