By Betsy Finklea
The opioid crisis is not just a national epidemic. It is a very real and present issue in our state and extends into our county.
According to Triza Cox of Trinity Behavioral Care, “Prescription opioids include (but are not limited to) Oxycontin, Vicodin, codeine, morphine, and fentanyl. These prescription drugs are in the same class as heroin and work on the opioid receptors in the brain and body. Opioids are prescribed to help relieve pain, but these drugs are prone to abuse because they can encourage a euphoric feeling in the body. As people consistently use opioids, they can quickly become addicted. These addictions can create devastation in their personal and professional lives as well as lead to overdoses and death.”
Cox said that a review of 680 emergency room visits to McLeod Dillon with a substance abuse/misuse diagnosis code showed that “approximately 6.7 percent of visits were coded for an opioid abuse or opioid related diagnosis. The time period of this review was January 2017 through July 2017.” According to S.C. DHEC’s latest figures, there were three deaths involving opioids in Dillon County in 2015, and there were three in 2016. There were 35 Narcan shots administered in Dillon County in 2015 and 41 administered in 2016. Narcan is used to treat emergency narcotic overdose. The prescribing rate for opioid in Dillon County is 127.2. This is the rate per 100 presidents.
S.C. DHEC says that statewide:
—“In 2016, 550 deaths occurred in South Carolina from drug overdose with a prescription opioid drug listed on the death certificate.” This is up 7 percent in 2015 and up 18% from 2014.
—“Fatal overdoses involving heroin increased by 14 percent from 2015 to 2016. By comparison, fatal overdoses involving heroin increased by 67 percent from 2014 to 2015.”
Another interesting fact from S.C. DHEC is that “in 2015, the number of deaths from heroin and opioid overdoses in South Carolina surpassed the number of homicides.”
Law Enforcement is noticing the increase of opioids and heroin in our area. Chief Derrick Cartwright of the Latta Police Department, “We are noticing more and more heroin coming into our area. Heroin has become extremely dangerous due to cutting in fentanyl, both very addictive and potent drugs. Many may not even know it contains fentanyl until it is too late.” Cartwright continued, “It is becoming the new norm spreading over into our area more so now than in the past. Fentanyl is very dangerous as it can be absorbed through the skin which poses to be even more dangerous for emergency personnel, especially officers during searches. This has increased training for first responders to include Narcan training.” Cartwright said, “While it is very addictive, many addicts can beat it but first have to realize they have a problem. We need more people reporting factual information to law enforcement should they know where drugs are being dealt or where high traffic flows are so those can be worked. We may not be able to defeat the epidemic but everyone working together can sure put a dent in it and combat the issue and save numerous lives.”
The increase in use is also causing an increase in the demand for treatment. Donnie Brock, Executive Director of Trinity Behavioral Care, stated, “The demand for opiate treatment in our area is staggering. Trinity provided care to only a dozen clients with a primary opiate use disorder in 2015. Our opiate treatment collaboration with CareSouth of Carolina has treated over 500 clients since June 2016. Our 330 client capacity is not adequate for the current demand, and we are taking actions to expand. This effective treatment program is viewed as a rural model of opiate care and has been replicated in at least five South Carolina counties.” Those who need help are urged to seek treatment from Trinity Behavioral care, their personal physician, or a spiritual advisor.
By Betsy Finklea