Substance Abuse

Heroin Abuse in Florida on the Rise as Opiate Painkillers Become More Expensive

Heroin has become an alternative drug of abuse for many Floridians now that opiate painkillers are getting more expensive and harder to obtain, the Miami Herald reports.

In an analysis of drug-related deaths for 2011, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement reported that heroin deaths statewide has increased by 18.8 percent. Eighteen cases of those heroin-related deaths happened in Orlando; fifteen in Miami; and three in Fort Lauderdale. Although overall figures are significantly lower compared to the number of heroin deaths in 2001, law enforcement officials say the recent increase is worrisome.

Drug rehab experts from Miami-Dade County disclosed that they have seen a small but definite increase in patients who have switched from oxycodone or other prescription drugs to heroin within the past year.

“When I ask my patients, they say, ‘Yeah, I couldn’t get oxycodone, and now I’m using heroin, four or five bags,’ ” said Dr. Patricia Junquera, a University of Miami assistant professor of psychiatry and a doctor at Jackson Memorial Hospital’s detox unit. “I think more people are switching to heroin.’” She added that she’s witnessed about 50 percent increase in the number of heroin patients at her clinic during the first six months or so of 2012.

In the recent years, Florida has adopted several measures aimed at reducing prescription drug abuse. Gov. Rick Scott signed in June 2011 the HB 7095 which changes the regulation of activities by physicians, pain management clinics, pharmacies and wholesale drug distributors. With some suppliers exiting the pill-mill business and laws preventing new mills from operating, the price of prescription drugs jumped.

Dr. Juan Oms, medical director of Miami Outpatient Detox, said the price of 30 milligrams of Oxycodone had increased from about $10 to about $30 in 2012, while some types of heroin, on the other hand, has become cheaper — $10 a hit.

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