CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - MUSC is sending a warning about the danger of addiction to prescription pain medication, a problem that is growing across the nation and in the Lowcountry.
"For as long as we've been tracking opioid use in our country, this is the most opioid use we've actually ever seen. It's a major problem," Dr. Connie Guille, Director of MUSC's Women's Reproductive Behavioral Health program, said.
The hospital is hosting a discussion to allow experts to interact with the public in a more relaxed and non-medical way about the crisis. It will cover the magnitude and impact of this problem and how to help, support and engage women in positive health behaviors.
Doctors say these meds, like morphine and Vicodin, are really effective. The issue is when people begin taking advantage. In 2014 there were 10 million people who were misusing them.
"I don't think we know why they're getting addicted. People who have a history of addiction and a psychiatric illness are more likely to be prescribed these medications. So we're kind of stacking the deck a bit within the population that have an increased risk of having problems with them," Guille said.
This epidemic is now known to extend into pregnancy and has become a major public health problem due to its impact on maternal, fetal, and newborn health and overuse of health care resources.
Guille adds in pregnancy, nationally, about 15-20 percent are going to fill an opioid medication in pregnancy. In the Southeast region, that's twice as likely to happen when compared to the Northeast region.
Doctors say this is an issue which receives a lot of judgment – something that's hindering those in need.
"That really thwarts their ability to come forward and talk about this. The first thing we need to do is take a very nonjudgmental stance with people so they will ask for help," Guille said.
The discussion is open to the public and will begin at 5:30 p.m. upstairs at Charleston Beer Works at 480 King Street.