How the pandemic is making an already bad situation – worse.

Every day, 128 people die in the United States after overdosing on opioids.

Since the pandemic began, 40 states have reported increases in opioid-related mortality, according to the American Medical Association (AMA).

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the U.S. is seeing an increase in opioid usage. We know that anxiety, grief, isolation, financial worries, changes at home and work, and an ongoing sense of uncertainty can all threaten people with a substance use disorder (SUD) as well as those at risk of developing one.

Grand Strand Health is working to drive evidence-based care, reduce opioid misuse and transform pain management, with initiatives in surgical, emergency and other care settings. We continue to expand our approach to pain management and work with our physicians to choose alternatives to opioids for acute pain management whenever possible.

Our goal is to help our doctors choose alternative medication to hit various pain receptors as a first line treatment for common, painful conditions. This coupled with electronic prescribing of controlled substances (EPCS) we aim to stem increasing rates of opioid-related addiction, misuse diversion and death by making it more difficult for medication-seekers to doctor-shop and alter prescriptions all while, allowing physicians to prescribe opioids judiciously.

More than half of people who misuse opioid medications report stealing them from someone they know, going to multiple doctors to get additional prescriptions, and filling prescriptions at different pharmacies so that no one will notice how many pills they get each month.

Grand Strand Health believes that we can do even more to help curb the rate of abuse and death by organizing take back events to get old and unused medications from procedures, surgeries and injuries out of home medicine cabinets and away from children, teens and those at highest risk.

Teens hold a common misperception that prescription drugs are less harmful than other drugs; in the past year, two-thirds of teens who misused pain relievers reported that they got them from family, friends and the home medicine cabinet. And every minute of every day, a poison control center answers a call about a young child who has accidentally ingested a medication.

It’s clear, no corner of the country or age group has gone untouched from the opioid crisis. The safest and most responsible option to dispose of medication is to take unwanted medications to a drug take back site or event. Unused opioids thrown in the trash can be retrieved and abused or sold illegally. Flushing medications down the toilet pose a potentially health and environmental hazard.

“Stress related to the COVID-19 pandemic may be exacerbating the opioid crisis by causing many Americans to have feelings of anxiety, grief, isolation, financial worry, and an ongoing sense of uncertainty, affecting those with substance use disorders as well as those at risk of developing one,” said Dr. George Helmrich, chief medical officer of Grand Strand Health. “Now is more important than ever to get unused pain medications out of homes and to educate the community about the serious threat of opioid misuse.”

Find a nearby Crush the Crisis collection site or call the toll free number (833) 582-1970.