The Opioid Epidemic in Florida: Facts and Stats

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Florida is frequently said to be the “happiest place on earth”. The state has plenty to offer, from gorgeous beaches to glamorous nightlife. However, what many do not realize is that an opioid epidemic plagues the state of Florida. The opioid epidemic in Florida started over 20 years ago and is still rampant. In fact, more often than not, almost every detox clinic Florida has to offer is full to capacity. While the state of Florida has tried to curb the epidemic for years now, opioids are more prevalent than ever. In this article, we will provide you with a brief history of Florida’s opioid epidemic, as well as current facts and stats that concern opioid use in Florida today.

What are opioids and why are they so dangerous?

Before we get into the epidemic, it is important to understand what opioids are, exactly. Opioids are widely used in medicine to facilitate pain relief. In fact, prescription opioids are so good at what they do that they are usually administered to people that are in the end-of-life cycle. Morphine is the most famous opioid, followed by Oxycodone, Fentanyl, and Codeine. While opioids are not dangerous if used correctly, it is extremely easy to abuse them. Many Floridians have ended up visiting one of the drug detox Florida centers because they got addicted to opioids. Getting addicted to opioids is exceptionally easy, and they can crack the will of even the most staunch individuals.

various opioids
Opioids come in all shapes and sizes.

Aside from their pain-relief function, opioids also activate your brain’s reward centers and trigger the release of endorphins (feel-good neurotransmitters). This makes opioids attractive to thrill-seekers and people who are trying to escape reality for a little while. You can imagine how something that makes you feel good can be quite “explosive” in a state that is lauded as the happiest place on earth.

Opioids would not be a problem if they did not bring considerable dangers with them. Unless you take opioids according to your prescription, you are risking slowing your breathing and heart rate. In many cases, this can be fatal. Furthermore, overdosing on opioids is quite common, as people try to get an ever-increasing “high” or build tolerance over time.

The current opioid epidemic in Florida did not start a year or two ago. It started much, much, earlier.

History of Florida opioid epidemic

The opioid epidemic in Florida did not happen overnight, even though it might feel like it did. The first signs of the opioid crisis started appearing back in the 2000s. This is when major pharmaceutical companies developed new opioid-based medications. In true American fashion, sales representatives of these companies did all they could to persuade medical professionals to prescribe these new products to their patients.

While these marketing methods are not unusual in the U.S., there was one huge problem with these new opioid medications. They were marketed under false pretenses. Medical professionals were told that these new opioids are perfectly safe and that they are not addictive, meaning that they do not require medical detox Florida options. As you can imagine, this led to doctors and other medical professionals freely prescribing these new “wonder” meds to their patients, thinking that they are completely safe to use. The patients came back for more in droves, without any fear of addiction.

online marketing
The opioid epidemic in Florida basically started through shady marketing.

Once the public found out that these opioids are not only addictive but that they are extremely addictive, the opioid epidemic has already begun. Thousands upon thousands of Florida residents were already hooked on their prescription opioids. To make matters worse, it did not stop there.

Corruption and illegal drugs

Even though most medical professionals understood the dangers of these new opioids, that did not stop many of them from prescribing more and more opioid-based painkillers to their patients. Instead of putting a stop to the epidemic right then and there, corrupt medical professionals tried to make the most money possible from their, now-addicted, base of patients. This continued until 2011. Only then did the Florida government and CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) officially declare an opioid epidemic. By then, however, it was already too late to contain the outbreak.

The first thing that the government did was to increase the price of prescription opioids, in an effort to reduce their usage. However, this turned many addicts to find other, cheaper, opioids, such as heroin. The number of people that have since requested heroin detox Florida treatment has skyrocketed. This also had a cascading effect. More and more people started using illegal drugs due to them being more widespread. Once “niche” opioids became common occurrences, the opioid epidemic reached its climax. Since then, the Florida government has enacted numerous laws and regulations to combat the epidemic. Despite these measures, the opioid epidemic in Florida is still going strong.

The opioid epidemic in Florida – Facts and stats

Florida is no stranger to drug abuse. Every single year, around 3,000 Floridians suffer drug-related deaths. In 2021, this number was almost 8,000! Most of these deaths are directly caused by opioids. There are many factors that contribute to the opioid epidemic. Examples include unemployment, the stress of health, and the recent COVID-19 pandemic. However, the single thing that has had the most influence is that synthetic opioids such as fentanyl have become much more widespread. In fact, fentanyl is to blame for more than 60% of Florida’s overdose deaths!

a victim of the opioid epidemic in Florida
Many Florida residents succumb to a drug overdose.

Furthermore, Florida has become a “breeding ground” for designer opioids. One of the most recent drugs that have been wreaking havoc among Floridians is Eutylone. This is a synthetic psychoactive bath salt that contains traces of fentanyl. This drug alone was responsible for more than 182 deaths in Florida in just a few months, from January to June 2021. Today, Eutylone can be found in many other synthetic drugs, as criminals are trying to create new, more potent, drugs to sell to the eager Florida market.

