Opioid overdoses have skyrocketed since the late 1990's, becoming the worst drug epidemic in modern American history. Over 42,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses in 2016—more than deaths from automobile accidents or firearm-related homicides. The problem has become an epidemic in Horry County, the county that Coastal Carolina University is located in.
According to Coastal Carolina University Department of Public Safety, there is currently no signs of an opioid crisis on campus.
Thomas Mezzapelle, the Captain of Public Safety at Coastal Carolina University has been working for Coastal for more than 25 years and hasn’t seen more than a dozen Opioid related cases.
“We have not really seen opioids on campus, I think in the 26 years that I've been here we've gotten less than a dozen cases where we have ever found any kind opioids on somebody and most of those were actually not recently,” Mezzapelle said.
However, Coastal Carolina University's campus is in Horry County, which struggles with an opioid problem. According to a study done by South Carolina’s Health and Environmental Control, DHEC, Horry County ranked number three in the state for drug overdose deaths, falling behind Greenville and Charleston in 2017. Horry County did see a decrease in the numbers of deaths from 2016 to 2017. DHEC also shows that Horry County ranks second in the state for the number of opioids prescribed in 2017.
NARCAN, also known as naloxone, is a drug that reverses the effects of opioids, either partially or completely. NARCAN has been known to save the lives of people who are experiencing an overdose. Coastal Carolina University’s public safety has their own supply of NARCAN. Each member of public safety that has a supply has been trained in the correct ways to administer the drug and cannot administer the drug if they have not been trained.
"The majority, if not all of our officers, I think everyone has gone through it at this point, have been trained to use Narcan and have been prescribed Narcan to carry with them,” Mezzapelle said.
For those struggling with any sort of addiction, CCU has many resources and groups that can be beneficial to students. There is an AA group that meets every Monday night in Lackey Chapel. The meetings are open to all students. Coastal is also working on trying to better help those students who are in recovery.
Elizabeth Carter, Director of Livewell at Coastal Carolina, is working alongside other facility and staff members to provide better resources to students in recovery.
“We are hoping to increase our resources for students in recovery and we would love to have people get in touch with us if they are interested in that so that we can really start developing what some of those supports might be here at Coastal,” Carter said.
Students should not hesitate to call public safety at 843-349-2911 or 911 if they suspect a drug overdose of any kind, even if students do not live on campus, they can still call CCU Public Safety.
“If they see somebody that is in trouble from an overdose from any type of drug please, please, please report that as quickly as possible, those people need help immediately and we need to get to them and get them to hospital,” Mezzapelle said.