The ongoing opioid crisis is killing our fellow citizens and destroying families. We must stop thinking about addiction as a “moral” issue, and recognize it as a medical and psychological problem. Addicts need treatment, not incarceration. Courts and jails are beginning to recognize the need for treatment and we have seen that occur locally, but we need a broader network of treatment options. When a friend’s son suffered from addiction the nearest program that he was able to access was in Greenwood, South Carolina. We have to do better. We must do better!

Opioid overdose deaths in South Carolina increased proportionately with national rates through 2013, as per the National Institutes of Health (NIH) South Carolina Opioid Summary. From 2013 to 2016, deaths related to synthetic opioids (mainly Fentanyl – but include Morphine, and common prescription pain killers such as Oxycontin and Vicodin) and heroin-related deaths rose from 50 to 237 deaths and from 32 to 115 deaths, respectively. This terrible epidemic has affected countless communities and has devastated families all around us.

Addiction treatment facilities are expensive to build and to keep properly staffed. The expansion of Medicaid could help immensely, as few addicts have good health insurance coverage. In addition, we need to do a better job of monitoring physicians and pharmacies for the excessive prescriptions and sales of opioids. We also need to work towards improving public awareness and education about the signs and the real dangers of becoming easily addicted.