HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - Two of Horry County’s highest ranking law enforcement officials spoke about the opioid epidemic at Wednesday’s Carolina Forest Civic Association meeting.
Fifteenth Circuit Solicitor Jimmy Richardson and Horry County Sheriff Phillip Thompson gave updated statistics about overdose deaths and arrests in Horry County.
According to Richardson, in 2015, there were 287 opioid related arrests. In 2016, there were 596. In 2017, there were 814. That number dropped to 773 in 2018.
Richardson said the slight drop is a good sign, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.
Thompson said one of the biggest reasons for the problem is doctors who over-prescribe opioids for pain.
He shared a story of how he had shoulder surgery in November and a doctor prescribed him opioids but he refused to take them since he has seen how easy it is to become addicted.
“I said, ‘I’m not taking it. I’m just not going to do it,’” Thompson said.
Richardson said the key to fixing the problem is educating people on how harmful the drugs can be so people can make decisions like Thompson did if they’re prescribed opioids. He also says it’s important to get help for addicts and to lock up the dealers.
“We have gotten some huge numbers on jail sentences both in state and in federal court for dealers and traffickers,” Richardson said.
Richardson also said he hopes the fact that his office is putting so many people behind bars for dealing drugs is becoming a deterrent.
He said new bills in the South Carolina State House are also helping with that too. There’s currently a bill in the State House that would charge dealers with involuntary manslaughter if the person they dealt the drugs to dies from an overdose.