Report reveals 53% jump in drug overdose deaths in SC

Opioid-involved overdose deaths jumped 59% in 2020, the latest year for which numbers are available.
The South Carolina Dept. of Health and Environmental Control released data showing a 53% increase in overdose-involved deaths in the state in 2020.
Published: Mar. 1, 2022 at 8:28 AM EST|Updated: Mar. 1, 2022 at 2:22 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - A report from state health officials Tuesday shows a more than 50% increase in drug overdose deaths in South Carolina in 2020 over 2019.

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control says in the report the state saw a 59% increase in opioid-involved overdose deaths from 876 in 2019 to 1,400 in 2020.

A briefing is being held at 1 p.m. from DHEC in Columbia.

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DHEC also reported a 53% increase in all drug overdose deaths across the state during that time period, from 1,131 to 1,734.

DHEC Public Health Director Dr. Brannon Traxler says while the agency cannot directly correlate the overdose deaths to the stress and emotional toll of the COVID-19 pandemic, South Carolina’s data follows national trends of increased substance misuse.

“Mental health and substance use disorders are part of public health, and DHEC is committed to working with fellow state agencies, federal partners, local law enforcement, and community groups to help prevent additional drug overdose deaths,” Traxler said.

Nationally, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Institute on Drug Abuse report a 15.9% increase in overdose deaths from September 2020 through September 2021.

Health officials say the increased overdose deaths are largely due to fentanyl. The state saw a 105% increase in overdoses involving fentanyl from 537 in 2019 to 1,100 in 2020. Fentanyl was involved in 79% of all opioid-involved deaths in the state.

Director of the S.C. Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services Sara Goldsby says, despite the increase in overdose deaths, work is being done to reverse the trend.

“Despite the increase in overdose deaths in 2020, it is important that we recognize the tremendous work that is being done across sectors to reverse this heartbreaking trend,” Goldsby said. “I cannot overstate the urgency of continuing our efforts to save lives, as it allows many to start on the path to treatment and recovery from opioid use disorder.”

DHEC says resources are available for anyone experiencing substance use issues including information on accessing help, treatment or information from DADOAS at 803-896-5555. A 24-hour support line for anyone experiencing substance use issues related to the pandemic has also been set up at 1-844-SC-HOPES.

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