Opioids

U.S. Department of Justice

An internet black market used by some Floridians to buy and sell heroin and fentanyl has been shut down in an international law enforcement operation.

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.

Family photo

A 10-year-old Miami boy may be among the youngest victims of Florida’s opioid crisis.

Preliminary toxicology tests show that Alton Banks had the potent painkiller fentanyl in his system when he collapsed at his Overtown home in June, authorities said on Monday.

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.

FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF LAW ENFORCEMENT

At the suggestion of a Palm Beach County Commissioner, the county is looking into suing drug companies whose products are at the heart of the opioid crisis.

Bernard Spragg. NZ / via Flickr/Creative Commons

Delray Beach city officials have been hearing complaints from residents for years: sober homes are crowding us out.

The sober living facilities are intended to integrate recovering drug and alcohol users back into community life. But a lack of oversight coupled with widespread corruption has led to a proliferation of sober homes in some neighborhoods. A recent report estimated there are 247 sober homes operating in the city.

This week, as senators have decamped from Washington for the Fourth of July recess, the future of the Senate's Affordable Care Act replacement plan — and by extension, Medicaid — remains uncertain.

The U.S. is in the midst of an opioid crisis. Millions of Americans are addicted to the powerful prescription painkillers, and tens of thousands are dying each year from overdoses.

A new report out Thursday offers a bit of hope: Doctors are prescribing opioids less often, and the average dose they're giving patients has dropped, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A new study finds injured workers in Florida are using fewer opioids. 

The Workers Compensation Research Institute studied 26 states from 2010 to 2015. They found significant drops in how often injured workers got opioids, and drops in the in the strength of those drugs. For the first time, more than half of injured workers got non-opioid pain medications, like steroids.

 

U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency

Accidental opioid overdoses by first responders are an alarming phenomenon.

 

Now the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency is warning police and firefighters to take special precautions in case they encounter synthetic opioids like fentanyl. The drugs can cause overdose just from contact with skin.

[Read more: Sunny Daze, Inside South Florida's Opioids Crisis]

Dani Moschella is with the Delray Beach Police Department. She said the department tightened their procedures a year ago.

Lake County Sheriff's Office / YouTube

Ty Hernandez was mending a broken heart when he felt a cold coming on.

His mom, Peggy, did the mom thing.

“You’ve got to rest and drink fluids.” she said. “The next morning, I left a note on the counter with some chicken noodle soup and said, ‘I hope you feel better. Call me if you need anything.’ And I went to work.”

A one-paragraph letter, barely a hundred words long, unwittingly became a major contributor to today's opioid crisis, researchers say.

"This has recently been a matter of a lot of angst for me," Dr. Hershel Jick, co-author of that letter, told Morning Edition host David Greene recently. "We have published nearly 400 papers on drug safety, but never before have we had one that got into such a bizarre and unhealthy situation."

For nearly four years now, an unusual coalition of Republicans and Democrats has worked to reduce mandatory prison terms for many federal drug crimes.

But that bipartisan movement may be shallower than it appears. Indeed, Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, who both supported a cut-back on some drug punishments, are preparing a bill that would create tough new penalties for people caught with synthetic opioid drugs. Grassley chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Feinstein is the panel's ranking member.

Peter Haden / WLRN

The overdose call comes in to Delray Beach Fire Rescue around 7:30 p.m. on a Friday.

Firefighter-paramedics — they’re trained to do both — jump into action and rush to a nearby hotel. But before they can treat this victim, another call comes in.

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