At present, the entire nation is being swept by a heroin epidemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of heroin-related deaths has quadrupled in the last decade. Having said that, it will probably come as no surprise that yet another city in the nation is battle a heroin epidemic. Today we head back to sunny Florida to take a trip down the slippery heroin laced slope that many residents of Tampa are trying to navigate.
Heroin abuse in Tampa, Florida is increasing at an alarming rate with the number of heroin deaths in Hillsborough County increasing by four times in the last two years alone. It is predicted that the numbers will continue to rise. The frightening part is that the drug has reached all demographics.
“We’re seeing a big surge in heroin use,” says Hillsborough County’s Captain Frank Losat of the narcotics division. “But we can’t put our finger on exactly why we have a surge.”
Prescription Drug and Heroin Abuse
Florida has an alarming number of drug abuse problems, but nothing beats the heroin epidemic that is rising. The surge in heroin use can largely be attributed to the over-prescribing of opioids since “pill mills” hit the scene in the mid-2000’s up and down the state. Big cities like Miami and small cities like Port St. Lucie have all been hit hard by this same issue, which prompted the state to make a great strides in limiting the careless writing of these medications by heavily regulating and monitoring both doctors and patients. These efforts,while well intended, have created a whole new monster in as those previously abusing prescription drugs were left to kick their habit or turn to other things when in need of a fix. Enter heroin and its oh so slippery slope of use, abuse and even death.
Heroin Deaths in Hillsborough County
In the first half of 2015, 18 deaths in Hillsborough County involved heroin. In 2014, there were 22 heroin-related deaths in the county, which is an increase of over 700 percent from the previous year. According to authorities, the rise in heroin deaths in the county is connected to the quality of the drug and whether it is mixed with other substances.
Investigators have frequently found that heroin is mixed with fentanyl, an opioid medication that is prescribed for chronic pain. To make up for the low potency of heroin brought in to the United States from Mexico, this opioid is used as a “sedative booster”. According to experts, fentanyl plays a major role in the increase in heroin deaths. At least 7 out of the 18 heroin deaths in the county involved fentanyl.
Treatment for Heroin Addiction
The notable increase in heroin overdoses has prompted medical leaders in Tampa to take a radical approach to saving lives. Addicts are now given an option after previously overdosing: jail or rehab. Yep, you read that right! Do not pass go, do not collect $200…Instead, you are going to get clean one way or another.
First responders do their best to bring those who overdose back from the brink of death, transport them to the hospital and give them an ultimatum of sorts upon waking up as opposed to being given the option of signing themselves out of care. The hope is that lives will be saved through rehabbing addicts as well as freeing up much needed assistance for others facing emergency situations not related to drugs. The new initiative is still in the early stages, but hopes are high given the nearly two a day rate of overdose calls being made to Tampa paramedics.