HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - As the nation continues to battle the growing opioid crisis, Horry County still remains one of the top three deadliest counties when it comes to drug overdoses.
The Horry County Coroner’s Office says the nationwide opioid crisis is not showing any signs of slowing down, even locally. Coroner Robert Edge says although the toxicology reports have yet to be finalized, in the month of July and August, they’ve had 15 cases of overdose deaths related to heroin and fentanyl. That’s roughly about two deaths per week.
In 2018, Edge says there were around 130 overdose deaths related to opiates and other drugs. So far this year, there’s been 66 confirmed overdose deaths which is on track to match last year’s total, if not slightly more. Edge says Horry County’s population is growing at a rapid rate, and with it the number of drug users. He believes prescription drug calls are down, but it’s the street drugs like heroin, fentanyl and cocaine that are connected to these overdoses. Edge noted the drugs they’re seeing the most are fentanyl and heroin, and many times those drugs are mixed together.
Experts say fentanyl is nearly 80 to 100 times stronger than morphine and can easily be mixed in with other drugs to increase potency. The problem with fentanyl is people often don’t realize it’s mixed in with the drug. With overdose deaths steadily increasing around 15% a year, Edge is pushing for more education and resources to help curb the issue.
“I think that’s part of it and I think the DEA’s crackdown on prescription medication such as Oxycontin, hydrocodone, Percocet, these things. Heroin is much easier to get if you know where to go to. You don’t have to go to a doctor, you don’t have to go to pharmacy, you just buy it on the street and go and inject yourself. And I think that’s part of the increase," said Edge.
The Horry County Police Department says so far this year, the Regional Drug Lab has processed and analyzed 548 heroin evidence items and 303 fentanyl evidence items. It’s important to note these numbers are not just for Horry County police, but also for regional law enforcement partners in the state.
In 2018, Horry County Fire Rescue says 797 doses of Narcan were administered. So far this year, that number is up. As of Tuesday, 802 doses of Narcan were administered. Still though, with the increase of Narcan use, the number of overdose deaths is not slowing down.
Edge points out the availability of the life-saving drug could be misleading some people because sometimes Narcan isn't always enough to bring someone back after an opioid overdose.
“I do think Narcan gives people a little bit of false hope there. You know, you talk to fire and police people and they talk about people they’ve been to numerous times. They get Narcan and those are the people who are stretching the rubber band, and one day it’s going to pop and there will be no return for them," said Edge.
Edge believes the number of opioid-related deaths will continue to climb and says education and more resources to help curb the issue on the ground needs to be available.
“I think we should all be aware of it. If you have someone in your family or friend that you think might have a problem, try to talk to them about it. And then if they don’t want to listen to you maybe talk to somebody else who’s a good friend of theirs, but I hope that people will remember that there is help out there,” Edge said.