Skip to content

The Opioid Epidemic

The United States is in the midst of an opioid overdose epidemic. According to the CDC, opioids (including prescription opioids and heroin) killed more than 33,000 people in 2015, more than any year on record. Nearly half of all opioid overdose deaths involve a prescription opioid.

DHEC's Efforts to Combat Opioid Overdose Deaths

DHEC’s Bureaus of Drug Control and EMS play an integral role in combating opioid overdoses and deaths.

Drug Control and SCRIPTS

Drug Control administers the state’s prescription monitoring program (PMP) called the South Carolina Reporting & Identification Prescription Tracking System (SCRIPTS) which tracks the dispensing of controlled substance prescriptions in South Carolina.

  • In 2016, nearly five million opioid prescriptions filled in South Carolina. By using SCRIPTS, Drug Control monitors these transactions to better prevent diversion and abuse.
  • Drug Control is conducting several initiatives to improve information technology and access to SCRIPTS to make the PMP easier for providers to access and use.
  • SCRIPTS allows the exchange of information with participating states. South Carolina providers can query participating states directly through the SCRIPTS website.

Drug Control works with federal, state, and local government agencies to identify prescription drug abuse “hotspots.”

  • Drug Control is involved in multijurisdictional task forces that target specific geographic corridors where prescription drug abuse may be more prevalent.
  • Drug Control is working with the DEA, the S.C. Attorney General’s office, the U.S. Attorneys’ offices, state solicitors, and local law enforcement to improve investigation and prosecution of prescription drug abuse cases.

EMS and LEON

Since the 1970s, the Bureau of EMS has regulated and monitored paramedic usage of an opioid antidote called naloxone (the generic name for NARCANĀ®). Recently, EMS expanded the scope of practice for first responders including EMRs, EMTs, and AEMTs to authorize them to carry and use naloxone.

South Carolina EMS personnel administered naloxone 4,600 times in 2015, and 6,400 times in 2016, an increase of 39% in just one year.

After the South Carolina Overdose Prevention Act became law in 2015, DHEC, in collaboration with the Fifth Circuit Solicitor’s Office and DAODAS, created the Law Enforcement Officer Naloxone (LEON) program, which focuses on law enforcement officers who are frequently the first emergency responders to arrive on scene and response time is critical to saving lives. LEON’s goal is to provide comprehensive training to law enforcement agencies across South Carolina that focuses on identification, treatment and reporting of drug overdoses attributed to opioids.