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As Part of Drug Bust, South Carolina Indicts 3 on Wrongful Naloxone Possession Charges

Note: As of 1:13 p.m. CST, I have been alerted that these charges were simply an error — they should’ve been combined with each of these three’s buprenorphine possession charges. I cannot find any information to back this claim up. As of now, each of these three are facing separate Schedule III charges for buprenorphine and naloxone.

On Wednesday, July 22, an Ashley Nichole Pulliam, William Keith Gary, Jr., and Juan Francisco Esquivel were each charged by the Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Department with one count of Possession of a Schedule III Controlled Substance … for possessing naloxone.

39 people in total were arrested. Pulliam, Gary, and Esquivel were each given 12 charges in total; each three share the same list of 12 charges.

The life-saving drug has been legal in the Palmetto State since at least 2016, when the South Carolina Joint Naloxone Protocol was written into law.

These charges are alarming, as the Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Department seemingly doesn’t want to encourage people at high risk of opioid overdose to carry it. Further, a legal precedent to wrongly charge individuals found in possession of naloxone could be established if these charges stick.

We must urge Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Department and South Carolina legislators to reverse these charges.

Criminal Charges for Naloxone — a Bad Look

Naloxone (Narcan) is a life-saving drug that reverses opioid overdose. It’s been distributed across the United States — and the world — in response to opioid overdose deaths. South Carolina, like every state, has legalized naloxone. Why are people being charged for possessing this life-saving drug, one that has no known contraindications outside of naloxone allergy?

The South Carolina Joint Naloxone Protocol, pursuant to § 44-130-40 of the South Carolina Code of Laws, allows pharmacists to dispense naloxone without a prescription or patient-specific instrutions, making naloxone legal in South Carolina. The most recent iteration of this law was written in 2016.

Marc Burrows, operator of South Carolina’s only syringe exchange, Challenges Inc., says, “This is unfortunate. Naloxone saves lives, and it’s already legal here. Why were these three charged for naloxone possession, of all things?”

Naloxone possession is legally protected by law. You can’t get “high” from naloxone. Rather, it removes opioids from the brain’s opioid receptors, thus reversing overdose. It has no known major contraindications, meaning it doesn’t interact with other drugs. People can be allergic to naloxone, though it’s rarely serious.

“Operation Groundhog Day”

Many law enforcement agencies, especially in rural America, make annual or otherwise regular “drug roundups” where they indict drug-involved people, mainly sellers, on various drug-related charges.

This operation had been in the works for some time, says Fox Carolina, a local news outlet covering the Spartanburg, South Carolina area.

READ: Tennessee Sheriff’s Department claims deputy suffered overdose due to accidental airborne fentanyl exposure, despite blatant lack of evidence.

By Daniel Garrett

I'm a self-employed writer, long-term drug user, and resident of rural Tennessee. Find me on Twitter at @DanielGarrettHR or email me at danpgarr@ut.utm.edu.

9 replies on “As Part of Drug Bust, South Carolina Indicts 3 on Wrongful Naloxone Possession Charges”

That the state government seems to want to keep prohibition going, and to keep on with the high cost of life, suffering, and even financial loss for 99% of those that live in the USA–as in yes that is correct. Drug prohibition hurts 99% of the population because it increases crime, income inequality, and the cost of taxpayers to pay for prison, court, rehab of labled offenders.

So, prohibition in general is bad. But prohibiiting a life-saving drug that no one can get high off and just prevents OD death is just about the supreme example of stupidity and/or corruption in the USA.

As in when people start getting that stupid you have to ask if they are also corrupt.

Liked by 1 person

Buprenorphine and buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone) are Schedule III medications. Naloxone by itself as used for opioid overdose reversal is a non-scheduled medication. The charges stated were “possession of a Schedule III controlled substance (buprenorphine)” and a 2nd charge “possession of a Schedule III controlled substance (naloxone). The possession charge was, therefore, for the possession of the Schedule III drug Suboxone (or its generic) which somehow got translated into two separate charges.

Please do not over react to this and scare people from carrying the life-saving medication, naloxone.

Advise from a friendly pharmacist and harm reduction advocate.

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Yep! I’m sorry I’m calling horse hockey on this. The DEA does not have Narcan as any scheduled drug! That from my very well informed DEA agent. Narcan is not a narcotic. It is a suppressant for receptors that are affected by narcotics. As a pharmacist, you should know this. Or do a real quick DEA controlled substance search! I am going with the DEA. Not the uninformed pharmacist. Happy to post the text!!

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The US is uniquely positioned among Western (“European culture”) countries in terms of disregard for the value of human life. Even though close to 72,000 people died of drug overdoses in 2019, over 130 persons daily, the response from government officials has been inadequate. As the rest of western democratic nation states embraced practices of harm reduction like syringe exchanges and safe injection sites in order to prevent deaths and infectious diseases spread among their citizens US did not. The fact that war on drugs policies have been a disaster in terms of loss of human life and so many lives and families destroyed by the effect of mass incarceration with no single benefit to American people is a proof that citizens wellbeing was never a reason for the policy but something entirely different . The illicit drugs alone do not pose a comparable danger to federal and state officials engagement in incriminating people who use drugs even although drug abuse is considered a health condition. And no one sane would prosecute people who are sick for the illness. Moreover, public officials who are ignorant of basic facts about causes of drug use should be immediately disqualified from public office! It’s not a matter of personal and public opinion-it’s a matter of applying knowledge to minimize negative consequences. The enormous financial investment in punitive practices, training and equipment of federal and state agents, construction of prisons, private contractors, the number of people who now earn their livelihood from the system that does not serve any function except providing employment for people within starved domestic economy. The only purpose of those policies is to keep the boot of law on citizens neck, to spread terror and to farther narrative of fear. It doesn’t have to be like this but some find it useful.

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Complete worth of tax money to pay law enforcement to arrest citizens for possession of Buprenorphine and Naloxone.
Invert in teachers rather than those clowns!

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