The Rising Opioid Epidemic in Upstate South Carolina

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Over the past few years, Upstate South Carolina has been facing a serious opioid problem that has grown into an epidemic. Opioid related deaths, particularly those involving the drug fentanyl—the same drug that killed the musician Prince—are rising faster than ever. Opioids include painkillers, such as morphine, methadone, buprenorphine, hydrocodone and oxycodone as well as heroin. Opioids used to be reserved for cancer patients in chronic, excruciating pain, but are now frequently being administered for sports injuries and to relieve migraines. With so many components to this troubling issue, here’s our take on the Upstate’s rising opioid epidemic:

Why is this happening in Upstate South Carolina?

Opioid abuse and overdose deaths are rising nationwide with more than 29,000 deaths from opioid overdoses last year. In the state of South Carolina, Greenville County is the epicenter for opioid-related deaths. In 2015, there were 565 confirmed deaths in South Carolina related to opioid or heroin overdoses. South Carolina ranks in the highest quartile for painkiller prescriptions per person and has seen prescriptions increase year over year. According to the South Carolina Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Council, by 2010, doctors were writing enough opioid prescriptions to medicate every American adult every four hours for a month. Additionally, opioid abuse often destroys families and can have a negative impact on the local economy.

What current measures is SC taking?

Recently, the Republican state representatives introduced 10 pieces of legislation in an effort to help reduce the Upstate’s growing opioid problem. Some of the bills included high school drug education and prevention programs, a “Good Samaritan” law to provide immunity from prosecution for those who overdose on drugs or alcohol to encourage them to seek medical attention, and a requirement for doctors to participate in a prescription drug database to provide a comprehensive view of a patient’s prescribed medications by all doctors. South Carolina currently has a prescription drug tracking system, but only requires that physicians in the Medicaid program use the system. The representatives also passed a bill requiring health care professionals to complete coursework on prescription medication and monitor controlled substances. If a doctor found a fetus exposed to alcohol or controlled substances in the womb, he or she would be required to report the case to the Department of Social Services.

What is Greenville doing to fight the epidemic?

South Carolina lawmakers passed a law that allows first responders to carry and administer the drug naloxone that instantly stops the deadly effects of heroin, fentanyl and prescription painkillers. Additionally, Greenville police officers will be allowed to carry naloxone in their patrol cars soon. First responders in other cities in Upstate South Carolina will be allowed to administer the opioid antidote, including Fountain Inn and Greer.

Naloxone is a powerful drug that essentially buys time for those who are dying due to opioid overdose. There are no side effects if naloxone is administered to someone who overdoses on a non-opioid substance like cocaine. Fortunately, there is no risk of someone becoming addicted to naloxone, making it safe and legal to be used to keep those who have overdosed alive until EMS arrives or they make it to the hospital to receive care.

How can a person to be arrested for opioid abuse?

If an individual were to take a prescribed, narcotic painkiller from a family member, that individual is breaking the law and could be imprisoned or fined. If an individual were to share their medication with someone else, that individual is considered a dealer and could receive up to seven years in prison. When you don’t need your narcotic painkillers anymore, you can give them to a DEA-authorized collector to prevent animals or children from ingesting these potentially dangerous medicines or prevent another individual from taking them.

What treatment options are available?

If you or someone you know may have a problem with opioid abuse, there are numerous avenues to help you break the abuse. Treatment rehabilitation programs are widely available throughout South Carolina. You can attend a treatment program by age, gender, religion or career. There’s no right path for recovery that works for everyone. So, if you’re not interested in following a 12-step program like Narcotics Anonymous, you can pursue individual counseling and/or group therapy, psychotherapy or SMART recovery that teaches self-empowerment. There are many options available, it may just take time to find the right one.

In the unfortunate situation that you find yourself or a loved one dealing with an opioid addiction or drug charge, the criminal defense attorneys at Bannister, Wyatt & Stalvey will stick by your side through the process, giving you guidance and trustworthy advice, while ultimately protecting your best interests. Schedule a comprehensive consultation by phone at 864-523-7738 or contact us online so our attorneys can review your situation and decide on next steps. We are here to help.

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