Deaths from drug overdoses are surging in South Carolina, according to a new report issued by the state’s Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC).
Total drug overdose deaths in South Carolina soared by more than 25 percent from 2020 to 2021 – climbing from 1,734 to 2,168, according to the agency. Over the course of the decade ending in 2021, overdose deaths have surged by more than 278 percent – from 573 in 2012 to 2,168 in 2021.
Basically, overdose deaths have nearly quadrupled over the past ten years.
“Mental health and substance use disorders are at the forefront of public health concerns around the nation, and we at DHEC – along with our many essential partners – are committed to stopping this disturbing trend in drug overdose deaths by connecting people with the help they need and deserve,” SCDHEC public health director Brannon Traxler said in a statement. “We all have a role to play in ending the stigma surrounding substance use disorders and being a conduit for those who need help but can’t or won’t take those first steps to reach out.”
Driving these overdose spikes? Opioids – which played a role in 1,733 of the 2,168 fatal overdoses in 2021, according to the report (.pdf).
My news outlet has reported extensively on this opioid crisis in recent years, and earlier this month we filed this story on reports that fentanyl – a deadly synthetic opioid – was involved in the tragic death of prominent Charleston, S.C. attorney David Aylor.
According to SCDHEC, drug overdose deaths involving fentanyl increased by more than 35 percent in the Palmetto State from 2020 to 2021 – climbing from 1,100 to 1,494 deaths. That means fentanyl was involved in “more than two-thirds of all opioid-involved overdose deaths in the state in 2021,” according to a news release accompanying the release of this report.
“Other drugs are being laced with fentanyl – without the user’s knowledge – which can cause a fatal overdose even in a small quantity,” said Sara Goldsby, director of the South Carolina Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services (SCDAODAS).
Law enforcement and prosecutorial leaders in South Carolina have made the opioid epidemic one of their top priorities in recent years. In particular, Mark Keel – chief of the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) – has been pushing the S.C. General Assembly to pass a fentanyl trafficking statute. Meanwhile S.C. attorney general Alan Wilson has been pushing his prosecutors to work with law enforcement in targeting drug rings allegedly moving the product.
THE REPORT …
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children.
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