Overdose deaths on the rise in Horry County

Published: Jun. 20, 2019 at 6:29 PM EDT
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MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Overdose deaths are on the rise in Horry County. Coroner Robert Edge said there have been around five so far in June.

"It's not slowing up at all,” he said.

Despite an increase in the use of the drug Narcan, overdose deaths continue to spike along the Grand Strand.

“Here recently in the last year, year and a half, we’ve had Narcan available for police, fire, and EMS. I’m sure that Narcan has saved a lot of people but our numbers are not dropping,” Edge said.

May was also a busy month for the coroner’s office. Edge said there were six overdose deaths last month.

"There’s one we’re not sure about so it could be seven and that’s a lot for one month,” he said.

According to information from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, Horry County had 103 overdose deaths in 2017. Edge said there was around 130 in 2018.

"One death is one too many and these are people who could live productive lives,” he said.

According to toxicology reports, most of the overdoses were from a mix of fentanyl and heroin.

"At least the last five years heroin and fentanyl have been the most encountered drugs by our agency,” said Horry County Police Capt. John Harrelson.

Harrelson said they often see fentanyl mixed in or disguised as other drugs.

"We’ve seen it recently basically pressed into pill form and then if the person adds any kind of color additive it can make it even more difficult to determine whether it’s an aspirin or something else without further testing,” Harrelson said.

Knowing what, exactly, is in these drugs is difficult. Harrelson said he has seen fentanyl combined with something as harmless as sugar and as dangerous as rat poison.

“You don’t know how they’re prepared or whether they’re prepared in a kitchen sink, a bathtub, or a lab,” he said.

With overdose deaths steadily increasing around 15% a year, Edge said he thinks it’s time to fight the issue.

"Somebody needs to step up and let’s start doing anti-drug programs to make people aware of what’s going on,” said Edge.

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