The state House of Representatives hopes a new panel can help find ways to curb the loss of life from opiod abuse in South Carolina. During the first meeting of the Opioid Abuse Prevention Study Committee on Tuesday, House Speaker Jay Lucas, R-Darlington, charged members to find a way to end the deadly epidemic.
“Nationally more people die from opioid overdoses every year than they do from car accidents, 91 people lose their lives every day.” said Speaker Lucas citing federal Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data.
The committee heard presentations on the efforts of several state departments trying to address opioid abuse including Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services Director Sara Goldsby. She said the use of prescription drugs is more dangerous than other better-known drugs across the state.
“The abuse of controlled prescription drugs is higher than the abuse of cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, MDMA, and PCP combined,” said Goldsby. “We have more Americans misusing prescription drugs than all of those other illicit substances.”
Goldsby thanked the committee for recognizing the opioid epidemic as a public health issue rather than an criminal issue. However, the lawmakers also heard from law enforcement about their difficulties dealing with overdose deaths.
Horry County Sheriff Phillip Thompson said his office started a Heroin Coalition with other departments and health officials across the state to build awareness on opioid abuse. Thompson says the coalition works to train people on the use of Narcan–a drug that combats the effects of overdose– and what abuse behaviors will end up in arrest versus medical attention.
Committee Chairman Eric Bedingfield, R-Belton, who recently lost a son to opioid abuse, said he also wants to incorporate the voices of former addicts and abuse survivors to the committee.
“I feel certain this is going to lead to bigger and better things and smarter decisions for South Carolina moving forwards and certainly save lives,” said Beddingfield wrapping up the meeting.