The Florida Medical Examiners Commission recently released a report outlining the number of heroin- and fentanyl-related fatalities in the state last year, and the numbers are nothing less than shocking.
Indeed, the report found that Florida saw 447 heroin-related fatalities and 538 fentanyl-related fatalities in 2014. While these numbers are certainly discouraging enough on their own, consider that there were roughly 50 heroin-related fatalities and 200 fentanyl-related fatalities in 2010, meaning that each category has increased by nearly ninefold and twofold, respectively, over the last four years.
According to the Medical Examiners Commission, Manatee County, located along the Gulf Coast, was hit hardest with a rate of heroin- and fentanyl-related fatalities between 10 and 14.99 deaths per 100,000 population in 2014.
Closer to home, the report found that the rate of both heroin-related fatalities and fentanyl-related fatalities here in Orange County was between 5 and 9.99 per 100,000 population.
The natural question to arise from such disheartening figures is what exactly is driving this trend, which officials say is poised to continue through 2015.
According to experts, a big part of the problem is that in the wake of the crackdown on the state's so-called pill mills, many people with substance abuse issues found it much harder to secure prescription opiates like oxycodone, and as a result turned to drugs like heroin and fentanyl that are easier to secure on the street.
Compounding this problem, they say, is that law enforcement officials across the state have been more focused on making arrests for drug crimes than they have on things like treatment and rehabilitation, both of which can reduce recidivism and improve quality of life.
The good news, however, is that state lawmakers are finally becoming more attuned to the problem, something we'll examine in our next post.
Those arrested for drug crimes need to know that incarceration is not inevitable and that they do have options. At the Law Offices of Horwitz & Citro, P.A., P.A., we can help those arrested for drug crimes like possession explore these options, including whether they are a viable candidate for drug court.