Florida officials say heroin is making a comeback, now that the state has had success in shutting down “pill mills” selling prescription painkillers.
Heroin is appearing in urban areas and smaller communities, according to Jim Hall of Nova Southeastern University’s Center for Applied Research on Substance Abuse and Health Disparities. “Young adults, 18 to 30, white, prescription opioid addicts are making the transition to heroin,” he told The Miami Herald.
Officials are responding in a number of ways, including a public education campaign about the risks of heroin and needle injection, and increasing awareness of a Good Samaritan law designed to prevent drug overdoses.
Between July 2010 to June 2011, there were 45 heroin-related deaths in Florida, compared with 77 in the same time period a year later.
In Broward County, which includes Fort Lauderdale, addiction treatment centers report an 87 percent increase in admissions among people using heroin last year, from 169 to 316. Miami-Dade County reported an increase from 227 heroin admissions to 308 in the first half of last year.
A study published in July 2012 found OxyContin abuse has decreased now that the painkiller has been reformulated to make it more difficult to misuse. Many people who abused the drug have switched to heroin, the researchers reported in the New England Journal of Medicine. In 2010, the company that makes OxyContin introduced a new version of the drug that is more difficult to inhale or inject.
Florida has taken a number of measures in the past several years designed to reduce prescription drug abuse. In June 2011, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed into law a bill designed to cut down on prescription drug abuse by controlling pill mills in the state. The law authorized the creation of a prescription-drug monitoring database to reduce doctor-shopping by people looking to collect multiple painkiller prescriptions. The legislation also imposed new penalties for physicians who overprescribe medication and imposes stricter rules for operating pharmacies.