SC's alarming drug trends: Expert talks younger substance use, 'gas station heroin'

Kratom Pills | Michael Owen | abc 15 News | 2/8/2024

By Michael Owen | Thu, February 8th, 2024 


MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WPDE) — Gas station heroin is just one of the drug trends in South Carolina right now that a substance abuse education expert shared with law enforcement officers in Myrtle Beach on Thursday.

Retired police officer Jermaine Galloway, known as ‘Tall Cop,’ has been traveling the country for the last 20 years speaking about the drug trends he sees in specific areas.

He spoke to a couple hundred people in law enforcement, health care and schools from across the Pee Dee about what he’s seeing in the Palmetto State. 

One alarming trend is that drug users are getting younger and younger.

" Individuals are not just using more. They’re using younger too. So, the more prevention we do younger, the less work on the back end.” said Galloway. “Which means less addiction because as you have that young brain starting earlier, there’s a higher likelihood they’ll become addicted, and it’s harder to get them off of the drugs." 

He said some of this is being fueled by legal, over-the-counter products kids can purchase at smoke shops and gas stations.

“There are some drugs that your neighboring states have banned that you have not. So, drugs like tianeptine, drugs like other over-the-counter products like kratom are being sold all over South Carolina,” said Galloway.

Tianeptine, also known as gas station heroin, is a prescription drug used to treat depression in countries outside the U.S. Here in South Carolina, it's sold without a prescription.

Galloway said parents need to watch out for it because kids are looking for things that are accessible and cheap.

Over the last two years, despite inflation, drug prices have actually dropped.

“When you understand trends, there's two main things: availability and price points. And if both of those are in play, that drug is in play in your communities. So, if you open up corner stores and sell it and you drop the prices, then all of a sudden you’re opening up your children market,” said Galloway.

Despite things like delta-8tianeptine, kratom, and other synthetic products being sold legally, Galloway has a warning.

"The chemists are good at what they do,” said Galloway. "Don’t for a second think that a synthetic or legal means weak, not strong and not a good drug or not stronger than illegal drugs." 

He also said the best thing parents can do is talk to their kids about drugs and stay educated.

“If you’re trying to educate yourself on the newest smartphone that just showed up, you don’t just check their website. You go and you read reviews. You go to other websites. You see who is selling it. You check five sources before you buy it if you really want to know what’s going on. You need to do the same thing in the drug world,” said Galloway.

He recommended starting with DAODASCDC and the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Galloway added parents should also keep an eye out for vaping.

He said that’s the new gateway drug and the number of kids vaping in middle school has risen drastically in recent years.