Opioid Information

The opioid epidemic affects many people. It may affect someone you know and love. Learn more about opioids to know the risks and dangers, so you can protect yourself and your family.

What are opioids?

Opioids are medicines that are used to treat pain. About five million opioid prescriptions are filled in South Carolina each year.1 Prescription opioids include methadone, oxycodone and fentanyl. There are also illegal opioids, such as heroin.

Opioids are highly addictive. Since there are so many opioid prescriptions, they can be easy to find in many households. This ease of access can present an addiction risk for some people. Four in five heroin users started by first using prescription opioids.1

It is very important to be careful when dealing with opioids. They should only be used as directed by your provider.

Opioid dependency

Anyone who takes opioids may be at risk for becoming dependent. About one in four patients using long-term opioid treatment as prescribed will struggle with dependence.2 It can take as little as three days to develop an opioid dependency.1

Opioid dependence can lead to several health issues, including2:

  • Drowsiness.
  • Confusion.
  • Constipation.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Depression.
  • Itching and sweating.

Opioid use can also lead to overdose and death. In 2017, more than 47,000 people died from drug overdoses involving opioids.3 That includes 748 opioid overdose deaths in South Carolina, a 21.4 percent increase from 2016.4

For more information

To learn more about opioid use and resources, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “Opioid Overdose Prevention” website.

You can join the fight to help combat the opioid epidemic with the South Carolina Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services. You could help save a life.

If you want to find treatment options in South Carolina, visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s website. Select Buprenorphine Practitioners from the search option to find providers who offer medication-assisted treatment for opioids.

You can contact First ChoiceSM if you have questions or need help. Call Member Services at 1-888-276-2020 (TTY 1-888-765-9586)


1. “What Are Opioids?”, JustPlainKillers.com, accessed January 30, 2019.

2. “Prescription Opioids,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, accessed June 1, 2023.

3. “Drug Overdose Deaths,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, accessed June 1, 2023.

4. “Drug Overdose Deaths: South Carolina,” South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, accessed June 1, 2023