We see it every day in the news and on social media, the rise of heroin and fentanyl overdoses in the U.S. have been increasing at a terrifying pace. All over the country, hundreds of people are dying every day due to this catastrophic epidemic. This year alone, I have lost 15 of my own friends due to overdoses, and unfortunately, I foresee that number only increasing as the new year rolls in. According to U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly, deaths from drug overdoses in our country have now surpassed deaths due to car accidents, which was previously one of the top five killers in the country. What can quite possibly be the most tragic aspect of this epidemic is the age group that it is primarily taking out. People between the ages of 18 and 35 are the most common casualties of the insidious serial killing spree. While local and nationwide governments scramble to try to control the issue, the numbers keep rising.
What are the Overdose Rates in Florida?
In South Florida alone, someone overdoses from heroin every two hours. According to a report from The Florida Department of Law Enforcement, heroin deaths jumped by 100% in Miami-Dade; 210% in Broward County; and a shocking 425% in Palm Beach County in 2015. In 2016, in one county alone, there were more than 816 overdoses recorded in the 10 months from January to October. The numbers show no sign of slowing either, the Fort Lauderdale Fire Department, which has been dubbed the busiest firehouse in the country, went out on 33,000 calls in one month alone, which averages out to about 90 calls a day. A very large percentage of the calls were for “someone who was blue and not breathing.” Emergency response units have begun to just assume this is an overdose call, and usually, they are right.
What Is Being Done?
While local police and fire stations are scrambling to keep up with the never-ending 911 calls, it seems that at this time, there isn’t much more they can do. It is standard procedure now that emergency responders are provided with Naloxone, which is a drug that blocks the effects of heroin. They are using so much of it that it is actually breaking local budgets to keep them fully stocked on the life-saving drug.
After the death toll showed no signs of stopping, the U.S. government and China have officially banned the manufacturing and exportation of fentanyl to the U.S. in an effort to slow the rates at which illegal users can gain access to the narcotic. On the front lines, there are programs throughout the country that are fighting lawmakers and politicians for the right to have Naloxone sold at every pharmacy nationwide. However, these efforts are facing roadblocks because of the widespread denial of the problem and the need for change. The programs are called Harm Reduction Programs. They seek to have addiction seen as a disease and look at new ways to alter its growth. The main issue is getting the conservative side to agree that something needs to be done, and fast.
In other parts of the world, countries and cities have legalized safe usage locations where users can have access to clean needles, with staff on hand to ensure that they are provided with a safe space to use, education about the dangers of their addiction, offer support groups, and provide access to food and showers. The point isn’t to encourage users to get high, but to ensure that, since they are going to do it regardless, that they have a safe environment and a lower risk of overdose or death.
What’s the Difference Between Heroin and Fentanyl?
Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic heroin that is similar to morphine but can be 50 to 100 times more potent. As a schedule II drug, it is usually only prescribed to treat patients after surgery and is commonly prescribed to cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. When prescribed legally, it is administered by a doctor via IV, transdermal patch, or oral lozenge. However, all of the variations that are responsible for most of the overdoses, usually an analog called Carfentanil, are manufactured in clandestine laboratories. Since these derivatives have come into play, overdose rates have begun to skyrocket. It is reported that these shoddily-made sisters of Fentanyl can be potent enough to take down an elephant. Hence, even the smallest amount injected can be fatal for humans.
Overall, it’s easy to see that drastic and fast action needs to be taken in the U.S. Overdose rates are through the roof, the unmanageability of this epidemic is spreading throughout small towns all over the country, and it shows no sign of stopping. Those of us who know an addict should educate ourselves about Naloxone, which is a drug that blocks the opioids from the receptors in the brain and can save someone from an overdose. There are training classes for Naloxone, and CVS pharmacy has already announced plans to sell Naloxone without a prescription in 14 states across the country.
Getting Help At Wayside House
If you are a woman struggling with addiction, Wayside House can help. We offer a women-only program and provide a safe, supportive environment to recover in. We have outstanding treatments and therapies that are often only found in more expensive programs. We offer inpatient rehab with various therapies, relapse prevention education, outpatient, and aftercare. Contact Wayside House at 800-655-0817 to learn more.