Heroin deaths surge in Fla. following pill crackdown

pills and syringeFlorida has taken a number of measures to combat its prescription drug addiction problem, with the unintended consequence of the resurgence of heroin as a popular substitute for painkillers. From July 2010 to June 2011, there were 45 heroin-related deaths statewide, according to this article, which cites data from the Florida Medical Examiners Commission. That number jumped to 77 heroin-related deaths from July 2011 to June 2012, the article says.

The article also notes that addiction treatment numbers are up in Florida, with treatment centers in Broward County seeing an 87% increase in admissions in 2012 among addicts using heroin as their drug of choice, up from 169 to 316; in Miami-Dade County, such admissions jumped from 227 to 308 in the first half of 2012.

It was reported earlier this year that while the number of oxycodone-related deaths in Florida plunged during the first half of 2012 compared with the same period in 2011, heroin-related deaths were holding steady.

Florida’s crackdown on painkiller abuse has resulted in the number of pill mills in the state dropping from 854 to 580 between March 2011 and March 2012, according to this article.

In that same time period, the number of inappropriate prescribers of OxyContin in Florida dropped from 98 to 11; Florida previously had the most prescribers of OxyContin in the nation, the article says.

But even with the crackdown, prescription drug abuse in Florida remains high. In 2011, more than 7 Floridians died every day from prescription drug abuse, and between 2005 and 2011, the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in Lee County saw an 800% increase in babies born to addicted mothers in Southwest Florida, the article says.

The Miami Herald recently called into question how effective the state’s crackdown has really been. Although many of Florida’s pill mills seem to have shifted to the more permissive regulatory environment in nearby Georgia, some operators have switched to weight-loss or anti-aging clinics, where they continue to sell profitable pharmaceuticals right on the premises, the article noted.

About Erin Marie Daly

I’m a freelance journalist based in San Francisco. My book on prescription drug and heroin addiction was published in August 2014 by Counterpoint Press.
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