What's new with the opioid epidemic? You!

LEXINGTON, SC (WIS) - It's a story that keeps making headlines - the opioid addiction problem.

Every few days a news story highlights the growing number of those addicted and the deaths that come as a result.

A doctor at Lexington Medical Center says there is something new in the fight against the opioid problem. It's you.

Dr. Grant Sullivan of Lexington Medical Center chairs a group called Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Committee. He formed it several months ago after seeing so many people being admitted for drug overdoses.

"And a lot of times the etiology was either narcotic abuse specifically or polypharmacy meaning the mixture of a lot of medications that can act in the brain and cause problems," Sullivan said.

Like a drug overdose - which is the leading cause of death in our country for those under 50 - it has garnered attention on local, state and federal levels.

Dr. Sullivan says there are some new medications coming out to treat addictions, but he says the main thing new with opioid addiction is YOU being aware.

A huge part of that because of ramped-up media coverage.

"I'm so happy to see that.  I'm even a little cautiously optimistic that we can start to change our behaviors because if we created this problem, we can solve it too," Sullivan states.

There is a lot of attention right now on the crisis – like the Just Plain Killers commercial the South Carolina Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services is airing on WIS.

It educates the public on what can happen with - just one more pill.

DAODAS is one of the groups working in partnership with Lexington Medical Center which pleases Dr. Sullivan who says fighting the crisis has to be a joint effort.

"It's going to take all of us working together. Medical people, journalists, legislators - all of us together to do what we can to advocate for everybody," Sullivan said.

Several medical groups are working with the state legislature on new bills at the State House.

"There are several different bills that have been introduced that are in the 2018 legislative session. And we are trying to help advocate for prescription drug abuse prevention as much as we can."

Besides policy changes, Sullivan says more doctors are making changes by implementing new strategies in what and how often they prescribe painkillers.

"I am meeting with different people in our department from psychiatry, pain management, pharmacology, to try to get together and put our heads together as to what we can do inside the hospital to prevent prescription drug abuse," Sullivan said.

And with more media coverage educating the public, a new cultural change in what patients ask for from their doctors could help apply the brakes to an epidemic out of control.

DHEC's latest numbers on deaths from prescription opioid overdose deaths were in 2016.

There were 550 in our state.  Richland County had 42 as did York County. Lexington County - 33. Greenville had 53 deaths. Charleston had 65. And Horry County had 101.  Again, these were just commonly prescribed painkillers.

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