BROWARD COUNTY (CBSMiami) — Every two hours, someone in South Florida overdoses on drugs.
Health officials with the Broward Office of Medical Examiner and Trauma Services say these cases are on the rise and overdose deaths have nearly doubled since 2014.
Last year, 582 people lost their lives to drugs in Broward County, up 260 from 2015. The Medical Examiner’s Office has pointed to an increase in replacements for heroin, like fentanyl, carfentanil, and other cheaply made synthetic drugs, which results in users unaware of the potency and higher doses they may be ingesting.
“In some cases, fentanyl and various synthetics are being laced with other illicit drugs like cocaine, or prescription medications like Xanax,” officials said in a media release.
They released a map detailing each opiate-related death in 2016 in Broward, including age, location and the type of drug consumed.
Fentanyl, a synthetic drug used under controlled conditions for hospital procedures like colonoscopies, is many times more potent than heroin.
Carfentanil is even worse. Also a synthetic drug, it’s estimated to be 100 to 1,000 times more potent than heroin and isn’t used to treat people at all.
“Just a few salt-sized grains can sedate a 6,000 to 13,000 pound elephant,” the ME says. “In many cases, users of these deadly fentanyl and hundreds of other fentanyl derivatives have no idea their drug of choice contains a deadly combination until it’s too late.”
Also of note in 2016 was a drastic uptick in overdoses as the months went by. Between January to June, 199 overdoses were reported in Broward. But by the second half of the year, that nearly doubled to 383 more cases.
The ME’s office says that’s due to fentanyl and carfentanil becoming more available on the streets.
“If you’re buying heroin or cocaine, or any drug on the streets for that matter, it could be laced with carfentanil or other deadly opiates, and if it is, there’s a very high chance you will die,” said Dr. Craig Mallak, Chief Medical Examiner.
More than 100 drug overdose deaths in 2016 were associated with carfentanil, they report.
The map, created by the County’s Geographical Information Systems (GIS) Department, has become a tool for law enforcement and other county personnel to “develop policies and procedures to stem the tide of this growing epidemic and to determine where to best allocate resources.”