Opioid Overdose Deaths Rise Throughout the Midlands

Despite efforts to crack down on opioid abuse, the numbers continue to rise

Richland County, SC (WLTX) - Despite growing efforts by law enforcement to crack down on opioid abuse, the numbers of overdoses continue to rise.

"We've had four in the last three weeks," says Kershaw County Coroner David West. He says the number of opioid overdoses has skyrocketed in his county alone.

"We're already over 12 for overdose and that's more than if you put all of the numbers together," says West. "In the last five years we haven't had that many. I'm starting a little shadow box now of stuff we're getting off people, like the cookers and all that stuff. I mean they just have it in their pockets now."

In 2016, there were 616 opioid overdose deaths in South Carolina, up from 595 in 2015. A majority of the overdose deaths here in the Midlands come from Richland County.

"In 2016 we had a total of 37 opioid overdoses," says Gary Watts, Richland County Coroner. "This year through September, we've already had 48."

Watts says he's seeing a growing number of heroin and Fentanyl in toxicology reports.

"It's extremely powerful," says Watts. "Heroin is powerful, Fentanyl is a hundred times powerful than heroin. People are getting this drug and having no idea what they are taking. We are finding people with the needle literally still stuck in their arm."

Prescription opioid abuse, which include Oxycodne, is also on the rise. Law enforcement has increased their efforts in cracking down on opioid abuse, but is it enough?

"I think if they weren't doing as much as they were to fight this and try to get as much off the street as they can, then our numbers would be higher than they are."

Prevention is difficult, but lawmakers with the House Opioid Abuse Prevention Study Committee are working to pass new laws that will mandate safer prescribing guidelines and create better treatment options for those addicted to opioids.
 

© 2017 WLTX-TV


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