National Opioid Epidemic Affecting Miami-Dade - South Dade News Leader: Community News | South Dade News Leader | Miami Dade County

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National Opioid Epidemic Affecting Miami-Dade

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Posted: Thursday, February 9, 2017 4:05 pm | Updated: 10:34 am, Fri Apr 7, 2017.

  A new government report reveals that drug overdose deaths have continued to rise, with opioids alone killing 91 Americans every day, while another report cites Mexico as "the greatest criminal drug threat to the United States" for its role in supplying those illicit substances.

  According to the 2015 annual report by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, in the first half of 2015, heroin deaths jumped 100 percent in Miami-Dade County compared to the same period from the previous year and deaths linked to fentanyl rose by 310 percent.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez in partnership with the State Attorney Katherine Fernandez-Rundle, the Department of Children and Families, the Florida Department of Health and Miami-Dade County's Board of County Commissioners Chairman Bovo, has recently formed the Opioid Addiction Task Force--charged with developing an effective action plan that addresses the reduction of opioid and heroin addiction and prevents overdose deaths. The task force held their first meeting on January 30th, http://www.miamidade.gov/mayor/opioid-addiction-task-force-group.asp

Novus Medical Detox Center (http://www.novusdetox.com/), a leading Florida-based drug treatment facility, believes the current epidemic may be an unintended consequence of legalized marijuana and advocates for expanded access to drug treatment programs as a key to the solution.

  The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that drug-related overdose deaths increased 11.4% from 2014 to 2015, averaging 144 each day. The CDC attributes this growth primarily to synthetic opioids (including illicitly manufactured fentanyl) and heroin, for which the death rates climbed 72.2% and 20.6%, respectively. In 2015, heroin alone claimed nearly 13,000 lives nationwide.

  Some experts speculate that legalized cannabis may have inadvertently contributed to today's heroin and fentanyl epidemic by replacing Mexico's illegally imported marijuana with U.S.-produced crops, driving cartels to seek a new source of profits.

  An analysis published by Esquire notes the Sinaloa Cartel experienced a 40% drop in marijuana sales in a single year, losing billions of dollars; so the cartels increased production of heroin, making a purer product and selling it for less.

A recent U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) report shows that Mexico has steadily increased its share of the U.S. heroin market in recent years, and now accounts for 79% of all heroin seized and analyzed. The DEA has also linked Mexico to the distribution of fentanyl, a drug that is "deadly to users" and "a grave threat to law enforcement officials and first responders".

  Though China is believed to be the primary source of illicit fentanyl, the DEA reports that Mexican traffickers are mixing it with heroin or pressing it into counterfeit prescription opioid pills destined for the United States.

  "The sad truth is that millions of Americans are struggling with substance use disorders, and Mexican cartels are ruthlessly capitalizing on their plight for financial gain," noted Kent Runyon, Compliance Officer and Vice President of Community Relations for Novus Medical Detox Center. "When marijuana ceased to be a major profit center for traffickers, they cashed in on America's opioid epidemic. Patients who developed opioid use disorders and found it increasingly difficult to obtain prescription medications amid the U.S. crackdown on pain clinics and overprescribing are now falling prey to Mexico's fentanyl and heroin traffickers."

  Runyon emphasizes the dangers inherent to the growing dominance of Mexican cartels. Not only are they responsible for violence and killings in Mexico, but U.S.-based gangs pose a public safety threat by committing home invasions, kidnappings and murders on behalf of cartels. Meanwhile, Americans who unwittingly purchase fentanyl-laced heroin or counterfeit pills are at risk of overdosing and dying.

  "Fentanyl is lethal even in very small quantities, so the same doses that used to provide a high are now sending users to the hospital—or the morgue," warns Runyon. "That's why it's critical to help those suffering from opioid use disorders get appropriate treatment. The debilitating side effects of opioid withdrawal keep many users trapped in a cycle of dependency. Reducing opioid consumption will not only save lives but also weaken the power and profitability of Mexico's cartels—enabling America to win the war against illicit opioids."

  Novus offers medically supervised drug detox programs designed to minimize the discomfort of opiate/opioid withdrawal (http://novusdetox.com/opiate-opioid-withdrawal.php). The Florida detox facility provides individually customized treatment plans based on medical protocols, including 24-hour access to withdrawal specialists and nursing care.

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