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South Carolina Drug Addiction


Drug abuse and addiction is a major problem within the United States, disrupting lives in virtually every demographic. South Carolina drug addiction is a growing problem that needs to be addressed. Information about this issue can help you recognize whether it’s time to get help.

What is Street Drug Abuse?

Street or illicit drug abuse refers to the inappropriate use of any substance that currently is illegal to make, buy or sell. Typically, the “inappropriateness” of the drug use stems from using it in a way or for a purpose other than it was originally intended. The use of the drug also can be inappropriate because medical professionals have deemed it to be generally too unsafe, with the substance posing an extremely high risk of addiction or other negative side effects–in fact, most drugs that are illegal are banned due to safety concerns. Street drug abuse need not be a repeat occurrence, although many individuals use more than once and end up developing a pattern of consumption

South Carolina Drug Addiction and Abuse Facts

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that, nationally, 9.4% of those 12 years old and older have used an illicit drug within the past month. Looking more closely just at South Carolina, according to the National Survey on Drug Abuse and Health for 2012 and 2013, roughly 693,000 South Carolina residents age 12 or older admitted to having used an illicit drug within the past month. Of these, 284,000 were minors. Additionally, 2013 data from the S.C. Department of Alcohol & Other Drug Abuse Services shows that the number of treatment admissions where opiates/opioids were the primary problem has increased since 2003, as has the number of admissions where methamphetamine was the primary problem (1,391 to 2,792 and 241 to 771, respectively). The number of admissions where cocaine is identified as the primary issue, by contrast, is on the decline (3,648 to 1,591).

Commonly Abused Drugs

Minors and adults unfortunately have no shortage of drugs from which to choose. Three of the most commonly abused illicit drugs, however, include cocaine, heroin and crystal meth.


Cocaine is an addictive stimulant made from the coca plant. The Food and Drug Administration currently identifies it as a Schedule II drug according to the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), meaning that the drug has a very high risk of abuse but still can be prescribed by a physician for certain medical procedures.

Cocaine is extremely addictive because it floods the brain with dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers. Normally, dopamine gets recycled back into the cells that release it, shutting of signals between neurons. Cocaine stops this recycling and makes the dopamine build up, eventually disrupting regular brain communication and causing the user to feel high.

Cocaine can cause short-term problems such as allergic reactions, headaches, elevated body temperature, decreased appetite, nausea, abdominal pain and pupil dilation. Long-term use can cause malnourishment, nosebleeds and loss of sense of smell, swallowing difficulties, bowel gangrene. Cardiac arrest and cessation of breathing also are serious complications that can lead to death.

Compared to other substances such as opiates, cocaine is a bit different in terms of withdrawal in that physical symptoms are largely absent. Instead, the withdrawal involves intense cravings, fatigue, irritability and anxiety and difficulty feeling pleasure. Currently, there are no FDA-approved medications that treat cocaine addiction, so users entering treatment usually must gradually decrease their dosage and rely instead on various behavioral interventions, such as contingency management and cognitive behavioral therapy. Recovery groups and other forms of individual or family counseling can help, as can a residential approach.


Heroin is an opioid drug synthesized from morphine, which comes from the poppy plant. It is a Schedule I drug under the CSA, meaning that the risk of abuse and dependence is so high that doctors are not allowed to write prescriptions for it.

This substance reverts into morphine when it enters the brain. It then binds to the opioid receptors in the areas of the brain responsible for the perception of both pain and pleasure, causing the user to feel an intense rush. Addiction is also more likely because methods of taking heroin into the body allow it to enter the brain extremely fast.

In the short term, heroin users might experience flushed skin, dry mouth, itching, a heavy feeling in the extremities and nausea and/or vomiting. Drowsiness, slowed breathing and heart rate are additional effects, as is clouded mental function. Long-term side effects include heart infection, liver disease, kidney disease, gastrointestinal cramping, constipation, collapsed veins and pulmonary problems. Coma, brain damage and death can occur, often because breathing stops.

Individuals who enter treatment for heroin abuse or addiction may opt for outpatient, day patient or inpatient care, depending on the severity of the problem. They also can select from a range of counseling options and behavioral therapies. Unlike with stimulants and sedatives, professionals can also help heroin users with medications, such as methadone. These substances reduce withdrawal symptoms (muscle and bone pain, insomnia, vomiting, diarrhea, cold flashes, restlessness, muscle kicking, etc.) and allow the user to more safely stop using.


Methamphetamine is a stimulant drug that can be snorted, injected, smoked or taken by mouth. Like cocaine, methamphetamine is a Schedule II drug under the CSA.

The addictive nature of methamphetamine comes from the fact that it is similar in size, shape and chemical structure to the “pleasure” neurotransmitter, dopa. It fools neurons in the brain into taking it up, after which it causes the neurons to release large amounts of dopamine. The result is a pleasurable high.

Short-term side effects resulting from methamphetamine include increased wakefulness and physical activity, decreased appetite and lowered fatigue. Methamphetamine also can cause increased breathing, heart rate and body temperature, as well as elevated blood pressure and irregular heartbeat. In the long term, a user might experience dental problems, weight loss, skin sores, reduced motor skills, emotional and cognitive problems, confusion and psychosis.

Although research is progressing into drugs that might be helpful in treating methamphetamine abuse or addiction, as with cocaine, there currently are no FDA-approved medications that can make assist with recovery. Treatments primarily rely on behavioral and contingency interventions, although individuals still have many choices in terms of counseling, whether they enter a facility on an outpatient, day patient or inpatient basis and access to other services such as dietary guidance.

Reclaim Your Life

Trying to handle street drug abuse or addiction on your own can be very unsafe due to the dangerous symptoms often present during withdrawal. It’s also helpful to have a good support system that can provide accountability and information. Get the help you need at an accredited treatment facility near you now.