There has been a sharp increase in overdose deaths from extremely potent opioids in Florida. In a new report, medical examiners recorded a doubling in combined deaths from fentanyl and heroin statewide.
Fentanyl is a fast-acting, very dangerous analgesic. In a nationwide alert last year, DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart warned that “often laced in heroin, fentanyl and fentanyl analogues produced in illicit clandestine labs are up to 100 times more powerful than morphine and 30-50 times more powerful than heroin.”
Very often users are not aware that the heroin they are buying has been laced with the much more powerful fentanyl. Originally developed in the 1960s as a general anesthetic, it is potentially lethal even in low doses.
“Heroin is bad enough, but when you lace it with fentanyl, it’s like dropping a nuclear bomb on the situation,” Mary Lou Leary, a deputy director in the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy, told NPR. “It’s so, so much more dangerous.”
Since it is such a dangerous combination, it has caused a lot of accidental overdose deaths in Florida. For the vast majority of fentanyl and heroin fatalities, the manner of death was ruled to be an accident.
According to the annual Florida Department of Law Enforcement report, the situation is especially grim in South Florida. As the Miami Herald reports, “heroin deaths jumped 100 percent in Miami-Dade, almost 210 percent in Broward and 425 percent in Palm Beach counties in the first half of 2015 compared to the same period from the previous year.”
Deaths linked to fentanyl increased 310 percent in Miami-Dade and 100 percent in Broward, but dipped about 8 percent in Palm Beach, the report said. Statewide the drug occurrences in decedents increase an astounding 107.9 percent for heroin between the first six months of 2014 and the corresponding period in 2015. For fentanyl the increase is 97.5 percent.
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