According to Nora Volkow, National Institute on Drug Abuse Director, National Institutes of Heath and Human Services, opioids are responsible for the worst epidemic to hit the United States. Over 42,000 Americans died of opioid overdose in 2016. More than half of people who abuse opioid pain relievers get them from a friend or family member. And most Americans don’t know that it is a felony to share them.

Opioid Crisis

Since July, Brandi Russ, FNP and Shaunce Burgess, CMA have been treating patients addicted to opioids and other drugs at the Alcohol and Drug Abuse agency at 115 Short Street, Kingstree.   

Photo by Michaele Duke

According to the National Safety Council (NSC), only 13 states and District of Columbia have improved their response to the opioid crisis since the Council’s 2016 report. Eight states earned failing grades. Something is being done to address the addiction at the local level. Williamsburg County Alcohol and Drug Abuse (ADA) provides assistance on substance use and addiction issues while working with South Carolina Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services and other partners.

People addicted to opioids can qualify for a medicated assisted treatment that, along with counseling, helps wean addicted patients off opiate related drugs. Jackie S. Graham, Executive Director of ADA is happy to see the state funded program in Williamsburg County.  “This is the first time we’ve had medical combined with treatment on site,” said Graham who has been with the agency for 39 years. “We’ve never had physicians, we never had nurses, so this is making a complete circle of services for our clients.”

Brandi Russ, FNP with the Ohio Valley Physicians, provides Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) at the Williamsburg County Department on Alcohol and Drug Abuse office three days a week. She is seeing 60 patients in three counties with 30 patients being seen in the Kingstree Office.

Graham said the program combines behavioral therapy and medications to treat substance use disorders and is designed to run 18 to 24 months. After that, patients are weaned from the medication that reduces cravings (which is also used in alcohol dependency) and, if needed, other medications can be used to prevent relapse.   

Williamsburg County Department on Alcohol and Drug Abuse (WCDADA) is also the agency designated as a distribution site for NARCAN, a nasal spray used for the emergency treatment of a known or suspected opioid overdose. Narcan is used to revive an individual who has overdosed on heroin or another opiate. Individuals including care givers, family members, community individuals and opioid users can obtain Narcan at both office locations; 115 Short Street, Kingstree or 301 N. Main St., in Hemingway.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration is proposing to reduce the amount of five, Schedule II opioid controlled substances that can be manufactured in the United States next year compared with 2019, per the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking published in the Federal Register.

The main office is located at 115 Short Street, Kingstree. For more information about the treatment program or NARCAN call the WCDADA at (843) 355-9113.

What can you do? The NSC recommends warning children that taking a drug that wasn’t prescribed to them is just as dangerous as illegal drugs:

•Discuss the dangers of mixing prescription drugs with alcohol

•Explain how painkillers are made from opioids, which are similar to heroin

•Talk to grandparents and caregivers about how to safely store their medications

•Secure any opioid painkillers, sedatives, sleep medications or stimulants in a locked drawer or container