Orange & Osceola Counties Top Florida in Fentanyl Deaths
Fentanyl is a very powerful opioid painkiller which is 50 times more potent than heroin. In recent years, it has become a street drug, often sold in the guise of heroin, or laced into heroin itself. According to Florida Medical Examiners Commission report, Orange and Osceola counties incurred more fentanyl deaths that anywhere else in Florida.
The report revealed that in the first half of 2015, there were 50 fentanyl-related deaths in the two counties. These counties also had the highest number of overdose deaths from morphine, and ranked #2 in heroin and cocaine.
In fentanyl-related deaths, Miami-Dade and Hillsborough reported 37 and 27, respectively.
Also, during this time 4,682 Floridians died of drug overdoses, a 14% increase from the first half of 2014. Many of those overdoses also revealed a combination of drugs in their system.
All in all, in central Florida, there were 284 deaths related to drugs in 2015 (a 34% increase from 2014) as reported by the Orange-Oseola Medical Examiner’s Office.
The Orange-Osceola report also reveals there were 67 fentanyl deaths in 2015, nearly doubling that of 2014. Also reported was a 37% increase in overdose deaths from illicit drugs, including heroin.
Deaths by prescription drugs are also rising, but they are not yet to the extent of these illicit drugs.
Dr. Stephen Nelson, Florida Medical Examiners Commission:
“There isn’t a single day that goes by that we don’t have drug deaths here. And just the number of young dead people day after day. We usually saw them because of risky behavior like a motor vehicle crashes. Now they’re dead at home because they overdosed. They’re dead in bed or on the kitchen table from drug abuse.”
Many believe that the dramatic increase in heroin and fentanyl deaths is the result of the prescription painkiller crackdown by the healthcare industry. If patients can no longer get the painkiller medication of which they are dependent, they may choose to go elsewhere for similar drugs. That is, the street, for heroin or fentanyl. Often, buyers don’t even know for sure exactly what they are getting.
In the case of these counties, however, there has also been a population growth which may have factored into the increase in drug-related deaths.
In general, overdose deaths from prescription drugs, heroin, and other opioids has dramatically been increasing in the last two years. Not just in Florida, but nationwide.
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology
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