How we can fight opioid epidemic together

South Carolina has a drug problem, and many elected leaders have begun looking at how best to deal with it. In August, I also took action. My office filed a lawsuit against a company for its role in creating that problem. This lawsuit is not a magical silver bullet that will end this epidemic, and the company being sued is not solely to blame for the crisis. However, when we look at the statistics and we read the stories we are left with the inescapable conclusion that we must take action now.

In 2016, South Carolina ranked 9th in the nation in opioid prescribing rates. Since 2011, more than 3,000 South Carolinians have died from prescription opioid overdoses. In 2015, there were more deaths in South Carolina from taking prescription opioids or heroin than there were homicides. Between 2000 and 2013, the number of babies born addicted to opioids has quadrupled. There have been more opioid prescriptions written between 2012 and 2016 than there are residents in South Carolina.

There are some who believe that this epidemic only affects "druggies" or heroin users, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that most heroin users started with prescription opioids. More than three out of four new heroin users report abusing prescription opioids first.

Typically, someone gets hurt or has surgery and is given a prescription opioid for pain. Because the drugs are so addictive, they may continue to take the drug even after they should have stopped or at doses that are dangerously high. Once they can no longer get more of the prescription drug, they turn to buying heroin on the street because heroin is also an opioid. Many of the overdoses happen because the potency of street heroin varies so widely and sometimes includes fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that's even stronger than heroin. Whether it is prescription opioids, heroin or fentanyl, the result is too often deadly.

Read more from The Sumter Item here. 

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