MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – Heroin has reached epidemic proportions.
That was the message from law enforcement authorities, first responders, family members of users, former addicts and the people who help users recover during a community meeting Tuesday night in Myrtle Beach.
The standing-room-only meeting saw more than 400 people gather in the Base Recreation Center. That turnout showed the impact heroin is having on all levels throughout the Grand Strand community.
"Heroin right now is No. 1," said Myrtle Beach Mayor John Rhodes.
Numbers put the growing heroin problem in Myrtle Beach in perspective.
According to the Horry County Coroner's Office, in 2015, 72 people died from the drug. Now, in 2016, the community is already more than halfway to that mark.
The spike in usage has been seen especially by first responders.
"It affects the brain that controls some of your vital functions, some of the things that you need to live," Myrtle Beach Deputy Fire Chief Tom Gwyer said.
His crews have gone to at least one call per day for a person suffering from a heroin overdose recently. The statistic, however, only counts the times they have had to use Narcan. The drug is used to bring people back from the brink of death.
The impact of heroin doesn't stop there though.
"Drugs attract criminal activity," said Michael Connelly with the FBI.
Authorities said they have seen a rise in crimes like shoplifting, burglary, car break-ins, prostitution and even human trafficking.
"The community action is essential to turn the tide on this epidemic," said Sara Goldsby with the South Carolina Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services.
All of this information was shared Tuesday night in an effort to spark change. At times, some people in the crowd were emotional hearing personal stories from a former addict and the mother of an incarcerated addict.
It is those stories that painted the best picture of how heroin affects the community.
"I am recovered, and it was great to hear from someone that kind of spoke my story," said Courtney Devlin.
Authorities said change will not happen immediately. Heroin is a problem that affects so many, and it will take a community-wide effort to improve.
"This is the key. We don't know what goes on behind closed doors. We don't know what goes on on the street corners because we can't be everywhere," Rhodes said. "But the eyes and ears around our city, of those who want to help, can help and that's what we're counting on."
Those who need help or want to report suspicious activity in their neighborhood can call (843) 790-DRUG or (843) 488-4351.