It’s that time of year again! Clean out your cabinets and drawers and bring your expired, leftover, or unused prescriptions to a participating DEA Take Back Day location near you on Saturday, October 24, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Last October’s Take Back Day resulted in 11,124lbs of prescription drugs collected at a total of 86 South Carolina participation sites.
In light of the recent health advisory issued by DHEC, we spoke to Christina Galardi, a public health analyst in the Bureau of Chronic Disease & Injury Prevention at DHEC. The ongoing opioid epidemic combined with the COVID-19 pandemic has caused some alarming statistics. Christina weighs in on those trends and explains why the DEA event is so important, especially now.
Q. How has COVID-19 affected the opioid epidemic and overdoses?
A. Since March, South Carolina has seen an increase in suspected opioid overdoses and first responder Narcan® administrations. In May, EMS personnel responded to more than 900 suspected opioid overdoses in South Carolina, the highest monthly number in the state’s history, and nearly twice the number reported for May 2019.
Although suspected overdose numbers have decreased since May, rates remain 50 percent higher than this time last year. The reports from South Carolina reflect national trends of increased opioid overdoses throughout the pandemic. DHEC expects COVID-19 will continue to contribute to an elevated risk of overdoses in the coming months.
Q. What are some things South Carolina, specifically, is struggling with regarding opioids?
A. South Carolina has seen a downward trend in opioid prescribing recently, but the prescribing rate is still in the highest quartile nationally. While some counties have prescribing rates closer to the national average, we still have other counties with prescribing rates that are very high. DHEC supports outreach education for health care professionals about best practices for prescribing and pain management. (For more information on the prescribing rates by state, follow this link https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/maps/rxrate-maps.html.)
Any pill not prescribed to an individual may be counterfeit and contain fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid that is more likely to cause an overdose. Fentanyl is about 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine or hydrocodone, thus only 2 to 3 milligrams can be fatal; higher doses can even cause breathing to stop immediately. Fentanyl can sometimes be in pills that look like prescribed oxycodone or Percocet. It is important not to take pills not prescribed to you, even from a friend or family member.
The safest course of action regarding unused medications is to remove them from your home altogether. Disposal locations will take any unwanted or unused pills, liquids or other medications. Deterra bags are also a great way to deactivate or dispose at home, while keeping the environment safe from pharmaceutical contamination.
DHEC has made firm efforts to tackle the opioid crisis in South Carolina. The Division of EMS created the Law Enforcement Officer Naloxone (LEON) and Reduction of Opioid Loss of Life (ROLL) programs in order to train law enforcement and fire departments across the state on how to properly identify, treat and report suspected overdoses. The programs have resulted in 10,705 officers and 1,736 firefighters trained.
As of October 8, 2020 there have been 585 Narcan administrations at an estimated 95% success rate of opioid overdose reversal. DHEC also partners with the state’s healthcare systems to assist in opioid-related education for healthcare professionals, resulting in more than 700 trained providers to date.
DHEC encourages South Carolina residents to participate in the DEA Take Back Day Event on October 24th from 10am-2pm. Together, we can decrease the amount of opioids in our homes, in our neighborhoods and our environment. For more information on Take Back Day, drug disposal and drug safety, please visit the below resources.
- DEA Take Back Day
- Drug Disposal Guidelines
- Drug Database
- Year-Round Drug Disposal
- Just Plain Killers – Drug Safety
- DHEC – Prescription Monitoring Program
National Substance Abuse Prevention Month
DHEC would also like to highlight National Substance Abuse Prevention Month in October.
According to the most recent data reported by the Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services (DAODAS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were 1,125 known drug overdose deaths in South Carolina in 2018; while Horry, Charleston, Spartanburg, Richland, Greenville, and Lexington counties remain the top counties in the state afflicted with substance use disorders, overdoses, and related arrests.
While a dependency to substances can include illegal stimulants, many of these substances are actually legal, including alcohol and prescription opioids.”
The significance of compassion, receptivity, and encouragement cannot be undervalued in preventing substance use in individuals at high risk of dependency and those in recovery. CDAP facilities provide treatment in a setting that is less clinical and intimidating to patients. Treatment provide individuals with a comforting place where treatment includes both physical and mental healing, as well as teaching individuals healthy coping mechanisms and addiction prevention tools.
DHEC is proud to recognize National Substance Abuse Prevention Month and the incredible work that substance-related agencies, substance use programs, and CDAP facilities do across the state.
If you or a loved one need assistance in finding treatment, then you can learn more about licensed CDAP facilities in South Carolina here. You can also search for a facility by using DHEC’s Find A Facility application here.