South Carolina’s Dash to End Addiction Epidemic Includes Drug-Sniffing Dogs in Schools, Fentanyl Tests for Drug Users in Charleston

A Dash to end addiction - South Carolina

There are certain genteel images that come to mind when South Carolina is mentioned, like the broad porches of the big houses in beautiful Charleston, a slow golf game in Myrtle Beach, and leisure time spent on the many sunny beaches. But just underneath that glittering façade of tourist destinations is a problem that is also growing across the country. South Carolina is currently dealing with serious, rising state-wide drug issues including addiction and fentanyl-laced narcotics.

Drug Statistics in South Carolina

According to the South Carolina Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services, since 2014 there has been an overall rise in overdose deaths due to heroin along with fentanyl, any opioids, and all drugs. Across the board the overdose deaths are rising year to year:

  • There were 748 deaths in South Carolina from an opioid overdose, compared to 616 in 2016 (21% increase) and 565 in 2015.
  • In the same time frame, deaths due to fentanyl overdose increased from 130 to 362.
  • From 2014 to 2017, deaths from an overdose of any drug increased by 39%, while heroin-related deaths tripled and opioids in general increased by 47%.

In addition, in 2017, there was a state-wide total of 6,305 opioid disorder-related admissions to treatment facilities. Counties with the highest admissions for opioid disorders were Greenville with 983, Lexington-Richland at 835, and Charleston at 732. Comparatively, the lowest county is Fairfield, with just 7.

Drug Sniffing Dogs in Schools

Amidst the overall rising trend of drug abuse is the particular concern about the teen population and addiction. The National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens reports that in 2017 there were 5,455 drug overdose deaths nationwide for youth ages 15-24. Getting drugs is relatively easy at school. shares that 38.4% of teens in public schools state that drugs are readily available to them, and a whopping 62.9% say that there are street gangs present to sell the drugs to them.

To combat this, South Carolina has adopted a proactive approach to deter anyone thinking about using or selling drugs in schools. As reported in the Greenville News, drug-sniffing dogs are being utilized across the upstate region in multiple schools to detect drugs. In Greenville County, the middle schools and high schools get a visit from a K-9 unit who does random checks throughout the year.

Depending on the school, visits are either random or can be scheduled. If there is a particular issue at a school, the K-9 unit may make more visits than usual. There are special units for this work, like private contractors, but other districts rely on the local sheriff’s office K-9 unit. In Anderson School District 2, the dogs are contracted to sniff out illicit drugs, over-the-counter medication and tobacco, as well as gunpowder and firearms.

Fentanyl Tests for Drug Users in Charleston

While drug-sniffing dogs proactively work in schools to head off the selling and buying of drugs, another more reactive  tactic is required in Charleston. According to data in a Post and Courier article, Charleston has seen a continuing rise in opioid-related deaths for the past three years. Adding to this dire statistic is the ever increasing mix of the potent drug fentanyl with cocaine or heroin. Fentanyl is a synthetic drug used for pain that is 80 to 100 times more potent than morphine. Many users don’t even know fentanyl has been added to their drug of choice, making it a dangerous game of drug Russian roulette that can result in an overdose death.

The statistics paint a dire picture with an incredible 432 percent increase in overdoses involving fentanyl from 2014 to 2017. Reported by Live5News, the Charleston County coroner has already documented six overdose deaths because of fentanyl in 2019, and three due to a mix of fentanyl and heroin.

To combat this problem, the SC Harm Reduction Coalition has taken steps to distribute fentanyl tests to users so each person can at least make a decision before they use. Fentanyl has been found in not only cocaine and heroin but also in Xanax and MDMA. While they can’t save everyone, test strips at least give users a fighting chance to avoid fentanyl-laced drugs and thus avoid an overdose death. The coalition also asks users to report back to them if fentanyl is found in their drugs so they can track fentanyl use in South Carolina.

Help With Addiction at FHE Health

If you are battling addiction and need help reach out to FHE Health. Our compassionate and knowledgeable counselors are available 24/7 to speak with you. We look forward to answering your questions and helping you on the road to recovery. A better path awaits you, so call us at (844) 722-0079 or contact us today.

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