MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Every day in South Florida, first responders are answering heroin overdose calls at a rate of one every two hours. Local leaders say we are at “crisis level”.
“It’s killing the people in our community every day,” said Ana Moreno, a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and the co-founder of Family Recovery Specialists in Miami.
Moreno says in just one day, she received three calls of patients overdosing on heroin. Two of them did not survive.
“I am terrified as to the number of phone calls that we’re getting about heroin overdoses and just seeing how many people on a daily basis are overdosing and how many people are dying,” she told CBS4’s Lauren Pastrana.
Our cameras captured the effects of the epidemic first hand.
In just a short two-hour ride-along with Miami Fire Rescue recently, we came across a handful of people suspected to be under the influence of heroin.
First responders told us it was actually their ninth heroin-related call of the day.
Some were unconscious. Others were awake, but hostile.
Last month, Miami Police tweeted a picture of a two month old baby found in a car with two unconscious adults.
Investigators immediately suspected they had overdosed on heroin.
“It’s a ‘silent killer’ because people get this drug they go back to their room, the shoot up, they die. Behind dumpsters, shoot up, they die,” said Don Maines, a Special Advisor at BSO.
Maines says the situation is just as dire in Broward.
“This crisis is at epidemic proportions,” he said. “We had 41 overdoses in Broward County alone last week. We have a 244% increase in overdoses. This is not stopping.”
Moreno believes the uptick in heroin use correlates to the shuttering of pill mills across Florida and the rest of the country.
“Statistics show 4 out of 5 current heroin users began with prescription pain medication,” she said. “At the closing of the clinics and the ease of getting the pills, people have been left with this dependency and this addiction to opiates.”
But where illegal prescription pills are relatively expensive – anywhere from $20 to $100 dollars a pop- a baggie of heroin can sell for $10 or $15 on the street.
“Now we have this cheap fentanyl synthetic heroin. It is so cheap,” Maines added.
Fentanyl is typically 50 times more potent than heroin, but experts say certain strains can be twice as strong as that. Just a tiny amount can be lethal.
“People use it in a pill form so people say I’m not a junkie. I’m never going to shoot up. I won’t use a needle. You don’t have to anymore. You can take a pill,” Maines said.
No matter how they’re getting high, people are getting hooked at an alarming rate.
Moreno concludes, “It’s as serious as cancer. It’s killing people.” Fighting this epidemic is a multi-front battle.
Law enforcement agencies, hospitals, schools, and treatment programs must work together to not just get people clean, but to keep others from getting addicted in the first place.
Prevention is easier than recovery, but recovery is possible.
The following links include information and resources for those dealing with addiction: