CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Recently released Drug Enforcement Administration data stated that Charleston County had the highest average distribution rate of pain pills of any county in the nation.
A deeper dive into the data shows that the VA mail-out pharmacy in North Charleston is responsible for the largest number of those pills.
The mail-out pharmacy also serves veterans throughout the Southeast. According to the data, 512,414,034 pills were supplied to the pharmacy center between 2006 and 2012.
The next highest number came from an unspecified Walgreens location on James Island which distributed 3,836,900 pills.
The Washington Post was the first to release an analysis of the data, which includes a map showing that between those years, Charleston County had an average of 248.3 pills distributed per person per year. The newspaper called the data, “a virtual road map to the opioid epidemic” which includes 380 million transactions between drug distributors and pharmacies during that span, according to the Post.
In 2017, 94 people died from opioid overdoses, according the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.
The Charleston County Coroner’s Office reports that number only slightly decreased to 90 last year.
And in just the first six months of 2019, 46 deaths have been blamed on opioids, essentially putting it on pace with previous years.
Data collected over a five-year period from 2013-2017 from the VA itself shows the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center in Charleston with a 46 percent reduction in opioid prescriptions. In 2012, the prescribing rate was estimated at 12 percent, later falling to 6 percent in 2017.