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Opioid Plague in South Carolina

The use of opioids in the state of South Carolina is beyond the point any one would have expected or predicted. Deaths from overdose of prescription or illegal opioids are out of control as the numbers have continued to rise in so many communities across the country. South Carolina drug overdose deaths are actually approaching traffic death totals, and in Horry County, the DEA has reported 80 overdose deaths this year alone.

Pain pill addictions have had a stranglehold on the entire US in recent years. Doctors writing prescriptions for powerful pain medications, some of which were only originally intended for use by terminally ill patients in debilitating pain has been more and more prevalent in the last decade than ever before. Physicians have given in to the demands of patients who know that there is something out there much more powerful than the ibuprofen their doctors are willing to prescribe for them and it has created a monster of addiction and desperation like we've never seen.

A typical scene: A middle aged housewife goes skiing and falls, spraining her wrist. When she gets back to town, her wrist is swollen and painful. She visits the family doctor who, after a x-ray finds nothing broken, just wraps up her wrist and hands her a prescription for a powerful pain reliever such as oxycodone or hydrocodone. She comes out of the pharmacy carrying a bottle of 40 Pills! After trying one of the pills, she finds they make her feel dull and dizzy, so she puts the rest of them into the medicine cabinet and forgets about them.

Three weeks later, along comes Junior. He opens the medicine cabinet looking for the toothpaste and spots this prescription bottle. He steals a couple and gets really high, or he takes them to school to sell.

This is called drug diversion. Drug diversion is a federal crime, but this type of action is responsible for many thousands of drug addictions and overdoses. Kids are even putting together "Pharm Parties" where bowls of collected, stolen or discarded prescription pills are thrown into a bowl and called Trail Mix. According to NIDA, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, most teens who abuse prescription drugs are given them by a friend or relative.

But that is only the beginning. When those stolen or gifted pills begin to run out, the newly addicted person is driven to find another source. Dependency has already set in and the addicted person is set on a path that they or their parents never envisioned.

Until recently, this over-prescribing of addictive pain medications has gone nearly unchecked in South Carolina as in other states. Some blame the doctors and other prescribing medicos. But patients can be very demanding and if refused become irate or pleading.

When that fails they commonly resort to "Doctor Shopping". Traveling from MD to MD or from one pain-clinic to another until they obtain another script for what they feel they need. While Florida has a reputation for this phenomenon, South Carolina is experiencing rising numbers of these addicts as well as doctors or pain clinics willing to cater to them.

The use of opioid medications can cause drowsiness or constipation. But when taken in excessive amounts, they can depress respiration, with slowed breathing and heart rates. Because of these effects, opioid meds can be particularly dangerous, especially if used with other drugs such as alcohol.

Illicit Drug Use in the Past Month among Persons Aged 12 or Older in South Carolina, by Substate Region: Percentages, Annual Averages Based on 2010, 2011, and 2012 NSDUHs (Source: SAMHSA, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, National Survey on Drug Use and Health)

South Carolina ranks among 16th highest drug overdose mortality rate in the U.S.

South Carolina State Government Agencies

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