Health & Fitness

Over 240 million opioid pills given to people in SC in 2018. That’s down from 2017.

The number of prescription opioid pills distributed in South Carolina declined more than 44 million in 2018 compared to 2017, according to data from the Department of Health and Environmental Control.

Even with the decline, more than 240 million opioid pills were given to people in a state with a population of about 5 million, meaning each person in the Palmetto State could have received around 47 pills in 2018.

The number of pills per person in 2018 decreased from 2017, when the average was 57 pills for each person, the department data shows.

The decline in total pills distributed was reported by WCBD.

Nearly 750 deaths in South Carolina involved opioid overdoses, according to the department.

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The quantity of pills in the Midlands also sunk. In 2017 and 2018 in Richland County, the pill count went from about 13 million to about 11.5 million doses. In Lexington County, pill distribution declined by about 1.5 million to around 13 million. Nearly 2 million fewer pills were doled out in Kershaw, Newberry, Orangeburg and Sumter counties.

Many counties and municipalities in the United States have sued opioid manufacturers and pharmacies, claiming they knew how addictive and destructive the drugs could be but sold them anyway. In South Carolina, five counties have sued companies, including Richland County.

On Wednesday, The State reported that between 2006 and 2012 Columbia saw more than 51.6 million doses of pain pills. The revelation came after The Washington Post published detailed state-by-state Drug Enforcement Agency data on opioid distribution between those years.

The latest DHEC numbers show that Greenville, Spartanburg, Horry, Anderson and Lexington counties saw the highest circulation of opioid pills in 2018, with Greenville being the only county in South Carolina to receive more than 20 million dosages.

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David Travis Bland won the South Carolina Press Association’s 2017 Judson Chapman Award for community journalism. As The State’s crime, police and public safety reporter, he strives to inform communities about crimes that affect them and give deeper insight into victims, the accused and law enforcement. He studied history with a focus on the American South at the University of South Carolina.