A standing-room only crowd of more than 400 community members packed a meeting room inside the Base Recreation Center Tuesday night to learn more about an epidemic that has claimed more than 60 lives so far this year in Horry County.
Like in other cities big and small across the country, heroin use is on the rise in Myrtle Beach and across the county. And the turnout Tuesday night revealed a growing mass of community partners that aren’t ready to let the drug destroy them.
“We would have held this at the convention center, but who knew the crowd would be this large?” noted Myrtle Beach City Councilwoman Mary Jeffcoat as she stood in a line outside the rec center.
Heroin overdoses have killed 61 people so far, Horry County Chief Deputy Coroner Tamara Willard told the crowd. Some of those overdose deaths have been linked to fentanyl, a deadly narcotic sometimes sold as heroin although it is estimated to be 50 to 100 times stronger than the street drug.
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Detective Chris White with the Myrtle Beach Police Department says drug use has fueled crime, citing statistics from July 2015 to July 2016 that show 1,131 cases of shoplifting, 494 burglaries, 904 car break-ins, multiple prostitution arrests and cases of addicts trading children for heroin.
“This is an example of a recent investigation we had: heroin dealers, they were dealing crack and heroin (and) they operated it as a business,” he said. The operation was open “24 hours a day, seven days a week,” he added.
The drugs were available on delivery through phone orders, he said.
In addition to heroin and fentanyl, White said they have also seen the rise of an opiate drug code-named W18. “It’s synthetic. It’s made in homemade labs with precursors from China. It’s 100 times more potent than fentanyl,” he said.
Two people who overdosed on heroin in Myrtle Beach on Sunday told police they had used heroin for the first time. Police and medics responded to an overdose at 2:48 a.m. at the Joe Jan Apartments, 208 Chester St., where three others had overdosed five times on heroin earlier this month.
This time officers say they found 35-year-old Joshua Dooley unresponsive in a bedroom. Medics gave him two milligrams of Narcan to revive him. A woman at the home told officers that Dooley sat on a couch in the bedroom and fell to the floor unresponsive, according to an incident report. A downstairs neighbor responded and started CPR.
After Dooley came to, he admitted to shooting up heroin for the first time and police said he told them he obtained the drug at the apartments.
Less than 11 hours later, a mile-and-a-half away, police and medics were called to Futrell Park for another “first-time” overdose.
Twenty-nine-year-old Steven Charles Glymp was unresponsive when rescue crews arrived, police said. First responders gave him Narcan to bring him back from death’s door. Glymp told police he had never tried heroin before, but was offered it so he used it and walked to the park, according to an incident report.
Bystanders called 911 when they saw him lying motionless under a tree. He was transported to the hospital.
A few hours later, at 5 p.m., officers were called to the Sea Park Motel at 1501 N. Ocean Blvd. to find a man, who later admitted to using heroin, flooding a room in an attempt to cool off, police said.
Owners of the motel told police they noticed water dripping from a balcony and went to investigate, eventually opening the door of room 302 to find the place flooded with water pouring from faucets in the kitchen and bathroom.
The owner told police she saw 43-year-old Matthew Scott Wentz “pouring water all over himself stating that he was hot,” according to an incident report. Wentz told police he was trying to “cool off” after taking a “hit from a stem of possibly heroin” earlier in the day, officials said.
Wentz was charged with destruction of property.