Did you know that just two milligrams of fentanyl, which is about the size of a grain of salt, is enough to kill an adult? Unfortunately, headlines of fentanyl overdoses across the state are becoming too common.
In March, five West Point cadets overdosed on fentanyl in Wilton Manors while on Spring Break.
Earlier this month, 19 people overdosed on fentanyl in Gadsden County, killing at least six individuals.
Just this week, seven people were hospitalized in Tampa after ingesting drugs that contained fentanyl.
More concerning than the headlines are the staggering statistics. Not only are the number of fentanyl overdoses increasing throughout the state, but so is the number of deaths caused by fentanyl. According to the most recent data released by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE)’s Medical Examiners Report, deaths caused by fentanyl increased by 40% in 2021 compared to the same period in 2020.
Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, is approximately 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times more potent than heroin. When used by a trained professional in a medical setting, fentanyl is safe and effective. It is the street version of fentanyl, illicitly produced and sold by drug dealers, which is linked to deadly consequences.
With increasing frequency, drug dealers are lacing cocaine, heroin and even marijuana with fentanyl because it is cheap to make and easy to hide. This lethal combination leaves people gambling with their lives and too often results in devastated families and communities.
Gov. Ron DeSantis, First Lady Casey DeSantis and Attorney General Ashely Moody are leading the charge to hold bad actors accountable while also providing the public with much-needed resources.
The Florida Department of Children and Families developed isavefl.com to help connect Floridians with overdose prevention information. In addition, the Attorney General created and launched a one-stop shop, DoseofRealityFL.com, to help Floridians join the fight to end drug misuse.
What can we do?
We must get people the help they need. Prevention and treatment are key to ending this epidemic. We can prevent overdose deaths by increasing access to the lifesaving medicine, naloxone (Narcan). Narcan is a powerful tool used to revive someone who has stopped breathing due to an opioid overdose. There are local Narcan distribution centers in most communities where free kits are available.
In addition, a majority of local Recovery Community Organizations (RCOs) offer free Narcan education classes.
Law enforcement officers now carry Narcan, as well as EMS first responders. But anyone, regardless of professional training, can help prevent an overdose death. Learn the signs of a drug overdose—nausea and vomiting, cold and clammy skin, as well as blue-colored lips and reduced or loss of consciousness.
If you see someone exhibiting these symptoms, call 911 immediately.
We can end opioid misuse by helping people get the treatment they need. Florida Behavioral Health Association community agencies have resources available and trained professionals who want to help end the opioid epidemic, including local toll-free helplines.
Similarly, anyone can help a friend or loved one who might be struggling. Learn the signs of opioid misuse — sleeplessness, rapid weight loss, and changes in behavior like self-isolation.
Spotting these warning signs and acting can save a life and prevent an overdose.
One life lost to overdose is one too many.
Melanie Brown-Woofter, a trained clinician, is the president and CEO of the Florida Behavioral Health Association.