CDC: Drug overdose deaths up more than 50% in SC during 2020

South Carolina News

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSPA) — Provisional data from the federal government shows more than 1,700 South Carolinians died of a drug overdose in 2020.

This is a 52% increase compared to 2019. More than 1,100 South Carolinians died of a drug overdose that year. Data shows this was driven by synthetic opioids.

Officials from the South Carolina Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services (DAODAS) knew the numbers from 2020 were going to be difficult to look at. They ramped up outreach efforts last year and used targeted approaches to reach people in need.

“It hurts our hearts…I don’t think we expected it to be a 50% increase over 2019,” said Director Sara Goldsby. “It’s just such a sharp incline.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said nationally, deaths jumped 29%, more than 93,000 died of a drug overdose in 2020. Goldsby said here in South Carolina, isolation from the COVID-19 pandemic helped drive the increase.

“A lot of negative feelings were occurring in people’s lives associated with the pandemic. People often turn to drugs and alcohol to alleviate negative feelings,” Goldsby said. She also added there was an increase in alcohol use and drug use in South Carolina last year.

In addition to the pandemic, Goldsby said the increased potency of illicit drugs like fentanyl and fentanyl analogs also drove this increase. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, these drugs could be 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine.

“There’s an extremely dangerous drug supply on our streets right now,” Goldsby said.

So far in 2021, Goldsby said they are still seeing elevated numbers of suspected overdoses in South Carolina. She said their goal at DAODAS in 2021 is to turn things around.

Before the pandemic, progress was made in South Carolina.

Goldsby said the yearly increase in drug overdose deaths was shrinking. From 2018 to 2019, there was a 3% increase in deaths. She said this setback is driving them to work even harder and find innovative solutions to the problem.

Goldsby said right now, there are more than 300,000 South Carolinians in recovery from substance use disorder. For more information on support groups or treatment services click or tap here.

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