AIKEN COUNTY, Ga. (WJBF) — Aiken County is seeing an increase in drug overdose deaths sparking questions about what’s contributing to this rise.
“We’re looking at 50 overdose deaths with seven still pending from July to August, and we haven’t made it to the end of the year yet,” said Aiken County Coroner Darryl Ables.
Ables tells NewsChannel 6 if all the pending lab results come back as expected, the county will have more deaths in the first eight months of 2020 than it did in 2018 and 2019 combined.
Why these numbers are rising remains a question. Ables said a number of factors may be contributing, including the availability of drugs in the county.
“The main deaths we’re seeing are from methamphetamine use. Methamphetamine use along with heroin and other opiates are contributing to these high numbers,” said Ables.
Other causes may be related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Linda Brown, the overdose prevention coordinator for the South Carolina Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services says rehabilitation services were forced to quickly change their operations this past Spring due to virus-related restrictions. People suffering from addiction or substance abuse were also introduced to a new normal.
“It’s due in part to the anxiety and, more specifically, the isolation, anxiety and fear caused because of the pandemic,” said Brown.
Aiken Center provides substance abuse services to anyone seeking help. Its executive director, Margaret Key, says the doors are always open, and they don’t turn anyone away if they can’t afford the services.
“You don’t have to be a patient here. Ask for a recovery coach from the Aiken center. They can meet you at a park. It’s anonymous and confidential,” said Key.