DHEC: S.C. has seen ‘steady increase’ in opioid overdoses throughout pandemic

Protecting Yourself from Coronavirus (May 2020)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WMBF) – Statistics released from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control show opioid overdoses have increased across the state since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since March, S.C. has seen a “steady increase” over last year in suspected opioid overdoses and first responders administering Narcan, DHEC officials said.

“In May alone, EMS personnel responded to an estimated 915 suspected opioid overdoses in South Carolina, the highest monthly number in the state’s history, and nearly twice that reported for May 2019,” a DHEC press release stated.

According to DHEC officials, year-to-date preliminary data suggests an upward trend in overdoses from both prescribed and illicitly manufactured substances and overdoses involving other drugs like benzodiazepines, but is not conclusive.

While health officials said suspected overdose numbers have decreased since May, rates remain 50% higher than this time last year.

“The reports from South Carolina reflect national trends of increased opioid overdoses throughout the pandemic. DHEC expects COVID-19 will contribute to an elevated risk of overdoses in the coming months,” the release stated.

Treatment services are available in S.C. through the state’s Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services' system of state-licensed and nationally accredited service providers.

For information on how to access treatment in S.C., call (803) 896-5555. Those who are experiencing substance use issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic can call the 24/7 support line at (844) SC-HOPES.

Additional information on the opioid epidemic can be found here.

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