Opioid overdoses on the rise in Bluffton

BLUFFTON, SC (WTOC) - 20 - that's how many people have died in Beaufort County this year from opioids.

A problem local and state officials see is on the rise. A problem they're looking to stop in its tracks.

The Beaufort County Sheriff's Office held a press conference earlier this year addressing the dangers of opioids and the rise of the drugs in our counties.

But Thursday they're taking that discussion a step further. The Sheriff's Office along with the Beaufort County Alcohol and Drug Abuse Department
and the Coroner's Office will give us an update on the number of overdoses, how frequent the Narcan is being used and what other measures are being used to wipe the drug out of our communities.

Agencies across the state have seen an increase in issues related to opioids. Prompting the state to designate $3 million to at risk counties like Beaufort County which ranks 15 out of 46.

The money was used to train first responders on how to use Narcan kits which can reverse an overdose
in a matter of minutes.

"Within a week we had used it once and a few months later we've used it twice so far to sustain the patient's condition until medical services can arrive and administer a higher level of first aid," said Captain Bob Bromage, Beaufort County Sheriff's Office.

There will also be a prescription d rop off Thursday night for residents to turn in their unused prescriptions, which is just one way officials say opioids are getting on the streets and into the wrong hands.

Every 32 days we lose the same number of Americans to opioid overdoses that we lost on 9/11. That's why Thursday night a candle represents each parent, each victim, and each survivor.

"Why would you bring me back to this? Why would you bring me back to hell when I didn't have any shame, detox, remorse, withdrawals. There was nothing. Why would you bring me back to pain," said Brian, a survivor.

Brian recaps the first time he overdosed - part guilt, part shame. A rollercoaster of emotions that effects the whole family.

"As a parent, you struggle," said Molly Malone, Son died of an overdose. "I went to all of these support groups to keep myself from going crazy and blaming myself and dealing with all of the guilt."

Molly lost her son two years ago to heroin - a drug she didn't even know he was using.

"He was in Salt Lake City in rehab and they reported that he was doing heroin and I was like how is this possible? How do you get your hands on heroin? It seems so foreign. He didn't go to rehab for heroin, he went for alcohol and cocaine," said Malone.

But for other parents, it's a drug their child used as an escape.

"I didn't realize how much she had taken," said Wendy, daughter struggled with addiction. "I went in to wake her up the next morning - she was not responsive. I shook her to wake her up. She was literally cold and gray."

Wendy says her daughter suffered from other disorders that led to the use of pain killers - a prescription that changes their lives.

"I don't know how the medical community should be managing it better. But it's not being done well. They went from one extreme of not giving pain medication to those who desperately needed it, to now it's being given out too freely. How do the people that need it get it safely and and it be effective," said Wendy.

In 2014 - 22,000 people nationwide died from an opioid overdose. That number doubled in 2016 and out of the 20 fatal overdoses here in Beaufort County, 17 of them were directly related to fentanyl.

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