COLUMBIA, S.C. — Experts are warning about the dangers of opioid and heroin abuse in South Carolina, pointing out that almost as many people die from overdoses of such drugs as are killed in accidents each year on the state’s highways.

During a seminar Thursday by the Drug Enforcement Administration and federal prosecutors, authorities also said overdoses cause more deaths than violent crime and major fast food restaurants in the state probably have at least one illegal drug transaction in their parking lots each day.

Local media report the session was held to increase public awareness about opioid and heroin abuse.

Last year, 637 people died in motor vehicle accidents in South Carolina while 550 died of heroin and opioid abuse.

Acting U.S. Attorney for South Carolina Beth Drake warned that children need to be taught by middle school the dangers of opioid abuse. Many youngsters who get addicted start by taking medicine from the family medicine cabinet.

Charleston County Coroner Rae Wooten warned that waiting until high school can be too late. By that time, she says, some students are already having what she called “pill parties” in which kids put various prescription pills in a bowl and then take several to get high.

State lawmakers this year passed legislation to increase people’s access to Narcan, an the opioid antidote to combat overdoses. But Wooten says there’s a downside to that – the fact that drug users get complacent.

“It’s getting this mindset that it’s not a big deal. Get this shot of Narcan that will reverse this and I’ll be OK,” Wooten said. “A lot of these cases I see that have died, they got Narcan. They still died. It is not a silver bullet.”

Drake urged parents show their young teens a DEA film called “Chasing the Dragon,” viewable on YouTube. Dragon is the slag word for an addictive drug that winds up killing the user.