What You Didn’t Know About Fentanyl in Florida

fentanyl florida

It’s estimated that over 5% of the world’s population uses illegal drugs. What’s more, approximately 164 million people worldwide had a drug use disorder in 2016.

Of all those countries, the US has the highest rate of substance abuse. Fueling that statistic is the fact that the US is in the midst of the opioid crisis – a large part of which is driven by fentanyl.

The state of Florida has been particularly devastated by the opioid crisis. Fentanyl in Florida is a crisis for both substance users and the community alike.

Whether you or a loved one is suffering from addiction, you should know the risks of Florida fentanyl. Keep reading to learn more.

What Are Opioids?

Opioids are a class of drug derived from opium. There are both legal and illegal varieties of opioids.

For example, heroin is a schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act. This means that it is illegal for all purposes. On the other hand, oxycodone, Vicodin, codeine, morphine, and even fentanyl, are all opioids that are legal and available by prescription.

Opioids of both the illegal and legal kind are pain-relieving drugs. They interact with the nervous system in both the body and the brain to help with pain-relief. But they also produce a sense of euphoria, which is part of what makes them so addictive.

The other aspect that leads to addiction is that prescription opioids are not considered safe for long-term use. Regularly using these drugs can cause dependence and lead to their abuse. This is because the brain requires more of the drug as it gets used to the dosage.

Opioid abuse can take many forms. It’s characterized by taking the drug for longer than prescribed or taking more than was prescribed. But it might also involve taking someone else’s prescription.

Regardless of the form it takes, abusing opioids can cause overdose, death, or dependence on additional drugs.

What Is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a very potent synthetic opioid. It was created in a laboratory in 1959. Since then, it’s been used for both pain relief and as an anesthetic.

But more recently, fentanyl is being made illicitly. Even fentanyl made for medical use can be dangerous – so the illicit varieties are even more potent and deadly.

The Opioid Crisis

Until relatively recently, doctors commonly prescribed opioids to their patients for relieving pain. Because they’re thought to be safe for short-term use, doctors didn’t see any problem with prescribing them in this way.

However, there is now a growing hesitancy among doctors to prescribe opioids. There are also legal risks involved with prescribing these drugs to patients. The laws came into effect as the opioid crisis grew in the US.

So what is the opioid crisis?

It is the increase in the abuse of prescription and non-prescription opioid drugs in the US as well as Canada. It began in the late 1990s and continues to this day.

Accompanied by the rapid increase in the abuse of opioids is an increase in drug-related deaths. In 2016 alone, overdoses killed over 64,000 Americans. That number is up from 11,000 the year before.

Of those overdose-related deaths, opioid overdoses accounted for two-thirds. And the number grows every year.

Fentanyl and the Opioid Crisis

Fentanyl plays a huge role in the opioid crisis. In fact, it’s the primary factor in the rapid increase in opioid-related deaths.

Most fentanyl users aren’t intentionally taking fentanyl. Instead, they’re heroin and other substance-addicts who buy drugs cut with fentanyl without knowing it.

Drug dealers often dilute their drugs using fentanyl. It makes a smaller amount go a long way, which means more profits. It also makes the drug more potent without making it more expensive for the dealer.

Drug dealers then sell these drugs to customers who have no tolerance to the drug. And while some individuals can find pharmaceutical-grade fentanyl, most of the fentanyl found on the streets is fake. Both types can be up to 50 times more powerful than heroin and 50-100 times more potent than morphine.

What makes fentanyl so dangerous is its chemical structure. Like heroin, it’s a non-polar molecule that’s fat-soluble. It’s able to penetrate the blood-brain barrier rapidly.

The blood-brain barrier helps keep harmful substances away from the brain. But fentanyl gets through this protective barrier much faster than heroin. It also has a faster impact on the central nervous system.

In this way, fentanyl is so potent that even a single pill can cause severe side effects. These side effects include anything from paralysis to an overdose-related death. And while it would take a vial of heroin to lethally overdose, it only takes a few granules of fentanyl to do the same.

Fentanyl in Florida Facts

There were nearly 2,800 opioid-related overdose deaths in Florida in 2016 alone.

The national rate of opioid-related overdose deaths is 13.3 per 100,000 people. In Florida, the number of deaths per 100,000 people is 14.4. This demonstrates that Florida has been particularly affected by the opioid crisis.

Synthetic opioids are the main driver of the problem in Florida. They caused over 1,566 deaths in 2016. That’s a significant increase from 2015 when that number was only 610.

Within Florida, the Northeastern region has experienced the highest death rates. In this area of Florida, prescription overdose rates have grown by 50% since 2010.

Another startling fact about opioid addiction in Florida is that the age of substance abuse is getting younger. People aged 25-44 are the most likely to struggle with substance abuse in Florida, compared to 35-44 at the national level.

Fentanyl in Florida Laws

Legally, acute pain is defined as the normal, psychological, and time-limited response to an adverse chemical, thermal, or mechanical stimulus associated with trauma, surgery, or an acute illness. And, legally, this is what a doctor can prescribe opioids for. They may also prescribe them for treating cancer, palliative care, terminal conditions, as well as serious traumatic injury.

But in response to the opioid crisis, Florida passed a Controlled Substance Prescribing law. This law placed a 3-day limit on most opioid prescriptions in Florida. They’re allowed to prescribe a 7-day supply under certain conditions.

