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In 2013, South Carolina posted 620 drug overdose related deaths for an age adjusted mortality rate of 13 for every 10,000 residents.

This increased to 701 deaths in 2014 accounting for a 14.4 mortality rate associated with drug overdose. Also in 2013, there were only about 20,000 South Carolina drug dependents and addicts, roughly 0.4% of the state’s total population, who sought drug addiction treatment from an addiction center and drug rehab facility in the state. The figure is dismal, according to drug treatment specialists and officials. Marijuana addiction comprise close to 35 percent of all treatment admissions while prescription drug addiction accounted for 12 percent of all admissions. Like in other states, South Carolina faces a problem with increasing drug addiction among the younger population, specifically those below 21 years of age. It is for this reason that many drug rehabilitation centers are using peer groups and other adolescent social groups to reach out to this vulnerable segment of the population.

The value of adolescent peer groups has been regarded by South Carolina’s drug rehabilitation experts as one of the key elements to ensuring that adolescents seek appropriate treatment for their drug problems. It is a recognized fact that majority of the state’s drug users begin abusing drugs and other addicting substances while they are still in school, particularly high school. And while the trend for drug use initiation is now getting younger and younger, many drug treatment officials recommend the reinforcement of family values as well as the emphasis on educating the younger members of the population regarding the dangers of illicit drug use.

Adolescents strive to be accepted by their peers. If the peer group itself is composed of individuals who have issues with drugs and other substances, there is a very high likelihood that new peer members can take on the behavior of the whole group in an effort to blend in and be counted as one of them. Psychologists at South Carolina’s drug treatment centers suggest using the same principle to re-educate teens about the dangers of drug abuse particularly prescription drugs. If peer groups are motivated to end the addiction problem, then new members will have to fit in as well. Otherwise, he will be left out. And this is one thing that adolescents clearly do not want.

The challenge therefore for South Carolina’s drug rehab centers is how to motivate teenagers to take care of their health and to help members of the group who are having problems with drugs. It is suggested that instead of casting out the errant peer, the peer group can instead choose to work together to motivate or encourage the errant member to seek professional help. Such moves operate on the principle of herd mentality whereby the behavior of individual members is a reflection of the values and characteristics of the herd.

South Carolina’s drug addiction center establishments hope to capitalize on the friendships and social relationships formed in these adolescent groups in order to effect change. It is also sought that these adolescents will begin appreciating the gravity of the drug problem and take corrective measures in order to avert potentially deadly events.

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