Studies have shown that the prevalence of alcohol use and binge drinking among Broward County students has declined significantly between 2010 and 2016, matching a trend statewide. That same study illustrates a decline in cigarette smoking by youth that has trended in a downward spiral, but the number of e-cigarette users has significantly increased by as much as six times. Middle-school and high-school students are using these devices as a substitute for cigarettes. There has been progress in the fight which offers some hope of combating the illegal substances ravaging our communities.
The real problem in Broward County, and really, the entire state of Florida has been facing is the rise of non-pharmaceutical-issued fentanyl. The substance is created in foreign clandestine labs and has been a huge contributor to the increase of opioid deaths. This relates to adulterated heroin and counterfeit medications. The rise in these problems has really hit families hard. In 2016, Florida saw 2,698 opioid-related overdoses, which breaks down to 14.4 deaths per 100,000 people.
The problem has prompted Florida to implement new rules and regulations. Gov. Rick Scott officially declared a state of emergency due to the sheer volume of accidental opioid overdoses and deaths. It is impossible to eliminate the problems plaguing Broward County, but with stricter rules imposed by the state and the implementation of accredited treatment centers, there will be some relief.
Drug overdoses in Broward County have dramatically risen. There are an estimated 10 people a week falling victim to drug addiction ending in death. The fentanyl problem, which can only be described as adding steroids to an already raging fire, has made it so that drugs are unpredictable. The cost of fentanyl in comparison to heroin is so low that drug dealers cut their heroin to increase their profits.
Prescription drugs were always viewed as a safe alternative by users as they were approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but dealers also have begun counterfeiting pills laced with fentanyl. If you are used to a particular dose and then consume what you think is heroin or a Norco, it can be catastrophic if it is fentanyl. This is exactly what is causing overdoses. When individuals hear about this and not know what they’re getting, it should push them to stop, but the overwhelming power of opioid addiction leads them to play Russian roulette with their lives.
This crisis has completely overwhelmed first responders such as firefighters, police officers, hospitals, and even morgues. They have been inundated with bodies at a rate they’ve never experienced before. In 2016, fentanyl accounted for 1,976 deaths. The increase of poisonous fentanyl has exacerbated the already problematic drug crisis, and this, as a result, has increased the production of a drug called naloxone, which is widely known as Narcan.
Narcan is widely considered the “miracle drug” for how it counteracts an opioid overdose. The rise of drug overdoses throughout the country have pushed first responders to take extensive training courses to determine if someone has overdosed on opioids and, if so, administer the drug. These training courses in conjunction to carrying Narcan have saved many lives. The unfortunate reality, however, is that a sharp increase in demand has driven up prices for the drug, but counties are willing to pay the price to save their residents.
Florida and its leaders have had to take aggressive measures to try and restore order throughout the state. The statistics paint a picture of the destruction of a state and community, but there is hope. When Scott declared a state of emergency in Florida as the state battles with the opioid crisis, the move cleared the way for funding to come to the state and give those who are suffering more access to treatment. Easier access to treatment will give those who saw no light at the end of the tunnel an opportunity to choose life.
Scott also introduced a bill to lawmakers called HB-21, and they unanimously approved it as another piece of ammunition in this battle against drug addiction. The law was put in place to govern prescription drug distribution to those who really needed it. The problem before was an overprescribing of these drugs. If someone had minor surgery, they could be supplied with a month’s worth of opioids that they did not need. HB-21 limits what doctors can prescribe.
If someone goes through a moderate surgery, they will be prescribed a three- to a seven-day dose of the medication, and after the time passes, they will go back to their doctor. The doctor will evaluate their pain levels to determine if they require additional medication.
Doctors also have been required to take additional training courses to learn the warning signs that could reveal whether their patients have become dependent on the drugs. It must also be noted that those suffering from any major trauma or terminal illness are exempt from this new measure. This law will make doctors more selective of who they prescribe narcotic medications for.
Another more extreme measure put into place is the strategy of charging drug dealers in deaths by overdose. They would not only be charged with murder, but the DA would push for the death penalty. These may seem like unorthodox strategies, but Florida is dealing with an unorthodox problem. Someone who has been directly or (indirectly) affected by this crisis will be more of an advocate than someone who has not. This seems like a step too far, but these are laws that have already been in existence dating back decades. These dealers are peddlers of poison, and the only way to have a fighting chance at eradicating a portion of this crisis is to think outside the box.
While these policies may not be effective in stopping the problem as a whole, they are steps to help deal with these problems. These are solutions that can help chop off some of the branches while we look for ways to get to the root.
Substance abuse treatment is comprised of different levels in a continuum of care that starts the client at the most intensive level. The process gradually decreases in intensity as clients gain stability. Each step of the process plays an important role, and successful completion of each stage will garner a higher rate of success than those who don’t finish treatment.
The first and often regarded as the most difficult step in treatment is medical detox. Detox should take place in a medical setting with the supervision of medical professionals. It consists of ridding the body of its toxins and bringing the client back to stability.
Withdrawal is imminent, but when dealing with this part of the recovery process, the client will mitigate various risk factors when detoxing at a professional facility. In some cases, the staff will give recovering clients medication that alleviates the toughest symptoms and provides support throughout detox, a period that could last three to seven days depending on the severity of addiction.
The next level of care will be determined by the medical staff who oversaw your detox. Depending on the type of drugs abused and the severity of the addiction, they will consider various placements, which could include either a residential or outpatient treatment center.
You will establish a medical plan with the team and decide which therapies will be most beneficial for your unique set of needs. This will all be decided by the current needs of the client, and can always be adjusted throughout the process. The typical order of operations for treatment goes as follows:
Various therapies are used to help recovering clients understand the root of their addiction and manage triggers better should they arise in the future. The client will be given guidance, support, education, the coping skills necessary to manage this lifelong disease. Therapies you may experience include:
The search for a facility that is tailored specifically to what you need should never deter you from seeking treatment. Admitting to addiction and taking the next step is hard enough, but searching for treatment doesn’t have to be. The decision the potential client makes will determine the outcome of their future, so they must ensuring they choose the right facility with the highest standards. This will give them the best chance for success.
It’s important to remember that treatment will vary and look different depending on the person. Specific standards can help determine the best placement for either yourself or a loved one. Fortunately, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) offers guidance on treatment center criteria to better assist those seeking out help. SAMHSA suggests:
C. (2014, October 01). Treatments for Substance Use Disorders. from https://www.samhsa.gov/treatment/substance-use-disorders