HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – The most opioid deaths in the state happen right here in Horry County, according to state officials. Two students at Coastal Carolina University are leading an initiative, hoping to turn the problem around.
"Horry Hope" is the awareness event happening on Saturday led by Swain Scholar students, Sydney Brown and Ashley Lynch. They hope to bring the community together from all different walks of life. They have been working on this project for about 2 years now. It's a comprehensive study researching the opioid epidemic in Horry County, surveying people on their perceptions and experiences with the drugs.
They surveyed a total of about 700 people on opioid awareness. A shocking find they discovered is only 3-quarters of the people found opioids to be addictive or dangerous, whereas 98 percent of people found heroin to be dangerous, showing a misperception between the dangers of opioids and heroin.
As they near the end of their study, Brown and Lynch will host their first awareness event that will be free and open to all ages. It will provide resources for those struggling with addiction, celebrate those who have overcome addiction, memorialize those who have passed and educate the public on the severity of this epidemic.
Brown explained how this study all started.
"As a college student, you see that there is a use of drugs of some sort, whichever that may be. What's scary is that a lot of these users that we've met throughout our research in the heroin and opioid epidemic started just as a college kid using … you know just smoking marijuana or doing cocaine or whatever it may be.. and now 2.. 3 years down the road, they are doing heroin. So, it's really scary how people don't realize that process and how it transitions to that. So, that's what originally started on this topic, is that we wanted to look more on the college kids and what they do and the dangers of what it could lead to," said Brown.
As they near the end of their study, they will kick off the Horry Hope event with a presentation of their findings. The presentation will be followed by a memorial vigil for those affected by this tragic epidemic.
Guest speakers will also share their own personal stories at the event. Brown said they chose Saturday specifically because a special activist, Brett Bramble, is walking across the East Coast to also raise awareness for the epidemic. He's making stops here in Myrtle Beach.
There will also be many different resources available at the event from different organizations, treatment centers, homeless shelters and sober living houses. Brown said there are professionals willing to help guide people in the right direction to a clean and sober life, and the first step could be the Horry Hope event.
She also stressed the importance for everyone to show those who are struggling in the community that we care.
"I hope that at least one person is able to get help from what we put together here. I hope that a mom might be able to take home some brochures and have a better idea or better feeling about how her child may be able to get help. I hope that one of the speakers touches the heart of someone who may only be doing drugs through college or not really know the dangers… and maybe be able to open the eyes to them and make everyone aware of how serious this is and what it can lead to and what it starts from," said Brown
The event is free and open to the public. Horry Hope will donate all their proceeds to the Jake Koenigsdorf Foundation, which pays for the first month of drug treatment.
To learn more about Horry Hope initiative, click here.