The effects of the opioid epidemic have been felt across the whole country. But he most statistically significant increases in opioid-related deaths have occurred in about half of US states. Florida is one of those states, with a 5% increase in such deaths since 2016.
What caused the Florida opioid epidemic, and what steps are being taken to contain it? Let’s take a closer look.
How Did the Opioid Epidemic Begin?
While you may feel like you’ve only heard about the opioid epidemic in the last few years, tracing the problem back to its origin will take you to the 1990s. It was in the early 90s that doctors began to prescribe opioids more regularly. By the mid-90s, most patients receiving opioid prescriptions were non-terminal.
At the time, doctors believed that opioids presented a minimal risk for addiction. Over time, evidence began to suggest otherwise.
Doctors began dialing back on these prescriptions. This, in part, led to an uptick in opioid-related deaths in the 2010s. People began turning to heroin and synthetic opioids when they could no longer access prescription pills.
What Has the Opioid Epidemic Looked Like in Florida?
As stated earlier, Florida has been hit particularly hard by the opioid epidemic. The rate of opioid-related deaths is higher in Florida than in the United States, on average. At the height of its epidemic, 14 Floridians were dying of opioid-related deaths every day.
These factors led then-Governor Rick Scott to declare the epidemic a public health emergency in the state in 2017. Shortly after, Scott’s attorney general Pam Bondi filed a lawsuit against opioid manufacturers, citing them as liable for the injuries and deaths caused by opioids in the state of Florida.
Pam Bondi has since been replaced by Attorney General Ashley Moody, who ran her campaign on addressing the opioid epidemic, and plans to carry on Bondi’s lawsuits. in 2019, Moody worked to establish a statewide taskforce that would work to understand the causes of the epidemic statewide, and to better identify new treatment options.
Where Do We Go From Here?
With the creation of Attorney General Moody’s taskforce this past spring, Floridians will likely see developments on new ways to address the opioid crisis in the next year. That said, some general principles have been identified nation-wide to begin addressing the problem.
Doctors are continuing to reevaluate their prescribing practices. This ensures opioids are used safely and are not over-prescribed. First responders, including law enforcement and firefighters, are being trained in how to handle overdoses.
Ultimately, this epidemic has proven to be a multi-faceted problem, and there will likely be no simple, unilateral solution to it.
When the Florida Opioid Epidemic Hits Home
While facts and figures about the Florida opioid epidemic are important, they ultimately cannot tell the whole story. The real story of this epidemic is felt by the thousands of families affected by it.