Focus in epidemic should be on reducing demand for opioids

Posted 9/11/18

The recent commentary by Professor Walter E. William titled "Enough's enough with violence in Chicago" that appeared in The Sumter Item in August was informational. The 1,718 Chicagoans shot since …

This item is available in full to subscribers

Focus in epidemic should be on reducing demand for opioids

Posted

The recent commentary by Professor Walter E. William titled "Enough's enough with violence in Chicago" that appeared in The Sumter Item in August was informational. The 1,718 Chicagoans shot since the beginning of the year and 306 murdered is tragic. However, how is this knowledge of homicides in Chicago benefitting South Carolina, especially Sumter County.

Opioid addiction is one of the biggest and devastating epidemics in American history. In 2017, there were 72,000 opioid deaths according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The reported overdose deaths would be higher if family doctors truthfully stated the cause of death on death certificates.

The demand for opioids, including prescription opioids, heroin and fentanyl, is the cause for the opioid epidemic. Overall, Americans consume up to 80 percent of the world's prescription opioids. Every day, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, health care professionals dispense more than 650,000 opioid prescriptions. Also, Mexican heroin production increased from 8 to 50 metric tons between 2005 and 2009. Sadly, every day in America, 195 people die after overdosing on drugs.

In South Carolina, for the past three years, opioid-involved overdose deaths increased according to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control. From 2014-17, opioid overdose deaths increased from 508 to 748. The number of drug overdose deaths from all drugs (including non-opioid drugs, heroin, fentanyl and methadone) was 2,081. Gov. Henry McMaster calls opioid abuse a "silent hurricane going on in our state."

In Sumter, there is little collaboration between agencies. Law Enforcement knows we have a heroin epidemic, EMS is reviving over 100 people annually from drug overdoses. This does not include the citizens revived by Law Enforcement. Contrarily, Sumter has been designated a low risk area because of the low number of drug overdose deaths reported. How absurd.

This opioid epidemic is not in the poor communities, it's in the gated communities. Therefore, the focus must be on reducing the demand, as well as, the shame. Knowing about Chicago homicides is fruitless.

EUGENE R. BATEN

Sumter