“This stuff can kill you”
New, synthetic drugs are more dangerous because of where-they’re-made uncertainty.
People who deal with drug overdoses and dependencies have a new demographic to watch - 18-45 year old white males. They are dying at alarming rates, all over the country, because they are taking too many opioids.
The pain-management medicines are effective, physicians and pharmacists say, but for a variety of reasons these drugs are being abused. The most dangerous consequence of the problem, the circuit’s chief prosecutor said, is sudden death.
“This stuff can kill you,” 8th Circuit Solicitor David Stumbo says, flatly.
Stumbo said he is concerned that instead of giving law enforcement more tools to separate drug pushers from drug abusers, the South Carolina General Assembly is considering ways to let more drug-possession defendants out of prison.
It is a myth, Stumbo said, that the state’s prisons are full of drug addicts.
Through successful programs such as Drug Court, those dependent on drugs can be separated from those peddling drugs for profit. Those profiteers, Stumbo said, must be convicted and stay in prison.
Drug addicts have “the hammer” of a prison sentence hanging over them as a result of Drug Court. Stumbo said that makes the consequence of abusing and circulating drugs very real for those who are addicted.
Stumbo and his prosecutors have successfully jailed one suspect who sold drugs to a person who later died, winning a case for involuntary manslaughter. That was in Greenwood, and there’s a similar case pending in Laurens.
Sentencing equity needs to be addressed in these cases, Stumbo said - involuntary manslaughter carries a 5-year prison term, distribution of illegal drugs carries a 15-year prison term. Defendants know they can plead guilty to involuntary manslaughter and save themselves 10 years in prison.
The May 7 community forum about opioids was sponsored by the Laurens County Prevention Coalition. The group of combined drug counseling, medical, and enforcement agencies meets each third Wednesday at noon, at the Laurens County Higher Education Center. They all know - and actions of Gov. Henry McMaster have stressed - there needs to be a combined “war on opioids abuse” before South Carolina is drowning in corpses - just like Ohio.
Locking up all the opioid abusers isn’t going to work, on its own.
Counseling all opioid abusers isn’t going to work, on its own.
Administering Narcan, a nasal spray, and bringing opioid abusers - and sometimes police and K-9 officers exposed to dangerous drugs - back from the dead isn’t going to work, on its own.
One reason people are dying is that drug cartels are supplementing illegal substances with fentanyl, a powerful anti-pain medicine. Now, there’s a 10-times more powerful form, carfentanil, that has been approved for prescriptions. Somebody might take five doses of an illegal, fentanyl-laced drug, then take 10 doses and be fine; then, that next dose is fatal. Drug cartels don’t know, or really care, how much fentanyl kills a person - they just want to put in enough to keep people addicted and keep the money rolling in. Law enforcement says these dangerous drugs are originating in Singapore, going to Mexico, and then smuggled into the United States.
It makes sense - cartels want to sell their product in the richest nation on earth.
“We have a prevention element - if not, it will lead to experimentation. That’s why we have reactivated DARE. We have overdose mapping. Now we know how to prepare for an influx of drugs,” Laurens Police Chief Chrissie Cofield said.
“Every point on that line (fatal-overdose graph) represents a person. Their deaths impact their community. The hardest thing we will ever do in law enforcement is a death notification,” Clinton Police Sonny Ledda said.
Sometimes, the introduction to drugs is as simple as an early-teen finding a medicine bottle in the home when the parents aren’t there. It’s a legacy of “grandma’s medicine cabinet” - get a boo-boo, take a pill.
That’s known in the trade as “low perception of risk” - “If it comes from a doctor, it must be safe. But it’s not, if it’s taken wrong. Drugs are ranked, have always been ranked. Pills are cleaner drugs, they look safe,” said Charlie Stinson of the Gateway Counseling Center.
So how can people “Help Stop the Epidemic,” this is some advice from justplainkillers.com:
“Taking a few simple steps can help fight the opioid epidemic here in South Carolina.
“For example, if you have an illness or condition, have had surgery or an injury, understand that there may be some pain. Then, follow your doctor’s orders about taking medication. But don’t be afraid to ask questions or voice concerns about prescriptions - be your own advocate.
“Always store medications carefully and get rid of unused drugs. You can also protect your identity by removing labels before throwing away prescription containers. You just might save someone’s life - even one you know and love.”
(More info about this forum and the coalition: 864-833-6500.)