SC sees 50% increase in opioid overdoses; COVID-19 plays a role

Local News

COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA)- COVID-19 not only had a negative impact on the economy and education in the state, but the pandemic has also had an impact on a health crisis the state was already dealing with: Opioids.

Isolation and lack of access to health care are just two reasons the coronavirus pandemic is having an impact on opioid treatment services and patients in the state.

Before COVID-19, South Carolina was dealing with an opioid crisis. Now the virus has created more issues.

“With the contributing factors of COVID-19 to unemployment, low income, isolation and supply chain issues we are seeing a staggering uptick in the number of people reverting to old habits,” said Rep. Russell Fry, the chairman of the House Opioid Prevention Study Committee.

That uptick here is a 50% increase in the number of opioid overdose responses this year compared to 2019. There’s also been an increase in areas the Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Service originally didn’t have on their radar.

The Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse service’s executive director Sara Goldsby explained: “We saw rural Marlboro County and rural Chester County, very rural population, small population, we had never seen issues in those places, but in just two weeks we saw a number of overdose responses.”

6,500 boxes of Narcan, the overdose reversal drug, have been sent out to help the state respond to the spike.

Counties have also been given money for cell phones to connect patients with treatment and holding community events to raise awareness.

Goldsby added, “They had drive-by events, drive-by learn how to reverse an overdose and administer Narcan, and how to get rid of unused medications at home.”

Moving forward, the easiest solution for the state right now is increasing telehealth services and treatment resources to keep patients engaged.

Rep. Fry continued, “Addiction is a disease of isolation and certainly that is very true here as we’ve seen.”

The Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse expects to have mortality data related to opioid overdoses in September.

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