Local Experts Discuss the Impact, Treatment Options for Opioid Abuse

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO)- According to DHEC, deaths from heroin and opioid overdoses outnumbered homicides last year, saying almost 5 million opioid prescriptions were filled in our state. Experts said this issue is becoming increasingly worse in our area.

“We our starting now to see some really big increases in this particular problem in here in the state of South Carolina. There’s been about 550 people who died of an overdose to opioids just this year alone. That’s a 20 percent increase over the year before,” said Dr. Christina Andrew of the University of South Carolina’s Department of Social Work.

Though the number of people battling opioid addiction seems to be on the rise, experts said the number of people who actually seek treatment remains low.

“Only about 12% of people who have a substance abuse disorder of any kind ever get any kind of treatment for their condition over their lifetime. The big reasons for that have to do with cost of treatment, lack of insurance, long waitlists to try to get into treatment and then finally stigma,” Andrews said.

Experts said treatment options can be costly, with some costing as much as $25,000 for 30 days.

As the fate of the Affordable Care Act is currently up for debate, some believe the legislation opened doors for some substance abuse patients to be treated.

“The Affordable Care Act has been incredibly important for improving substance use disorder treatment in the United States. Approximately, 22 million people have gained coverage as a result of the Affordable Care Act ,” said Andrews.

Staff members with LRADAC, a non-profit serving people in Lexington and Richland counties, say they provide payment options to aid those who need it.

“While we do bill insurance and charge fees for services, we do not turn anyone away because of an inability to pay. So what we are able to do is work on a fee schedule, payment plans, and through our foundation we have the recovery scholarship fund so people are able to apply for financial assistance through that so we can make sure they are not turned away,” said Community Relations Coordinator Allison Brumfield.