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Fentanyl Hits Florida Hard

Oct 23, 2018

Northeast Florida is the hardest-hit part of the state by the opioid epidemic, according to new data presented at a conference in Lake Nona this week. The region is home to some of the highest drug overdose death rates.

Figures from a U.S. government survey released Friday show some progress in the fight against the ongoing opioid addiction crisis with fewer people in 2017 using heroin for the first time compared to the previous year.

A Palm Beach Post investigation has uncovered Florida's role in igniting the country’s heroin epidemic in 2011.

 

The state’s repeated failure to control its own prescription drug problem would eventually lead to more addicts turning to heroin not only on Florida, but in other states around the country. 

An internet black market used by some Floridians to buy and sell heroin and fentanyl has been shut down in an international law enforcement operation.

A new report from Florida medical examiners finds fentanyl caused more deaths than any other drug in Florida last year.

Florida lawmakers are cracking down on the synthetic opioid fentanyl. Legislation punishing its possession is heading to the governor.

Deadly Fentanyl Drug Ignites Senate Debate

May 3, 2017

Grappling with a deadly drug scourge across the state, Florida senators Tuesday had an impassioned debate about whether the state should require mandatory-minimum prison sentences for fentanyl trafficking.

Deaths from heroin and fentanyl overdoses have more than doubled in unincorporated Orange County.


A bill aimed at criminalizing the deadly drug fentanyl is heading to the Senate floor. The measure comes as the Legislature is struggling to respond to the state’s opioid crisis. But the plan has lawmakers questioning whether they should combat addiction with punishment or treatment.

According to official records, more than 1,000 people in South Florida overdosed last year on opioids including heroin and carfentanil -- a drug so potent it’s used as an elephant tranquilizer.

The growing threat of the opioids epidemic is mobilizing law enforcement and community leaders to form new partnerships and collaborate in events such as last week's discussion hosted by Florida Atlantic University (FAU). 

The trouble started for Lisa when she took a blood pressure pill and one to control seizures, along with methadone, a drug used to help wean patients off heroin.

"I inadvertently did the methadone cocktail and I went to sleep for like 48 hours," Lisa says, rolling her eyes and coughing out a laugh. "It kicked my butt. It really kicked my butt."

Both prescription and illegal opioids are driving a national spike in overdose deaths. According to the Centers for Disease Control, they were involved in more than 33,000 deaths in 2015. Florida has seen a dramatic increase in opioid-driven overdoses, up more than 20 percent.  Yet, lawmakers are still grappling with how to address the issue.

Florida is reeling from an opioid epidemic that spans young and old, rural and urban. State lawmakers are once again trying to reduce overdose deaths and prevent addiction.

Carfentanil is an opiate 10,000 times more powerful than morphine. And since last summer, it's been killing addicts and confounding first responders across the country.

Steve Newborn / WUSF News

Scores of individually wrapped heroin packets seized during a Florida drug bust featured a certain famous likeness: that of President Donald Trump.

Rubio To Hold Hearing On Heroin 'Epidemic'

May 25, 2016

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., will hold a hearing Thursday in Washington on heroin-related issues, with the panelists including Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs and officials from the U.S. Department of State and the federal Office of Drug Control Policy, according to Rubio's office.

Dr. Vivek Murthy is not only one of the youngest people ever named the U.S. Surgeon General, the 38-year-old also is the first person of Indian descent to hold the post.

But there’s one more thing: he's a Floridian.

A prescription drug that counters the effects of an opioid overdose will soon be available over the counter.

When Jack O'Connor was 19, he was so desperate to beat his addictions to alcohol and opioids that he took a really rash step. He joined the Marines.

"This will fix me," O'Connor thought as he went to boot camp. "It better fix me or I'm screwed."

After 13 weeks of sobriety and exercise and discipline, O'Connor completed basic training, but he started using again immediately.

"Same thing," he says. "Percocet, like, off the street. Pills."

The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office announced Friday it will equip its deputies with a drug called naloxone. It stops people from overdosing on opioids like heroin.

It’s a first for Florida law enforcement agencies.

Manatee County, on Florida's west coast, is home to more than 300,000 people.  It's known for its beaches, and if you go just a short distance inland, you'll pass by the iconic fruit stands and working citrus groves.

AnneMarie Zagari found her teenage son unresponsive on the couch after he took too many opioid painkillers in 2011. She began pounding his chest and slapping his face, and finally succeeded in reviving him by giving him CPR. It was a terrifying moment. And that panic wouldn't have been necessary if she'd had access to the drug naloxone (also known as Narcan), which can instantly reverse an overdose.

"It would have been instant revival," Zagari says.

WMFE

Heroin overdoses are rising most everywhere, but perhaps nowhere more dramatically than in Manatee County.

Around the U.S., a worsening heroin epidemic has more and more cities turning to the anti-overdose drug naloxone to reduce deaths from abuse. Also known as Narcan, the medication blocks the effects of opioids and reverses the respiratory depression that occurs during an overdose.

In July 2015, emergency responders in Manatee County handled more than 200 heroin overdose calls. And the repeat overdose calls alone are nearly three times what the overall total was for July 2014.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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STORY UPDATE:  A companion bill to the Senate's "Florida Opiod Overdose Prevention Act" was filed in the House Feb 16.  The House bill is co-sponsored by State Representatives Julio Gonzalez, R-Venice, and Ronald Renuart, R- Ponte Vedra Beach.

More than 2,000 people in Florida died from an accidental prescription overdose in 2013.  Now a Florida lawmaker has filed a bill to expand access to the drug naloxone which can save the lives of people overdosing on opioids like Oxycontin, Morphine or heroine. 

Bill Gettle has been on the brink of death from a heroin overdose more than once.

Three years ago he overdosed and had to be revived with a reversal drug called Narcan.

“I didn’t really care,” Gettle said. “I was using amounts I knew I’d seen other people die from. In my early 20s, I lost more than one friend to overdose.”