News Stories

The Reality Behind the “Opioid Problem” in Southwest Florida and Why You Should Care

You hear it all over the media — “the opioid crisis” “the opioid epidemic” “the problem is getting worse”, “people are dying at an alarming rate”.

But what does this mean? What are opioids? How are people getting addicted? What can we do to help stop the problem?

In Florida, 5,725 opioid-related deaths were reported in 2016 — a 35 percent increase from 2015, according to the 2016 Medical Examiners Commission Drug Report.

We went out into the Southwest Florida community to find out — talking to nonprofits, drug court judges, community activists, and former drug addicts themselves to learn more about the problem….and the possible solutions.

These are the stories of Lauren Casper, a 31-year-old woman from Port Charlotte, and Jonathon Belyea, a 34-year-old from Naples. Both spent years doing and dealing drugs, and spending time in and out of jail before they turned their lives around.

As Lauren said during her interview, “If I can be fixed and saved, anybody can.”

Opioid fast facts:

Emergency department visits for opioid overdoses rose 30 percent in all parts of the U.S. from July 2016 through September 2017, according to the CDC.

In President Donald Trump’s 208 State of the Union Address, he brought up the topic of opioid addiction. “In 2016 we lost 64,000 Americans to drug overdoses. 174 deaths per day. Seven per hour,” he stated.

The rate of drug overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids doubled in a single year from 3.1 per 100,000 people in 2015 to 6.2 per 100,000 in 2016, according to the Center for Disease Control.

Florida saw 23.7 opioid overdose deaths per 100,000 people in 2016, more than the national average which was 19.8 per 100,000 people.

In 2016, 400 people total lost their lives to prescription drugs across Fort Myers, Naples, and Port Charlotte. 48 died from heroin in the three areas, and another 73 lost their lives to fentanyl, according to the Florida Medical Examiners Commission Drug Report.

In 2017, Florida was awarded $54 million over the span of two years from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration.

For more information on how to get free NARCAN click here .

RELATED: Naples Nonprofit receives state grant in battle against opioid addiction

Naples Nonprofit Receives State Grant in Battle against Opioid Addiction

RELATED: Florida Highway patrol troopers to carry opioid overdose treatment

Florida Highway Patrol Troopers To Carry Opioid Overdose Treatment

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