'Wake Up' campaign to fight heroin and prescription opioid crisis

'Wake Up' campaign to fight heroin and prescription opioid crisis

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Local drug enforcement officers want Charleston to "wake up" to the crisis of prescription opioid and heroin use in the Lowcountry.

Right now, Dorchester Co. officials report an opioid overdose death rate 182 % higher than the national average.

That statistic is only part of the reason a group of law enforcement officials, chaplains, and members of the medical community met Thursday to launch the public awareness campaign.   
"The need is now because our community like the rest of our nation is in crisis," Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent Jason Sandoval
said. "This crisis can't wait. We need to wake up, we need to link arms and say enough's enough."

The "circle of addiction" affects groups ranging from teens to soccer moms, according to Sandoval, and commonly begins with prescribed opioid use, like low
level hydrocodone drugs such as Vicodin, Lortab and Lorcet.  According to Sandoval, 4 out of 10 teens who have abused a prescription drug obtained them from parents' medicine cabinet.

Due to high cost of the drugs, heroin can become a cheaper alternative as it's readily available at $10 per bag, according to Sandoval.
Sandoval said heroin use is sweeping the country, in most cases starting with stories similar to Creighton Shipman. Shipman turned to heroin after being prescribed pain killers for emergency surgery. He died from an overdose in July.
In fact, Charleston Co. reported 37 heroin overdose deaths in 2015, a rate that's 15% higher than the national average.

Dorchester Co. had 23 opioid overdose deaths in 2015, also topping national numbers. Meanwhile, Berkeley Co. reported 27 opioid overdose deaths in 2014, compared to 13 in 2015. 
The issue is not going away, according to Mina McCann, whose son battles addition.
"My son has been addicted to prescription drugs and other drugs since he was 14." Mina McCann said.  "We're now four years down the road. It affected our family, his school, his tennis team. It's affecting every, every child that's in this community. It's not going away. The numbers are just growing."
"Traditional law enforcement is not working," Sandoval said. Community support and education, the crux of the "Wake Up" campaign, is needed to reverse the trend, according to Sandoval who said people should dispose of pills as soon as pain has passed at local "Take Back" locations like MUSC.

Sandoval said locals can also help by monitoring prescription counts and restricting access to medicine cabinets.
"People should be counting pills, monitoring their children's prescriptions, monitoring their own prescriptions to make sure their children aren't skimming
from them or people who might be in the pharmacy aren't skimming from them," Sandoval said. "There are all kinds of proactive steps we can take to make a real difference in this problem."
"It's not just large cities anymore, or the bad neighborhoods," McCann said. "It is actually every neighborhood, every suburb. There are preventative methods, there are ways we can do that and 'Wake Up' is one of those campaigns."
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