Opioid-related overdoses in the United States have increased by 33% over the past 5 years. America's opioid crisis is increasing across demographic groups and spreading geographically. South Carolina is one of the states in the southern region of the United States that experiences an unusually high rate of opioid-related deaths. In 2016, 616 deaths occurred in South Carolina from drug overdoses from prescription opioid drugs, up 9% from 2015. South Carolina residents filled nearly 4.5 million opioid prescriptions in 2015, which is greater than 1.5 times the national average.
In 2017, the governor of South Carolina declared a statewide public health emergency in response to the growing opioid crisis. In response, a committee of the South Carolina House of Representatives released a report in January 2018 on its opioid abuse prevention study and made recommendations on ways to reduce the number of opioid-related deaths.
This article examines the strengths and weaknesses of South Carolina's state action plan to combat opioid-related deaths in the context of what other states have done to address opioid abuse, as well as the scientific literature on pain management. Several state opioid action plans, including South Carolina's and West Virginia's, were identified and evaluated.
This article describes (1) several legislative and nonlegislative strategies being considered in South Carolina for addressing the crisis, (2) an assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of these proposals and how they compare with other states that have also implemented response plans, and (3) an examination of the scientific literature to determine best practices for treating patients who are currently taking opioids, as well as discussing alternative approaches to pain management. The authors make several recommendations to improve upon South Carolina's opioid abuse prevention plan, such as engaging communities and encouraging multistakeholder collaboration to expand access to treatment, particularly among the most vulnerable populations.