3 calls, 6 hours: MB sees spike in overdose calls while county drug death numbers grow

Agencies and community gathered to raise awareness against heroin

The community, local and federal agencies gathered at Coastal Carolina University to raise awareness against heroin Thursday evening.
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The community, local and federal agencies gathered at Coastal Carolina University to raise awareness against heroin Thursday evening.

Myrtle Beach police responded to multiple drug overdose calls during a six-hour span on Tuesday night as the number of overdose deaths in Horry County continues to trend upward.

According to Myrtle Beach police data, between 5 p.m. and midnight officers responded to three separate drug overdose calls. They had no other drug overdose reports in the previous six days.

In one of the incidents, officers went to a Jefferson Place apartment for a reported heroin overdose. A witness told authorities the victim was turning blue and barely had a pulse, according to a police report. The witness gave the victim Narcan and he began to wake up.

Narcan (Naloxone) is a medication that counteracts an opioid overdose. Police officers across the country - including many in Horry County - carry the drug to administer it if someone experiences an overdose.

The victim went to the hospital, and officers did not file charges in the case due to the state’s Good Samaritan Law, according to the police report. The law prevents criminal charges against a caregiver who provides Naloxone to a person in need.

Myrtle Beach police officials say the number of drug overdose calls they respond to in a day varies.

When using Narcan, officers are trained to look for indicators that include someone not breathing, no pain response or evidence of drug use. Officers will administer Narcan to anyone displaying signs of an overdose, cops say.

Overall, Horry County 911 received 13 overdose calls in the last seven days, according to Kelly Moore, county spokeswoman.

Horry County police have not administered Narcan in the last seven days, according to Mikayla Moskov, agency spokeswoman.

Statewide there were 341 Narcan uses by police between January and October 2018, up from 168 in all of 2017.

Horry County police ranked second in most Narcan uses by law enforcement in South Carolina. HCPD officers provided the drug 26 times. The Greenville County Sheriff’s Office ranked 1st with 80 uses, according to data from the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.

Myrtle Beach police ranked 4th with 21 uses, and Conway police ranked 7th with 14 applications.

More than a half-million people died from opioids between 2000 and 2015. Today, opioid deaths are considered an epidemic. To understand the struggle of a drug addiction, we take a closer look at what happens to the body.

The number of overdose deaths also continues to increase in Horry County. Between November 2018 and January 2019, there were 29 overdose deaths, according to the Horry County Coroner’s Office. That is up from 20 from November 2017 to January 2018 and 26 in the same 2016-17 period.

Coroner Robert Edge said he hopes the figures will drop, but is resigned that they will continue to hold steady or grow.

“It sure is,” Edge said of his concern with the growth. “You wonder why we can’t get it under control.”

There are issues with manpower and funding that contribute to the problem, Edge said. He added he also believes Fentanyl leads to more deaths. Fentanyl is often mixed with pure heroin or cocaine and increases the risk of an overdose.

Edge said there were about 130 overdose deaths in Horry County in all of 2018.

Reporter Hannah Strong contributed to this report.

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Alex Lang is the True Crime reporter for The Sun News covering the legal system and how crime impacts local residents. He says letting residents know if they are safe is a vital role of a newspaper. Alex has covered crime in Detroit, Iowa, New York City, West Virginia and now Horry County.