Health News

Someone Overdoses In Southern Florida Every Two Hours

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New Hampshire and Connecticut aren’t the only states suffering from an increase in opioid overdoses. According to data presented at a summit at Lynn University in Boca Raton, someone in southern Florida overdoses from heroin or similar painkillers every two hours.

The summit addressed the mounting death toll from both prescription and illegal drugs. Jim Hall, an epidemiologist at Nova Southeastern University, likened the country’s worsening situation to a Category 5 hurricane. Hall, who has been studying southern Florida’s drug market for years, says,

This is an epidemic of addiction and death.

US Attorney Wilfredo Ferrer, one of the summit organizers, referred to the overdose deaths as “the most urgent challenge we face in public health,” the Sun Sentinel reports.

The meeting was meant partly as a call to action by President Barack Obama, who declared Sept. 18-24 Prescription Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week. Law enforcement officers, emergency responders and health officials participated in the event.

Medical workers reported 4,380 heroin or painkiller overdoses in 2015, covering Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, Broward and six more counties. Out of these were 1,460 deaths.

In the same year, officers in Delray Beach responded to 195 overdoses for all drugs, says chief of police Jeff Goldman. Delray Beach is known as a recovery destination for drug addicts. This year, the number has reached 394 heroin and painkiller overdoses and 37 deaths so far.

Drug overdoses are now the number one cause of accidental deaths in the United States, outranking vehicular accidents.

Dealers have taken to mixing heroin with the much cheaper drug fentanyl in order to increase their profits. Fentanyl, a painkiller, is 50 to 100 times more potent than heroin. According to the West Palm Beach DEA office, China is the primary source of fentanyl, and investigators are working to cut off this supply.

Police officers in the state are now equipped with naloxone, a drug that reverses the effects of a heroin overdose. Task forces have also been formed to crack down on “sober homes” or dubious recovery places, as well as plan for more efficient strategies to get drug addicts into treatment.

Obama has called for Congress to allocate $1 billion to expand treatment, in an effort to further address the problem, Ferrer says. “This addiction has no boundaries. It’s everywhere. Anyone can be a victim.”


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