RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Fentanyl has become increasingly prevalent in recent years– a concern to law enforcement and those who work with people dealing with addiction.

Justin Garrity is the Director of Recovery Services with Healing Transitions. Healing Transition’s Post Overdose Response Team goes with Wake EMS to provides peer support to people following an overdose to get them help and build relationships. He said the team has been made aware of 554 overdoses within Wake County so far this year.

Garrity said he’s noticed an uptick in the presence of fentanyl, especially in pressed pills.

“So, someone might think they’re getting one type of pill when in fact it’s a pill that’s pressed fentanyl pill essentially,” Garrity said.

On Wednesday, the Durham County Sheriff’s Office Anti-Crime and Narcotics Unit intercepted one kilo of fentanyl pills as part of an ongoing investigation into fentanyl trafficking.

1 kilo of fentanyl
(Durham County Sheriff’s Office)

According to the DEA, it’s enough to kill half a million people. The sheriff’s office said the fentanyl it intercepted is worth about $110,000 in street value.

“It’s a difficult journey losing anybody unexpectedly and tragically to fentanyl,” said Freida MacDonald.

Her son Michael was grieving the death of his older brother who was shot in 2012 and turned to drugs to cope.

“He was taking things to make him feel better to try to navigate his way through that loss,” MacDonald said.

Michael was 24 when he died, getting what he thought was heroin. Instead it was fentanyl.

“It’s absolutely heartbreaking because in 2016 when we lost Michael his to​xicology report said that he didn’t have any heroin in his system it was all fentanyl, and it was way more than anyone could have survived, and that was my introduction to it,” MacDonald said.

Now MacDonald runs a non-profit she founded called Know Hope North Carolina to support people in recovery and honor lives lost.

According to NC Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, in 2021, 3,163 people in North Carolina tested positive for fentanyl when they died. That is a 30% increase from 2020.

The number has grown over the years. In 2015, 243 people tested positive for fentanyl when they died, according to the report.

MacDonald said raising awareness and stopping the stigma is key in getting those numbers down.