How the Heroin Epidemic Has Impacted South Florida

How the Heroin Epidemic Has Impacted South Florida

heroin epidemic in south florida

South Florida’s history is haunted by illegal substances, from the mobster-fueled rum-running of the Roaring Twenties to the cocaine cowboys of the 1980s. Even today, after decades of the nationwide War on Drugs initiative, the region is still wracked with drug trafficking and its disastrous consequences. Something to focus on in particular is the impact of the heroin epidemic in South Florida.

Origins in the Opioid Crisis

This issue is wrapped in a larger drug issue sweeping the United States: the opioid crisis. As reported by Public Radio International, South Florida became the country’s “pill mill capital” in the first decade of the new millennium. People came from all over the country for easy access to oxycodone and other opioids. Public pushback eventually translated into political action and “state and federal agencies cracked down” on these facilities starting in 2011.

However, the damage was already done: as with the rest of the United States, many people had become addicted to opioids during the time of the pill mills, depending on them for pain relief. The crackdown created scarcity, and the scarcity created higher prices. Lacking the means and needing a fix, many switched to street heroin.

Modern Strains

However, the heroin of today is not the same as that of yesterday. NBC6, the Miami branch of the network, reports that in South Florida, “drug dealers are mixing powerful synthetics like fentanyl and carfentanyl” to create more potent strains of ‘smack’. PRI writes that they are “thousands of times stronger than morphine.” This means that if someone overdoses on this type of heroin, it is much more difficult to bring them back from the brink.

To measure the scope of the spread of heroin in South Florida, as well as the response from local governments, NBC6 reviewed the financial records of City of Miami Fire-Rescue to see how much they paid for supplies of nasal naloxone. Paramedics use this drug, also called Narcan, to save people from overdosing on heroin. They discovered that in 2015, the department paid $36,459 for Narcan, and in 2016, they purchased $180,900 of the drug. Even with the slight uptick in price being accounted for, that is almost five times as much as the previous year.

The Epidemic in Numbers

The heroin epidemic in South Florida seems to have hit Palm Beach County hardest. It has seen hundreds of heroin deaths in the past few years, more than any other county in Florida. In 2016, the Palm Beach Post ran a special feature called “Heroin: Killer of a Generation,” profiling all 216 county residents who perished from heroin-related overdoses in the previous year. The Post later gave statistics using data from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement showing that heroin and related substances killed 541 Palm Beach County residents in 2016.

This is just a microcosm of the heroin epidemic, which is sweeping not just South Florida, but the state as a whole. The same collection of statistics from the Post also showed that the death toll for heroin throughout Florida has risen every year since 2010, with almost 3000 people perishing in 2016 alone. This is the true impact of the heroin epidemic in South Florida: all the lives lost.

 

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