Physicians and pharmacists must also check patient history on a statewide database before prescribing an opioid. When the drug is being dispensed for non-acute reasons, they’re required to submit additional documentation.

The aim of the law is to limit the amount of time that people take opioids. Because prolonged periods of use increase the risk of accidental addiction, the 3-day limit reduces the chances that a patient will become addicted.

Naloxone in Florida

As another measure to combat the issue of fentanyl in Florida, naloxone has been made available without a prescription. Otherwise known as Narcan, this drug can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.

It reduces the harm inflicted on the individual and works in as little as 2 minutes when given intravenously. If injected into a muscle, naloxone works within 5 minutes.

Naloxone is usually part of an emergency overdose response kit. It is also provided to emergency responders such as paramedics.

Naltrexone

Naltrexone is similar to naloxone but is used in rehabilitation settings. Known as an opiate antagonist, naltrexone is given to people who have finished detoxing. It inhibits the desire to take opiates by blocking the effect that the drugs have on your brain.

Naltrexone prevents the euphoric effects of opioids and also limits cravings. It can be taken in tablet form but there are also injectable and implantable varieties. The dosage varies by individual depending on what they were addicted to and whether they’re taking it at home or in a treatment center.

How Do You Know If You’re Addicted?

Addictions can range from mild to moderate or severe. Below are 11 criteria used for diagnosing addiction:

  • Inability to exercise self-control
  • Inability to stop even when there’s a desire to stop
  • Craving a substance
  • Inability to keep up with responsibility
  • Lack of interest in other activities
  • Dangerous behaviors
  • Problems in relationships
  • Spending a lot of time getting the substance
  • Increasing tolerance
  • Withdrawal symptoms
  • Frequent bad situations (that get worse)

Addiction is diagnosed on a spectrum. If you have 2-3 of the criteria above, you might have a mild substance abuse problem.

It’s a common misconception that you need to be at rock bottom before you can begin looking for treatment. But even a mild diagnosis may signal it’s time to consider that you have a problem.

You might consider seeking help if even 1 of these criteria applies to you. Addiction is a progressive condition that will worsen with time. It doesn’t take long to go from a mild diagnosis to a severe one.

The Steps to Getting Help

If you believe you might have an addiction, you’re probably wondering what treatment looks like. While all treatments vary depending on the individual and what they were addicted to, we’ve outlined the general steps involved in beginning a rehabilitation program.

Detox

The first step to getting sober is detoxification. This important part of the recovery process involves cleaning any substances from your body. It means abstaining from taking any substances and allowing your body to flush itself of the harmful substance you’ve been taking.

Detox can be physically and mentally difficult. Depending on what a person is detoxing from, it can even be dangerous. That’s why it’s important to detox under the supervision of a medical professional.

A medically managed detox is usually part of an inpatient program. It involves doctors, nurses, clinicians, and other supervisors. They monitor the individual and provide medical assistance when necessary.

If you’re detoxing from any of the following substances, it’s recommended that you seek a detox center staffed by trained medical professionals:

  • Benzodiazepines (Xanax, Valium, Klonopin, etc.)
  • Heroin
  • Prescription pain relievers or other opioids
  • Suboxone
  • Cocaine
  • Methamphetamines
  • Alcohol

Detoxing from any of these substances without supervision is dangerous. Doctors can prescribe medications that help make the process more safe and comfortable.

After detox is successfully completed, the next step is entering a treatment program. These usually take the form of inpatient rehabilitation centers, which we’ll discuss more below.

Rehabilitation

After detox, an individual will likely enter a rehabilitation facility. This gives them the best chance of maintaining sobriety. It provides them with the tools they’ll need to function in recovery.

Rehabilitation centers differ in their approaches to recovery. What’s more, every individual requires an approach that suits their unique situation.

This depends on the type of substance they abused and how long they’ve abused it. It also varies depending on whether they have a concurrent disorder or condition. Personal preference can also come into play – where some individuals will prefer the traditional 12 step program, others may prefer a more holistic approach.

Some of the more common types of treatment therapies are:

  • Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Art therapy
  • Biofeedback
  • Music therapy
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Peer groups
  • Family groups
  • Trauma resolution
  • Self-love therapy
  • The 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous
  • Prayers and meetings with religious practitioners
  • Nature therapy

Regardless of the type of therapy applied, patients will live in a rehabilitation facility for a pre-determined amount of time. During that time, they will receive therapy, treatments, and services that are aimed at keeping them sober.

They also learn valuable skills regarding how to live and function as a productive member of society outside of the facility.

Do You Have a Substance Abuse Problem?

The opioid epidemic is rapidly increasing the number of overdose-related deaths across the US. But the opioid crisis is particularly problematic in Florida. Fentanyl in Florida is above the national average in terms of overdose-related deaths.

In response to this crisis, Florida law has restricted access to opioids. But this doesn’t stop the illicit production of this deadly drug. That’s why if you or someone you love has an opioid addiction, you need to get help today.

For more information on where to get help, contact us today.

Content Reviewed by Jacklyn Steward

Jacklyn StewardJacklyn is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) and an EMDR trained trauma therapy specialist with over 6 years of experience in the field of addiction. She has a Masters Degree in Mental Health and Substance Abuse Counseling from Nova Southeastern University.