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An epidemic on top of a pandemic: Local drug abuse skyrockets

Published: Sep. 23, 2020 at 6:22 PM EDT
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AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) - The pandemic is making another health crisis worse. For people living with drug addiction, social isolation can mean deadly consequences.

The Aiken County Coroner’s Office says there have been 52 accidental overdose deaths this year, and one group is on a mission to save more lives by giving away what they can.

Narcan can be lifesaving, but sadly since the pandemic started, it’s been saving lives at a much higher pace. But the growing drug problem can’t be fixed just by this.

Baker Campbell knows what it’s like to be an addict.

“I used whatever I could to change and to try and feel different -- or feel nothing," he said, adding that this "was often better than the way that I felt.”

He says he lost 10 years of his life to drugs and alcohol. But for the past few years, he’s been in recovery and helping people at the Aiken Center just like him as a recovery coach.

“It’s like, ‘Hey man, I’ve literally walked this path. I’ve laid in this bed. I’ve done this. I’ve been rooted in this crap before,’” Campbell said.

And that’s why he was giving out Narcan and counseling those who need it. The Aiken Center gave out 14 boxes of Narcan and 17 pouches of the drug disposal Deterra.

“We have clients that we know have addiction issues,” said Elisabeth Merritt, executive director of Community Ministry of North Augusta.

Merritt center leaders plan to start keeping Narcan on site.

In Aiken County, there were 12 accidental overdose deaths until March, and there have been 40 since then. That’s more than all of 2018 and 2019.

“You’re having people who have not been using recently, going out and using opioids,” Campbell said.

But why? The Aiken Center says many have lost their connections and online meetings aren’t doing enough.

“Now, it’s just like even more people. And how are we going to get to everybody? Well, we’re trying. But we need the community’s help," Campbell said. " We need everybody’s help.”

How to get help

  • The Aiken Center will be out on Thursday and Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. giving out Narcan and Deterra. They say anybody can come by because anyone could need it.
  • If you or someone you know needs help with substance abuse, you can call the Aiken Center at 803-649-1900., or call South Carolina 211.
  • If you’re in Georgia, you can call the helpline at 800-338-6745.
  • For resources on overdose prevention, finding a recovery provider, pain management and overdose data, visit www.justplainkillers.com
  • Naloxone, an opioid overdose antidote, is available without a prescription. For patients with insurance or payment concerns, many community distributors offer free doses of Narcan. For more information visit naloxonesavessc.org
  • Medication disposal sites are available for unused prescriptions. Find locations at justplainkillers.com/drug-safety
  • During the upcoming National Prescription Take Back Day on Oct. 24, additional locations will be available for the safe, convenient, and responsible disposal of unused or expired prescription drugs. A complete list of locations will be available and posted in the coming weeks at takebackday.dea.gov.
  • Additional information about DHEC opioid prevention programs for families and community organizations is available at www.scdhec.gov/opioid-epidemic.
  • Health care providers can help identify and intervene with patients at risk for psychosocial or healthcare problems related to substance use using the screening, brief intervention and referral to treatment model.

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