BEAUFORT COUNTY, S.C. (WSAV) — Overdosing is a major issue not just in the Coastal Empire but also all around the country.

And the numbers are showing big changes in Beaufort County when it comes to how many people are overdosing and how many people are dying.

Fifty-one percent. That’s how many more overdoses there were in 2022 than in 2021 in Beaufort County.

It’s a shocking number that local experts haven’t determined yet why it went up so much but they do know something else, fewer people are dying after taking that extreme amount of drugs.

Since 2015 the county has seen the number of deaths because of drug overdoses rise by 650%. But in 2022 that trend stopped. 

Suspected fatal overdoses went from 46 in 2021 to just 19 in 2022.

While the Beaufort County first responder program credits some of this positive trend to awareness. It also said the fact that every ems or fire truck in the county is now equipped with Narcan, the anti-overdose drug that can potential save a life with just one burst.

“I absolutely believe that that has made a huge impact on saving lives in our county and all over the United States for that matter,” said Lt. Lee Levesque, who’s a part of the Beaufort County First responders program. “The unfortunate truth is time is the one thing we can’t control. As emergency responders or as human beings. Someone early on that can provide that Narcan can increase the potential for surviving an accidental or even an intentional overdose.”

The question remain, are addicts, or anyone else using taking advantage of the fact that Narcan can save their life?

Levesque says he hasn’t seen any examples of that in our area, but even if they are, the benefits far outweigh the problems.

“We operate under the presumption that if we keep people alive long enough they will figure out that not using thsoe drugs for recovery is a good plan,” said Levesque. “For many years as a society we have swept drug use and overdoses under the carpet. if we ignore it it doesn’t really occur. The sad truth is two fold is one it does occur and two ignoring it hasn’t fixed it all of these years. We have to try other things.”

Trying different things could be working. Levesque says there have been several people after getting saved, or seeing someone dealing with an overdose that are working to turn their lives around, and away from drugs.

“The good news is we are trying something different,” says Levesque. “This is vastly different than the things we have done in the past. How is it going to end? Stick around and we will find out and we will let you know. we want to know too. We don’t have all the answers but we are going to collect as many as we can but more importantly to use we are going to save as many lives as we can in the process.”

The number of Narcan usages has gone up nearly 45% in the county so far this year. The goal is to get more people trained in how to use it and make the spray more readily available.

There are training sessions by the Beaufort County Alcohol and Drug Abuse Department next Tuesday at five different local libraries on Hilton Head Island, Bluffton, Beaufort, Lobeco and St. Helena.

The training runs from 2 to 6 p.m. and only takes five minutes. Everyone who attends will get a free supply of Narcan, just in case you or someone else may need it.