In the field of medicine, opioids are used as pain relievers. This class of drugs is legitimately available by prescription for people who need immediate pain relief after a serious accident or for those that suffer from chronic pain. Familiar names include oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet), hydrocodone (Vicodin), and methadone (Dolophine).

Given the extraordinarily addictive nature of opioids, all too often patients who are given a short-term prescription find themselves looking for a substitute when their prescription runs out. If a legitimate prescription can no longer be obtained, former-patients often turn to the streets to find more drugs and inherently become involved with opioid addicts who use opioids for the rush rather than the intended painkilling qualities.

Although prescription strength drugs are sold on the street, so are synthetic versions such as fentanyl and carfentanil. These synthetic drugs are significantly stronger than traditional opioids and are usually illegally made and often blended with heroin or cocaine as a mixed product. On the black market, heroin, which is derived from morphine and also highly addictive, seems to be one of the most often drugs to be encountered.

Florida’s Opioid Crisis

From the latest available statistics, deaths in Florida from opioid use break down to fentanyl 1,390, heroin 952, oxycodone 723 and hydrocodone 245 deaths. While this is truly tragic for those involved, these statistics are only the tip of the iceberg. One in three adults suffer from chronic pain, and not surprisingly, many who take prescription drugs will become dependent on them with some becoming addicted.

It’s no wonder that Florida’s state authorities and first responders are extremely concerned about this growing opioid epidemic.

Prevention

Undoubtedly, this crisis, which spans across the entire country, will not be easily solved. In 2017 Governor Scott (FL) declared a Public Health Emergency across the state of Florida. This made available federal funds of more than $27 million to provide prevention, treatment and recovery support services.

Governor Scott has recently taken additional steps in the attempt to fight the crisis by signing legislation that limits opioid prescribing and provides millions of dollars in funding to combat the overdose epidemic, and continues to be active in battling the crisis.

Under the new legislature, initial prescriptions for opioids would be limited to three days. Only Kentucky and Minnesota have implemented similar provisions which are designed to stop unused drugs, left over from a longer prescription, to make their way onto the black market. (The new measure is not a blanket measure; trauma patients and those with cancer, chronic pain and serious illnesses are exempted.)

Treatment

Florida’s prevention intervention is only one part of a multi-pronged attack. The state has taken additional measures which involve giving support to first responders dealing with the immediacy of such overdoses. The additional support also enables the state to get users and addicts into much needed opioid treatment programs.