What’s Behind South Florida’s Heroin Addiction Epidemic?

What’s Behind South Florida’s Heroin Addiction Epidemic?

By In Opioid Addiction
Posted February 1, 2015

What's Behind South Florida's Heroin Epidemic?South Florida Heroin Addiction

South Florida is in the middle of the biggest heroin epidemic it’s ever seen. In just one year, deaths from heroin overdose have doubled in Florida, and it’s only getting worse.

It’s not simply the number of people seeking treatment for heroin addiction, or the record number of heroin seizures by Florida police that’s troubling. Many of the heroin samples seized by the police contain fentanyl, a substance that can make heroin nearly 100 times more addictive.

Heroin Addiction Spikes in Response to Over-Prescription of Opioids

This new wave of heroin addiction definitely has a root cause. The old rule of supply and demand applies here: Doctors who are overprescribing opioids as painkillers, says researchers at Brandeis University, the University of North Florida, and Johns Hopkins University, is the root of the problem.

What is the solution?

“We need to prevent new cases of opioid addiction and while expanding access to treatment for the millions of Americans who are already addicted,” says Dr. Andrew Kolodny, of the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University.

“Without better access to addiction treatment, overdose deaths will remain high and heroin will keep flooding in.”

Pain management clinics and doctors (known as “dirty doctors”) whose sole purpose was to allow any patient who wanted a prescription for narcotics to buy them, with or without medical cause, were rampant in Florida several years ago.

Police ramped up their targeting of pill mills in 2012, and have been largely successful in shutting many of them down. The problem is that without the availability of prescription narcotics, addicts have been turning to heroin instead.

A survey of 9,000 patients at drug treatment and rehabilitation centers nationwide found that 90 percent of heroin users were white men and women. Most were in their early to mid twenties. Three-quarters of these clients said their addiction began with prescription painkillers, like OxyContin and ended with heroin.

US Coast Guard on a drug bust

The chain of addiction in an individual often connects something like this:

  • Prescription for painkillers is given due to surgery, injury or other medical cause
  • Individual with a propensity for addiction begins to run out of prescription before month is over
  • Individual visits another doctor to request pain medication. Here the cycle of addiction has begun and the person is drug seeking. He or she may lie about a condition or physical pain in order to obtain a second prescription.
  • Individual eventually runs out of doctors or places to “shop” for more opioids. Fearing withdrawal, the person turns to heroin as a temporary solution.
  • If the individual is cut off from medically prescribed pain killers, he or she often becomes a full blown heroin addict. It is readily available (due to supply and demand) and less expensive than buying OxyContin or other opioids on the street. Heroin is about $10 a bag, compared to $30 to $50 or more per pill.

The Importance of Treatment for Heroin Addiction

Because heroin addiction is so widespread, you probably know someone in Florida who is a victim, or at risk of becoming one. If it’s too late for prevention, the best solution for heroin addiction has always been rehabilitation. It’s nearly impossible to stop without help. If you or someone you know has fallen into any kind of drug or alcohol addiction, you should seriously consider your options for treatment in a professional rehabilitation facility.

The Shores Treatment and Recovery is here for you. Our loving, family atmosphere, trained staff, and holistic approach to therapy have a high rate of success. The truth is, no one is beyond help or hope. You can recovery. Your family and relationships can be restored. If you’re ready to take the first step to a new freedom, give us a call today.


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