Accidental opioid overdoses out of control in South Carolina

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CHESTER COUNTY, S.C. (FOX 46 CJHARLOTTE) — The Hazel Pittman Center is the alcohol and drug abuse commission for Chester County.

“So we provide alcohol and drug treatment for individuals who live in Chester County and sometimes surrounding counties primarily on an outpatient basis to assist them in obtaining and maintaining their sobriety from alcohol and other drugs and building the skills necessary for maintain recovery,” says Treatment Director Kristin Gibson.

Kristin Gibson, treatment director for Hazel Pittman Center, says the center sees things like alcohol, prescription pain pills and even heroin.

“We deal with pretty much anything that somebody could be using. Obviously, opioids right now are one of the primary things that we see a lot of people are using opioids,” she said. “Or now they’re using pressed pills that they really sometimes don’t even know what is in.”

Provisional data from the federal government shows more than 1,700 South Carolinians died of a drug overdose in 2020. A 52% increase compared to 2019. More than 1,100 South Carolinians died of a drug overdose that year. Their data shows this was driven by synthetic opioids.

A Chester County man, Christopher Price Jr., was just arrested after deputies say they found approximately 1,000 pressed pills containing Fentanyl.

“Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid. It’s like morphine but its 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine is. And right now, the main concern with Fentanyl is not only are people using Fentanyl as Fentanyl but it’s a cheaper option, so a lot of drug dealers are mixing it into other drugs.. so, they’re mixing it with heroin, cocaine, or meth,” she continued.

She says sometimes people may believe they’re using one thing not knowing what they’re truly using and there’s Fentanyl in what they’re using and they’re unknowingly overdosing.

“If I’m saying that a regular opioid is about that much, Fentanyl may be the tip of my pen,” Gibson continued.

It only takes a very small amount for someone to overdose on Fentanyl. Gibson says as of March, 24% of their patients have been diagnosed with an opioid use disorder. “For 2020, the opioid related hospitalizations in Chester County are up 28%”

And the COVID pandemic has only made that worse. Gibson says this creates a feeling of isolation which triggers people to go out use substances.

“One thing that we do is for anybody who is using opioids or is using one of those substances that we know that Fentanyl is being mixed into is we provide them, or we offer them Narcan, which is the opioid overdose reversal drug.”

The treatment center allows for patients to bring in family members as apart of their treatment process and even hosted an opioid summit let others know how dangerous the drug is.

“So we try to get out there as often as we can to educate not only family members, but just the general community to the dangers of it.”

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