NORTH CAROLINA (QUEEN CITY NEWS) – One drug is responsible for thousands of overdose deaths in North Carolina, according to state health officials.

Illicitly manufactured fentanyl, often combined with other substances, was involved in more than 70% of overdose deaths in N.C. in 2020, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services said in a press release.

In 2020, 3,304 people died from a drug overdose in the state. That’s a 40% increase from the year before.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid, which is often manufactured, and mixed with other drugs.

“Somebody might use cocaine and not realize fentanyl is in it,” said Elizabeth Brewington with the N.C. Council of Churches.

Brewington describes fentanyl as poisoning the drug supply in the state.

“We’ve seen, throughout time, the substance changes. Originally, it was overprescribing of pills. When we cracked down on that it evolved to heroin. Then it evolved to fentanyl,” said Brewington.

This month, the Union County Sheriff’s Office announced Logan Ibele would be charged with second-degree murder in relation to a fentanyl overdose.

Ibele, a well-known drug trafficker according to the Sheriff’s office, sold fake pills containing fentanyl to 31-year-old Margaret Jakiela, who died from an overdose soon after taking the pills.

“Focusing on the specific substance is not gonna be what solves this. Because that’s always gonna evolve and change,” said Brewington.

The same numbers from the NCDHHS showed 60% of drug overdose deaths included multiple substances.

“This is not just an opioid epidemic. We are dealing with polysubstances and moving into the synthetic age,” said Lauren Kestner with Queen City Harm Reduction.