Rise in heroin overdoses not affecting teenage demographic

Rise in heroin overdoses not affecting teenage demographic

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - While the heroin epidemic continues in Myrtle Beach, the increasing number of overdose calls from the overall community has not affected the number of overdose situations at the high school level.

"We actually were looking at the data yesterday and we really couldn't find anything as far as Myrtle Beach High School," Deputy Fire Chief Tom Gwyer said.

Myrtle Beach Fire Department staff have not responded to heroin overdoses or administered Narcan in the past year at Myrtle Beach High School, while the department has used it to revive overdose patients elsewhere in the city 120 times from the beginning of 2016 through July, Gwyer said.

Narcan was used 79 times by MBFD in 2015, 37 times in 2014, 42 times in 2013, 31 times in 2012 and 26 times in 2011.

"The responses to overdoses have increased astronomically," Gwyer said.

He added the average overdose patient is a white male in his early 40s.

"Fortunately, as far the age, it's not in the schools," Gwyer said.

According to Gwyer, heroin use is often the result of an addiction to painkillers. High school students may experiment with alcohol or marijuana, but that has not appeared to lead to heroin use locally, he added.

"There's been some discussion about whether marijuana is a gateway drug to heroin," Gwyer said. "If it is, we haven't seen it yet at least in the high school."

The Myrtle Beach Fire Department is working to coordinate programs at schools with speakers, such as former drug addicts.

"We think it would open their eyes to see what it could do to their life," Gwyer said. "To see what the decisions they make now could truly alter the rest of your life."

The Myrtle Beach Police Department is already working to educate students on the dangers of the drug through school resource officers.

"They're talking with the kids about their daily interactions, what they may be experiencing, some of the challenges some of the temptations they may face," MBPD Lt. Joey Crosby said.

Crosby added police officers host events and sports games with teenagers and children to gain their trust and help open lines of communication.

He said the drug can affect anyone at anytime, so prevention and education efforts need to be strong for the teenage demographic.

"If we can reach the youth and educate them on how powerful this drug is and what it can do to you, hopefully we can change their perception of what this drug is and encourage them not to do it; therefore, we reduce the amount of users that we have," Crosby said.

He also encouraged parents to help by talking to their children.

Horry County Coroner Robert Edge said nobody has died in the county from a heroin overdose who has been of high school age, adding the youngest heroin overdose victim was 19 or 20 years old.

Edge said he hopes it stays that way.

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