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SC officials report 'steady increase' in opioid overdoses during pandemic

Statistics released from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control show opioid overdoses have increased across the state since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

COLUMBIA, S.C. - Statistics released from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control show opioid overdoses have increased across the state since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s a problem News 12 looked at this week. Brady Trapnell focused on a group working to save lives in Aiken County, which has seen 52 accidental overdose deaths this year.

Since March, South Carolina has seen a “steady increase” over last year in suspected opioid overdoses and first responders administering Narcan, DHEC officials said.

“In May alone, EMS personnel 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,” a DHEC press release stated.

According to DHEC officials, year-to-date preliminary data suggests an upward trend in overdoses from both prescribed and illicitly manufactured substances and overdoses involving other drugs like benzodiazepines, but is not conclusive.

While health officials said suspected overdose numbers have decreased since May, rates remain 50% higher than this time last year.

“The reports from South Carolina reflect national trends of increased opioid overdoses throughout the pandemic. DHEC expects COVID-19 will contribute to an elevated risk of overdoses in the coming months,” the release stated.

Treatment services are available in S.C. through the state’s Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services' system of state-licensed and nationally accredited service providers.

For information on how to access treatment in S.C., call (803) 896-5555. Those who are experiencing substance use issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic can call the 24/7 support line at (844) SC-HOPES.

How to get help

The reports from South Carolina reflect national trends, and state officials expect the problem to continue, so they want the public to know about these resources:

  • For resources on overdose prevention, finding a recovery provider, pain management and overdose data, visit www.justplainkillers.com
  • Naloxone, an opioid overdose antidote, is available without a prescription. For patients with insurance or payment concerns, many community distributors offer free doses of Narcan. For more information visit naloxonesavessc.org
  • Medication disposal sites are available for unused prescriptions. Find locations at justplainkillers.com/drug-safety
  • During the upcoming National Prescription Take Back Day on Oct. 24, additional locations will be available for the safe, convenient, and responsible disposal of unused or expired prescription drugs. A complete list of locations will be available and posted in the coming weeks at takebackday.dea.gov.
  • Additional information about DHEC opioid prevention programs for families and community organizations is available at www.scdhec.gov/opioid-epidemic.
  • Health care providers can help identify and intervene with patients at risk for psychosocial or health care problems related to substance use using the screening, brief intervention and referral to treatment model.

From reports by WRDW/WAGT and WMBF

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