1 in 4 Horry County residents needed substance abuse help last year, United Way survey finds

Grand Strand

FILE – This Aug. 29, 2018, file photo shows an arrangement of prescription oxycodone pills in New York. U.S. health officials are again warning doctors against abandoning chronic pain patients by abruptly stopping their opioid prescriptions. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services instead urged doctors Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019, to share such decisions with patients. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) – One in four people in Horry County needed help for substance abuse last year, according to the results of a new survey from the United Way.

“It’s not just the homeless people in the alleyway,” said Blakely Roof, the president and CEO of the United Way of Horry County. “It touches on everybody.”

The nonprofit, which uses donations to provide grants to local agencies, sent out a community needs assessment last year to get a scope on problems in the community. 

That statistic was based on information that was self-reported, and includes substances like alcohol. The more surprising aspect, Roof said, was that so many people admitted that they have a problem with abusing substances.

After speaking to police agencies in the area about overdose numbers, she wasn’t surprised the statistic was so high.

“We did this survey last year – put out in COVID – but you had all these people who were not at home, they didn’t have anything to do, and so they turned to drugs,” Roof said. “You are just killing time.”

The survey also found that 55% of the 3,800 people who took the survey needed help with their mental health in 2020. When people aren’t treated for anxiety and depression, they can easily turn to substances as a way to self-medicate. 

Overdose deaths increased by 45.7% from 2018 to 2019, and there was a 54.1% increase in opioid-related deaths during that same time, according to data in the community needs assessment summary.

In 2019, there were 1,051 unintentional overdose deaths in the state, up from 1,103 the previous year, according a report from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control. 2020 data has not been published. That’s almost double the 577 unintentional overdose deaths in 2010.

In Horry County, there were 153 drug overdose deaths in 2019, giving the area a rate of 49.2 overdose deaths per 100,000 people. The most commonly found substance found in those who overdosed was prescription drugs.

Roof said the new data shows that everyone knows somebody who is struggling with an addiction. 

Roof said the organization had 6,000 referrals last year regarding substance abuse.

The survey results will help the United Way of Horry County shape its strategic plans – and will be used as a fundraising tool to show where the needs are.

She wants people to get the help they need before they end up in jail with convictions on their permanent records. 

People can receive information on free resources in the area by calling 2-1-1.

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