Almost 10% of Florida citizens are using illicit drugs

The reason why it is all but impossible to completely stop the opioid epidemic in Florida is the fact that almost 10% of Florida residents opt to use illicit drugs. This creates a huge market for all sorts of drugs, primarily opioids. Furthermore, the cost of prescription painkillers is still quite high. This forces many people to turn to illegal substances that are usually much cheaper.

This creates a vicious circle that constantly makes new addicts. While many people decide to undergo treatment in an opioid detox center Florida, most are choosing to feed their addiction with cheap illegal drugs. The recent COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbated these issues. The fact is that many people needed to contend with isolation, eviction, job loss, and many other stressors. The result is that both opioid and alcohol use has risen considerably across the entire state.

Florida is 2nd when it comes to overdose deaths

According to the 2020 CDC report, Florida had a staggering number of drug-related deaths, 35 per 100,000 residents! The only state with higher numbers is California, which is experiencing an opioid epidemic of its own. To make matters worse, this number used to be much lower in the past. This indicates that the opioid epidemic is only getting worse. The Florida government is scrambling to enact policies that will prevent people from getting addicted to prescription opioids, or at least reduce the chance of addiction, but the numbers are not going down as of yet.

What is the government doing to stop the opioid epidemic in Florida?

If recent years showed us anything, it is that the Florida government is not quick to respond to the growing opioid epidemic. That said, the state has responded by targeting pain clinics that have excessive rates of opioid prescribing, creating public activities that promote the emergency use of naloxone (overdose prevention medicine), and have implemented the Emergency Treatment and Recovery Act. Furthermore, the state has enacted mandatory overdose prevention training for police officers, nurses, social workers, addiction specialists, and other medical professionals.

U.S. flag
The government is trying to do its part to stop the opioid epidemic in Florida.

The CORE program

In august 2022, Governor Ron DeSantis announced a new opioid recovery program in Florida, the Coordinated Opioid Recovery (CORE). This program’s lofty goal is to end addiction in Florida through new innovative statewide policies. This is the first program of its kind in the United States. It is also one that may put Florida as a leader in sustainable addiction and opioid recovery. The CORE program is coordinated by the Florida Department of Health, the Agency for Health Care Administration, and the Florida Department of Children and Families.

The CORE program expands every single aspect of overdose response. It also aims to treat all primary and secondary impacts of substance use disorder. Its ultimate goal is to disrupt the revolving door of addiction and overdose through sustainable health care. One of the best things about this program is that its network does not solely depend on emergency response. CORE also treats patients for coexisting mental health conditions. The program allows for a combination of social support services, primary care, dental care, psychiatric evaluation, as well as maternal care.

The Florida Courts Opioids & Stimulants RESPONSE (FCOSR)

Formerly known as the Florida Courts Opioid Initiative, FCOSR is a statewide judicial branch response to the opioid epidemic in Florida. This initiative is coordinated through the Office of the State Courts Administrator and involves both circuit-specific and statewide efforts. The initiative focuses on enhancing awareness in Florida residents, as well as finding effective ways to curb the epidemic.

FCOSR initiative includes:

  • Circuit Champions – Almost 100 Circuit Champions from all 20 circuits have been appointed by the Chief Judges and Trial Court Administrators. These Champions participate in a variety of activities, including self-study, leadership, and outreach, and are considered to be local experts on opioids and stimulants.
  • Training events – Aside from establishing Circuit Champions, FCOSR also organizes and hosts training events that feature local, national, and state experts. All of these events are made to be free for judges, court partners, and court staff.
  • Opioid & Stimulants Awareness Month – September 2022 has been recognized as the state’s first month of awareness regarding opioids and stimulants, as well as their treatment.
  • Research & Analysis – FCOSR pays for in-house research and data analysis to support the courts. The initiative also conducts statewide surveys on a regular basis and participates in other national initiatives.
  • Web resources – The FCOSR provides a variety of web resources to the courts. This allows the courts to easily access E-Learning modules and other online education resource platforms, effectively making their job much easier. Furthermore, the courts have access to a special judicial app, as well as an e-bulletin. Online resources are constantly being expanded, allowing the courts to work with up-to-date information.
a court gavel
Florida courts are united in trying to stop the opioid epidemic.

What can you do to help?

Despite the best intentions of the Florida government, they need help fighting the opioid epidemic. The most important thing you can do to help is to spread awareness of how dangerous opioids are. Furthermore, you may want to familiarize yourself with Narcan Nasal Spray Kits. These kits contain naloxone, a lifesaving medication that can be administered by a bystander. If everyone carried one of these kits, it would be possible to prevent thousands of substance abuse deaths across Florida. The best thing about Narcan Nasal Spray Kits is that they are available to everyone who has a history of drug use, people who use drugs, or anyone who might witness an overdose, for free!

If we all do our part, it is possible to stop the opioid epidemic in Florida. However, this cannot happen overnight. Similar to how it took over 20 years for the epidemic to get this bad, it will take considerable time until we are able to eliminate it completely. It is, of course, impossible to prevent every single opioid death in the state but that does not mean that we do not need to at least try!