Fentanyl Surpasses Heroin For Overdose Deaths In NC

Jun 12, 2018

Deaths involving fentanyl and/or analogues increased by 106% from 2016 to 2017.
Credit Office of the Chief Medical Examiner

The synthetic opioid fentanyl is responsible for twice as many deaths in North Carolina than heroin, according to a report from the State Chief Medical Examiner Office. 


Fentanyl-related deaths have increased 848% statewide since 2010.  The report shows there were 1,118 poisoning deaths last year involving fentanyl and other synthetic opioids. The previous year, there were 545 deaths.  The deaths involving heroin decreased from 573 in 2016 to to 483 in 2017.  This trend is expected to continue, according to chief toxicologist with the North Carolina Office of the Cheif Medical Examiner, Dr. Ruth Winecker.

“Fentanyl is more potent than heroin, right, it has a stronger action than heroin does in the body.  And it is cheaper to make than heroin.  And it’s also easier to smuggle into the country because the amounts are smaller.”

Illegally manufactured synthetic opioids are responsible for most of the fentanyl-related overdose deaths, said Winecker. 

“There have been a few labs in the United States that have been shut down, that were manufacturing fentanyl.  But the vast majority of the fentanyl that we find is coming from either Mexico or China.”

Pitt County had 33 fentanyl related fatalities last year, followed by Craven County with 23, Wayne County with 13 and Onslow County with 10.  

Fentanyl and/or analogue-related deaths in eastern North Carolina in 2016-2017, according to the report.