drug addiction

The attorneys general of 41 U.S. states said Tuesday that they're banding together to investigate the makers and distributors of powerful opioid painkillers that have, over the past decade, led to a spike in opiate addictions and overdose deaths.

Peter Haden / WLRN

South Florida officials and advocates rallied at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton Thursday night to highlight International Overdose Awareness Day.

Officials from Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Counties spoke with the crowd about potential solutions to the crisis.

A lack of public treatment beds is a problem throughout the region.

Palm Beach County Vice Mayor Melissa McKinley says the the county is developing plans to open a receiving facility for drug users in an old county stockade building near the fairgrounds. The building is currently vacant.

ep_jhu/flickr

Florida's opioid addiction crisis, already declared a "public health emergency" by Gov. Rick Scott, now faces a funding crisis: a $20.4 million federal block grant for substance abuse and mental health unexpectedly ended, leaving Florida lawmakers scrambling to find funding while treatment providers struggle to treat a growing crisis with fewer resources. 

Peter Haden / WLRN

Drug overdoses now kill more Americans than car accidents or gun violence.

Thursday is International Overdose Awareness Day and, to mark the occasion, advocates and officials from Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade Counties will gather on the Florida Atlantic University campus in Boca Raton to call for greater federal action to end the United States’s epidemic of addiction and overdose deaths.

Rallies will be held in cities around the country.

Maureen Kielian is a parent advocate from Fort Lauderdale who helped organize the event.

Each year, more than 300 patients with chronic pain take part in a three-week program at the Pain Rehabilitation Center at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. Their complaints range widely, from specific problems such as intractable lower-back pain to systemic issues such as fibromyalgia. By the time patients enroll, many have tried just about everything to get their chronic pain under control. Half are taking opioids.

Peter Haden / WLRN

Drug overdose deaths are going up in Broward County.

Deaths from opioid overdoses topped 520 in 2016, according to the county Medical Examiner's Office. That’s about 10 a week.

Cocaine overdose deaths were up more than 60 percent in Broward in 2016 — to 230 people.

It’s part of an overall trend that’s wreaking havoc around the country: poly-substance abuse.

“There are no normal drugs anymore,” said Broward County Medical Examiner Dr. Craig Mallak. “Everything’s a combination.”

German police stopped a vehicle Saturday night, only to find the father and son inside allegedly hauling a heap of ecstasy. The roughly 5,000 pills packed in a handful of bags had a street value of nearly $46,000, according to authorities in Osnabrück.

A big catch, to be sure — but that's not the weird part. When they took a closer look, they saw a familiar face staring back.

This week South Carolina decided to sue the maker OxyContin for deceptive marketing.

Peter Haden / WLRN

Widespread incidents of fraud have given the South Florida addiction treatment industry a black eye. Law enforcement has been cracking down — with strong support from the treatment industry’s legitimate providers.

Peter Haden / WLRN

Law enforcement has been cracking down on corruption in South Florida’s drug treatment industry. State and federal officials have arrested more than 30 people for running scams in rehab centers or sober homes in the past year.

But the facilities are often filled with recovering drug users from out-of-state. And when the homes shut down, the residents frequently wind up on the street.

President Trump says he is ready to declare the nation's opioid crisis "a national emergency," saying it is a "serious problem the likes of which we have never had." Speaking to reporters at the entrance to his Bedminster, N.J., golf club, where he is on a working vacation, Trump promised "to spend a lot of time, a lot of effort and a lot of money on the opioid crisis."

Peter Haden / WLRN

Nowhere in South Florida has been hit harder by the opioid overdose epidemic than Palm Beach County.

The number of fatal opioid overdoses has gone up 230 percent in the past two years. More than 540 people died last year. All of those fatalities have to be autopsied by one of the county’s five pathologists.

The federal government is giving the state $3 million for drug court programs in the wake of an opioid epidemic.

Manatee and Sarasota Counties have seen overdose deaths from drugs like heroin, fentanyl and carfentanil spike in the past few years. At the same time, the number of children being removed from their homes and placed into the area’s foster care system has skyrocketed. There’s a connection between the increases.

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