Port St. Lucie’s Sweeping Heroin Problem

The quiet Florida town of Port St. Lucie is currently in the grips of a heroin battle with residents suffering addiction, going to jail and losing their lives. Can authorities rid the city streets of this dangerous drug before it's too late?
Nina Fenton
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Listening to police sirens cut through the humid Florida air is a near nightly occurrence for residents of the city of Port St. Lucie, as local law enforcement do their best to rid the city of heroin. Use of which has become a sweeping problem and is of growing concern as there have been over 40 heroin related arrests since June and as deaths caused by the highly addictive opiate continue to climb at an alarming rate, having doubled in the state within the past year alone.

In line with the city’s issue, a recent study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that heroin deaths in South Florida have risen by 89% in the last three years. Also on the rise are the near weekly raids by police, frequent arrests and reports of heroin related occurrences that are plaguing the city’s streets.

All of which are leaving lawmakers at a loss and seeking outside help from federal government agencies as rehabs, hospitals and jail cells routinely fill up.

The seriousness of the issue is lost on no one, though, as Port St. Lucie has quickly gone from one of the fastest growing cities in the country to one struggling economically. As new businesses are disinclined to move into the area, concerned with potentially poor job performances as a result of prospective employees inability to pass routine drug tests. This is thanks in large part to the firm grip heroin tends to have on their minds and bodies

Where Did It All Go Wrong?

Authorities and lawmakers attribute Port St. Lucie’s heroin explosion to the rampant abuse of prescription medications that began in the mid 2000’s. Patients were able to get their hands on a laundry list of opiates, at times, with little or no medical evidence to back up their claims.

It became common knowledge that many doctors in the county were known to hand out prescriptions so liberally that a phenomena known as “doctor shopping” became the norm with drug seekers hitting multiple facilities monthly to get their fix while also attempting to profit off of the addictions of others. As a result, opiate abuse grew rapidly out of hand with the large supply of cheap drugs, which drove up the rates of addiction, crime and overdoses in the city.

St. Lucie County officials soon realized that something had to be done to combat the ever rising amount of prescription drugs being bought and sold on the city streets. They took a hard approach to solving the problem by cracking down on the “pill mills” and “dirty doctors” in 2012 as a first line of defense. Their hard work was rather effective, as countless pain management facilities were shut down and doctors who were over prescribing patients were ousted while strict restrictions on opiates where put in place to protect patients.

However, while decreasing the supply of prescription drugs hitting the streets, not addressed was the issue of many addicts being left in limbo with an itch that desperately needed to be scratched.

With few resources to help them through their struggle with hardcore opiate addictions, users quickly turned to heroin. A much more addictive and dangerous drug which served as a cheap and more easily accessible fix to avoid the painful withdraw form these medications which became hard to come by. Thus the once idyllic city streets of Port St. Lucie began the descent into darkness, overrun with heroin, as more and more addicts slipped further down the rabbit hole towards jail or worse.

Dr. Andrew Kolodny of the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University touches on this major flaw in the well intended plan: educating the community about the perils of opiate addiction. He says, “We need to prevent new cases of opiod addiction and while expanding access to treatment for the millions of Americans who are already addicted. Without better access to addiction treatment, overdose will remain high and heroin will keep flooding in.”

Hindsight is 20/20 as they say and does little to rectify the overall problem if the solution to it isn’t readily available as local rehabs quickly fill up and are unable to accommodate the overwhelming number of those in need of help.

If someone you know is suffering through addiction don’t hesitate to take action by scheduling an appointment at one of Health Street’s three clinics that perform drug testing in Port Saint Lucie, Florida.

WRITTEN BY

Nina works hard to be a voice to the voiceless whose stories about drug testing, DNA testing and paternity deserve to be told. It is her goal to always come from a place free of judgment and full of compassion.

WRITTEN BY

Nina works hard to be a voice to the voiceless whose stories about drug testing, DNA testing and paternity deserve to be told. It is her goal to always come from a place free of judgment and full of compassion.

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Read Health Street's dramatic and informative drug testing stories.