Opioid overdoses are surging in South Carolina, according to a public health advisory issued this week by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC). Emergency medical service responders are also administering more Narcan than ever in an attempt to revive overdose victims.
“In May alone, EMS responded to an estimated 915 suspected opioid overdoses in South Carolina, the highest monthly number in the state’s history, and nearly twice that reported for May 2019,” the advisory (.pdf) noted. “Year-to-date, suspected opioid overdoses were 50 percent higher than for the same timeframe last year.”
Health officials said they were observing “an upward trend in overdoses from both prescribed and illicit substances” as well as “overdoses involving other drugs like benzodiazepines” – but that the preliminary data was “not conclusive.”
The advisory also warned of the coronavirus pandemic’s “continued negative impact on substance use” and potential to “cause (a) higher risk of overdose in the coming months.”
“We closely monitor suspected opioid overdose reports in every county across the state and coordinate with prevention partners to support local response efforts,” said Emma Kennedy, SCDHEC’s top substance abuse official. “This collaborative effort enables state-level staff to engage county-level counterparts in high-burden areas to encourage targeted response efforts.”
These latest upticks come on top of what was already a worsening epidemic.
According to the office of S.C. attorney general Alan Wilson, between 2014 and 2018 the number of fatal drug overdoses involving opioids increased by 62 percent – from 504 to 816. As a result, heroin and prescription opioid deaths outnumbered homicides in the state for three consecutive years.
Meanwhile, from 2013 to 2018, the state saw a 110 percent increase in Narcan administrations by emergency medical personnel in response to opioid overdoses.
This news outlet has covered the opioid debate extensively in recent years as overdoses have been escalating. Our founding editor Will Folks has also addressed this issue quite personally.
Our view? We support efforts to hold physicians responsible when they fail to act in the best interests of their patients.
“Why should one group of addiction peddlers be fined and incarcerated while another is honored and financially rewarded?” we wrote last year.
Indeed … and while we adhere to a libertarian ideology when it comes to recreational drug use, as we noted a year ago “we believe there is a special place in hell for those who profit from the entrapment, addiction and eventual destruction of their fellow human beings.”
STRUGGLING WITH OPIOIDS?
Anyone who is interested in accessing treatment for substance abuse issues can get help by calling 803-896-5555. If you are experiencing substance abuse issues related to Covid-19, there is also a support line you can call 1-844-SC-HOPES.
“There are many resources available to help prevent, respond and treat opioid use disorder,” Kennedy said. “We encourage people to use these resources to learn about the risks of opioids, about opioid antidotes and where to get them, and learn how to help people struggling with opioid use disorder find the right care and treatment.”
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