The Opioid Crisis in Sussex County

The Opioid Crisis in Sussex County

Written by: Greg DuRoss

On July 20, 2019, Eastern Sussex Democrats hosted Delaware Attorney General Kathy Jennings, Speaker of the House, Pete Schwarzkopf, and State Senator Bryan Townsend. The focus was on the 2019 legislative session.  It was an extensive and very informative session on issues affecting every Delawarean

One topic that generated concern and audience participation was the opioid crisis in Sussex County.  Last week, The Washington Post began a series of investigative articles stemming from their analysis of a formerly secret Drug Enforcement Administration database that tracks all the prescription opioid pills distributed in the USA – 76 billion pills between 2006 and 2012, leading to more than 100,000 deaths during this time frame!  

The release of this database follows a year-long legal battle waged by The Washington Post, and the publisher of the Charleston Gazette-Mail in West Virginia.   Mingo County, WV was among the hardest hit areas in the country.   The Washington Post has analyzed this data and is now making an interactive database available to the public to promote further examination at the local level.  We – the entire country – owe The Washington Post a debt of gratitude for the work they have done, and continue to do, to bring attention to this avoidable health tragedy. 

Delaware was spared the worst of it, but we surely did not escape tragedy.  From 2006 to 2012, 82,872,450 prescription pain pills were distributed in Sussex County.  Do the math and it works out to more than 62 pills per person per year in Sussex County – 50% higher than in Kent and New Castle counties! (See the table below for exact numbers and comparisons with other counties in Maryland and Washington, DC.)  According to the database, The Pill Box Pharmacy, in Milford, was the single largest recipient of pills, receiving more than 7 million pills.  The next four highest pharmacy locations were the four Happy Harry’s Inc. stores in Seaford, Lewes, Millsboro and Milford; collectively they received more than 13,777,520 pills. 

Opioid Pain Pills Distribution in Delaware and adjacent counties 

Pills per person, per year. Total Pain Pills Distributed 2006-2012

Sussex County, DE. 62.3 82,872,450

Kent County, DE 40.8 44,551,410

New Castle County, DE 39.9 148,753,416

Wicomico County, MD 44.5 30,007,951

Worcester County, MD 45.0 16,013,470

Prince Georges County, MD 16.8 99,958,278

Montgomery County, MD 15.7 104,031,619

Washington, DC 14.2 58,184,205

Mingo County, WV 203 38,269,630

Delaware has joined with Attorneys General in other states to pursue legal action against manufacturers.  Clearly, this database reveals the role of manufacturers and distributors. However, people did not just walk into drugstores and buy what they wanted.  The still untoldstory is the role of doctors and other healthcare professionals who wrote the prescriptions that facilitated the development and growth of this crisis.  

This crisis is far from over and we must hold our state and local officials accountable for developing and implementing programs that help our brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, friends, neighbors and other loved ones in their battle for recovery from addiction.  

For more information: go to and use keyword: opioid to get all the information you want. Here is the link to the database.

Don Allan