DHEC: SC overdose death data shows more than 50 percent increase during 2020

FILE — This Aug. 29, 2018, file photo shows an arrangement of Oxycodone pills in New York.
FILE — This Aug. 29, 2018, file photo shows an arrangement of Oxycodone pills in New York.(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)
Published: Mar. 1, 2022 at 7:42 AM EST|Updated: Mar. 1, 2022 at 7:44 AM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - DHEC has released its annual Drug Overdose Deaths Statistical Report and the findings show a significant increase in overdose deaths during 2020.

From 2019 to 2020, the number of opioid-involved overdose deaths increased by 59 percent from 876 to 1,400, according to DHEC. The total number of all drug overdoses increased by 53 percent from 1,131 to 1,734.

Note: These deaths statistics include people who died in the state, regardless of whether they were residents.

Nationwide, there was a 15.9 percent increase in drug overdose deaths from September 2020 to September 2021, according to the CDC and the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

“While we cannot directly correlate these overdose deaths to the stress and emotional toll these individuals may have experienced due to the COVID-19 pandemic, South Carolina’s overdose death data follows national trends that substance misuse has increased since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr. Brannon Traxler, DHEC Public Health Director. “Mental health and substance use disorders are part of public health, and DHEC is committed to working with fellow state agencies, federal partners, local law enforcement, and community groups to help prevent additional drug overdose deaths.”

Officials said that the synthetic opioid fentanyl is largely responsible for the increase in overdose deaths.

From 2019 to 2020, drug overdose deaths involving fentanyl increased 105 percent in South Carolina, from 537 to 1,100. Fentanyl was involved in 79 percent of all opioid-involved overdose deaths.

“I cannot overstate the urgency of continuing our efforts to save lives, as it allows many to start on the path to treatment and recovery from opioid use disorder,” said Sara Goldsby, Director of the S.C. Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services (DAODAS).

A dashboard showing the county-level breakdowns of drug overdose deaths and other drug-related information is in the process of being updated with the 2020 data.

There are resources available for anyone experiencing substance use issues. For information on how to access help, treatment, or information, contact DAODAS at 803-896-5555. Anyone experiencing substance use issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic can call a 24/7 support line at 1-844-SC-HOPES, which is operated by DAODAS and the South Carolina Department of Mental Health.

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