Arrests not a ‘full approach’ to Horry County heroin problem, police say

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) – Leaders from all over Horry County met Wednesday night in Myrtle Beach. On the agenda: how to combat the growing heroin and prescription drug problem.

“You can’t arrest out of the problem,” said Lt. Robert Swanson with Myrtle Beach Police. “That’s not gonna be a full approach.”

Swanson said fighting to keep drugs off Horry and Georgetown County streets is more than just a law enforcement issue.

“We’ve got it broken into treatment subcommittees, education subcommittees, and law enforcement committees,” Swanson explained.

That’s why the seasoned law enforcement official was at Wednesday night’s League of Cities meeting: to explain how drug treatment and education are just as important when it comes to solving the county’s drug problem.

“That way, these people can use their skills to better answer the questions that we need in each subcommittee,” Swanson said.

News13 has reported on the nearly 20 deaths per month caused by Horry County’s heroin epidemic. A 2016 United nations report said heroin use in the U.S. has reached a 20-year high, with the number of addicts growing threefold from 2003 to 2014.

Swanson said he’s proud Horry County leaders are taking charge against drug addiction.

“I think it’s a huge program. I’m very pleased to be involved with it,” he said.

The 15th Judicial Circuit’s drug enforcement plan involves nearly 70 members from Horry and Georgetown Counties, including law enforcement from local to state and federal agencies. Drug treatment plans involve working with doctors to find solutions for discomfort that don’t include prescribing pain medication.

“When that pain medication script runs out and they can no longer feel it, unfortunately they can turn to illegal heroin on the streets to feed their addiction,” Swanson explained.

The program is also getting support from local schools and universities.

“Not only does that help get the word out with college students, but they’re helping with public service announcements which gives the students a chance to work within their interests,” Swanson said.

He said from the law enforcement side, helping people get rid of these medications when they’re no longer needed can go a long way toward keeping them out of the wrong hands.

“Working on drug drop boxes to put at each police department,” offered Lt. Swanson. “So people can discard their old or unused medications, especially pain medications.”

Swanson said the biggest part of the program is giving addicts and those who need help a place they know they can go and get it.

“If we can give them a business card where they can go and seek help at 1:30 in the morning, when they’re feeling bad about their lifestyle, they can turn to that and look for help,” Swanson said.