According to official records, more than 1,000 people in South Florida overdosed last year on opioids including heroin and carfentanil -- a drug so potent it’s used as an elephant tranquilizer.
The growing threat of the opioids epidemic is mobilizing law enforcement and community leaders to form new partnerships and collaborate in events such as last week's discussion hosted by Florida Atlantic University (FAU).
"It oftentimes starts in people’s medicine cabinets," said Jonathon White, a special agent based in Miami for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). "People can find themselves addicted to an opioid and it’s a very short path to heroin. And other people, often times young people, think it’s a harmless, fun thing to try."
That was the message of a 50-minute documentary video shown at the discussion led by White and Dr. Justin Miller, a DEA field intelligence manager. Called "Chasing the Dragon," it presented the stories of people recovering from opioid addiction. Some of the men and women profiled became addicted after being treated for pain with medications like fentanyl. Others began taking opioids for the potent highs the drugs can produce. There was a common message: Avoid highly addictive opiates at all costs.
FAU Police Chief Sean Brammer attended the panel and saidthat last month his 42 officers received opioid response training. They’ll be carrying Narcan, a drug that can keep overdoses from becoming deadly.
"We haven’t had any opiate overdoses on campus just yet," Brammer said. "However, what we are trying to do is to be proactive and not be reactive and have to deal with it on the backside."