Actor's death a warning, SC officials say

A makeshift memorial is seen, Monday, Feb. 3, 2014, outside the building where the body of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman was found in New York. Hoffman, 46, was found dead Sunday in his apartment.
Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014 8:39 AM
Last updated 6:27 PM
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COLUMBIA - The suspected overdose death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman serves as a tragic reminder, said a top drug-treatment official in South Carolina.

Hoffman  AP

In short: Heroin remains a destructive addiction, even as prescription painkillers emerge as a growing trend in opiate addiction.

“It brings it back to the forefront, that heroin’s out there, and it’s cheap to get,” said Lee Dutton, the manager of external affairs and provider support for the S.C. Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services, after a meeting with a House budget subcommittee.

“It’s still a problem,” said Dutton. “You can snort it, and you can inhale it, and it’s $6 a packet. Our concern is not only the person taking it, but certainly it’s accessible to kids, and kids can afford $6.”

He said that although heroin is an opiate, the surging trend has been in prescription drug opiates.

Earlier this week Dutton presented the agency’s budget needs to four lawmakers and emphasized the growing concern about prescription drug opiate addiction.

“We hope to do something with a prescription drug monitoring program,” said Dutton, since the agency received some prescription drug settlement money.

A report issued by state officials in 2012 said opiate overdoses, once almost always resulting from heroin use, was now increasingly due to abuse of prescription painkillers.

Officials estimate one in 10 South Carolinians - or 315,000 people - suffers from substance abuse serious enough to warrant immediate intervention and treatment.

“I’m with you on the prescription monitoring. I see more and more problems where people have an addiction to opiates and painkillers,” said Rep. Murrell Smith, R-Sumter, who chairs the health care budget subcommittee.

“What I’m more concerned about is the average person who receives a prescription and has an addiction,” said the lawmaker.

“Yes, they did commit a crime, but not everyone’s arrested,” he said. “I just want to make sure we have a system in place where people can receive treatment.”

Pregnancy and addiction

Materials submitted to Smith’s subcommittee this week also revealed that substance abuse services provided to pregnant women increased 3.3 percent.

The reasons?

“We’re focusing on it. And when you focus on it, you’re going to identify it. And we’ve done that in association with the Birth Outcomes Initiative,” said Dutton.

“We want to catch these ladies at a much earlier stage in pregnancy and get them into treatment and them get them off of whatever substance they might be using.”

In his cover letter to lawmakers, DAODAS head Robert Toomey wrote that he wasn’t requesting an increase in recurring general fund dollars.

However, the department is seeking $100,000 in unclaimed lottery prize money to devote to treating gambling addiction. Since 2004, the agency has helped about 3,000 people with pathological gambling dependencies and other gambling-related problems.

Advocates for the elderly are also taking notice.

On Thursday Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell plans to present a legislative proposal to protect vulnerable seniors from prescription drug theft and reduce prescription drug abuse and trafficking.

Relatives and caregivers have been pilfering medicine cabinets in private homes and licensed residential facilities. And South Carolina ranks 23rd per capita in prescription drug overdose deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Seniors are oftentimes known for having stockpiles of excess prescription medicine on hand, and this habit can create temptation for anyone who abuses prescription drugs and has access to a senior’s medicine cabinet,” said McConnell in a news release.

A state Inspector General report last year concluded that state authorities have no systematic understanding of South Carolina’s painkiller problem, but that it’s probably worse than the average state.

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GnipGnop 02/06/14 - 01:49 pm
This may sound harsh

but it's hard for me to have sympathy for someone that has it all and wastes his life like this....

GiantsAllDay 02/06/14 - 02:04 pm
I liked PSH and I appreciated

I liked PSH and I appreciated his talent as an actor. I always loved his delivery of this line in Almost Famous: "The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you're uncool."

oldredneckman96 02/06/14 - 06:20 pm

So Hollywood will mobilize for any politically correct movement, but does not care that dope kills a disproportionate number of their members? Why are they not marching on DC to put drug dealers behind bars forever? The same disproportionate number is on dope! We adults have to force our lawmakers to enact life sentences for dope dealers! See your child primping the mirror pretending to be some kid star, save his or her life now.

IBeDogGone 02/06/14 - 10:42 pm

Methadone is the prescription synthetic Heroin and is prescribed and abused, I work in health care and am amazed at the number of providers that see patients and do not do drug testing before prescribing opiates from patients seeking pain medication. Too many times in the practices I have worked in a patient is tested and they have no opiates in their system but test positive for street drugs, what are they doing they are using taxpayers money to recieve free drugs and selling them for their drug of choice. Providers who are ethical will dismiss these patients from their practice when this happens and other providers will continue to prescribe these drugs for the $ marks they see, I think part of the Affordable Healthcare Act should include mandatory drug testing when these prescriptions are written and stricter monitoring of Provider who do not comply.

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