Opioids are one of the biggest drug-related threats that face the state of Florida and the United States as a whole. Florida’s miles of coastline is a great benefit to the state, but they also present an attractive opportunity to illegal drug traffickers that use major seaports and waterways to transport illicit opioids. Florida also has a large medical industry, which contributed to opioid overprescription that may have had a significant impact on the opioid crisis. Opioid addiction is a troubling disease that’s notoriously difficult to get over, especially if you attempt to do it on your own. However, addiction can be effectively treated with the right approach for your needs. Learn more about the opioid problem and how Florida opioid treatment can help.
What are Opioids?
Opioids are a category of drugs that include both illicit and prescription substances. Prescription opioids are used to treat moderate to severe pain symptoms that are caused by things like surgery, injuries, and diseases like cancer. Prescription opioids include popular brands like OxyContin and Percocet. Opioid drugs are very similar to your body’s endorphins, which are natural chemical messengers that help to regulate your pain response. Opioids can bind to the same receptors as endorphins, but they can be much more powerful.
Opioid medications can cause feelings of sedation, relaxation, bodily warmth, pain relief, a sense of well-being, and euphoria. Because of these pleasant and euphoric effects, opioids are frequently misused for recreational purposes. In some cases, misuse begins with a prescription opioid, but they quickly become too difficult to get or too expensive to purchase. Illicit drugs like heroin are cheaper and easier to find than prescription opioids. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), nearly 80% of people that use heroin start with a prescription opioid. That means prescription opioid misuse is a significant risk factor for later illicit drug use.
In some cases, an opioid use disorder starts after prescribed use that lasts for too long. Taking opioids for long periods of time increases your risk of developing a chemical dependence or addiction to the drug. The opioid crisis of previous years is thought to be rooted in both the overprescription of legal opioids and the influx of illegal opioids like heroin.
Opioid Overdose Symptoms
Opioids are a significant threat to public health in Florida and all over the country because of their potential for causing dangerous overdoses. Opioids can have a sedating effect on your nervous system, which is what gives them their relaxing effects. However, high doses of an opioid can start to slow some of the important functions of your central nervous system. Most notably, an opioid overdose can slow your breathing, which is an unconscious function of your nervous system that opioids can suppress.
As your breathing slows, you can experience brain damage, coma, loss of consciousness, and death. The introduction of fentanyl into illegal markets in Florida has led to an increase in overdose deaths. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that’s many times stronger than heroin. It’s often put into heroin supplies without buyers knowing. This can cause people to take very high doses of an opioid without the awareness that they’re taking opioids at all.
Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms
Opioids can also cause uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms that are similar to a bad case of the flu. You may experience sweating, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, chills, and body aches. In most cases, opioid withdrawal isn’t life-threatening, though it can cause some dangerous dehydration if you don’t drink enough fluids. However, opioid withdrawal does represent a barrier to treatment that can be hard for many people to overcome. On top of symptoms, you’ll experience intense drug cravings that can be difficult to ignore.
Florida Opioid Misuse Statistics
Opioids are a significant problem in the state of Florida. For nearly a decade, alcohol has been the number one substance that was associated with fatalities in Florida. However, data from the Medical Examiners Commission in the first six months of 2020 revealed that an opioid surpassed alcohol as the most frequent drug associated with fatalities. The opioid was fentanyl, and it was found in 2,838 deaths investigated by medical examiners in the first six months of 2020. In 2019, 6,128 deaths were reported to have involved opioids and 3,655 involved fentanyl. Morphine was involved in 1,855 deaths, many of which are thought to have involved heroin, which is quickly broken down into morphine in the body.
Though information about drug use, addiction, and overdose is still being collected about 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic is thought to have affected opioid-related addiction and overdose rates significantly. According to the interim report from medical examiners in Florida, there was already a 70% increase in fentanyl-related deaths from January to June in 2020 compared to the same time frame in 2019.
Does Florida Have an Opioid Problem?
Opioids have been a serious public health concern in Florida for at least the past decade. But with the recent sudden spike in fentanyl-related deaths that have surpassed even alcohol-related deaths, it’s clear that opioids are a public health crisis that continues to grow in the state. While opioids remain a serious threat to public health and safety, the state has been working to address the complex problems related to opioid misuse and addiction. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gave the state a grant in 2019 that has been used to bolster overdose surveillance systems that could offer new data and insight into the fight against the opioid crisis.
How Does Opioid Treatment Work?
Though opioid dependence and addiction can be extremely difficult to get past on your own, they can be treated with a variety of approaches. Opioid addiction treatment is a complex process because your treatment plan largely depends on your individual needs. There is no single treatment plan that works for every person. Opioid addiction can come with a unique range of underlying causes and consequences that all need to be addressed during the treatment process. For instance, addiction often comes with mental health problems like anxiety or depression. If addiction is treated while a mental health problem is ignored, it can lead to limited treatment success and relapse. Treatment has to address medical, psychological, and social issues that can come with a substance use disorder.
There are multiple levels of care in addiction treatment that can address different needs. When you first enter a rehab program, you’ll go through a medical and psychological assessment process that’s designed to determine your level of need. From there, you will be placed somewhere on the continuum of care. There are four major levels in the continuum and several sublevels that can help personalize the care you receive. Through each level of care, you may receive medications or psychotherapy options that depend on your particular needs.
Detox, also known as medically managed intensive inpatient treatment, is a high level of care in addiction treatment. It’s reserved for people that are likely to go through dangerous withdrawal symptoms. It can also be used to treat people with medical conditions that can be dangerous during withdrawal. Opioids aren’t known to cause withdrawal symptoms that are life-threatening, but in rare circumstances, dehydration can lead to life-threatening complications. Still, it can be very difficult to get through opioid withdrawal without relapsing, so many people with an opioid use disorder start with a medical detox program. Detox treatment involves 24-hour hands-on treatment from medical professionals. You may receive medications to help treat or alleviate withdrawal symptoms. You may also begin psychotherapy sessions with your therapist or in group settings.
Inpatient treatment involves 24-hour medical monitoring or clinical management that’s less intensive than detox but still provides care all hours of the day. This may be ideal for people with stable medical conditions that still need to be monitored for medical or psychological complications. It may also be ideal for people with a high risk for relapse or continued opioid use to receive 24-hour monitoring, clinical support, and accountability. Residential treatment also falls under the inpatient category and may involve staying in an apartment-style accommodation in a rehab facility. This may be helpful for people that have a significant relapse potential and home environments that could threaten their safety or sobriety. For instance, if you live with someone that still uses drugs, you may need residential treatment.
The last two major levels of care fall under the category of outpatient treatment. These levels of care allow people to live independently while attending treatment services during the day. Different levels of outpatient treatment are separated by the amount of time you spend in treatment each week. Intensive inpatient services must provide nine or more hours of treatment services each week. They can also provide 20 or more hours of treatment, which is called partial hospitalization. The lowest level of care in addiction treatment is outpatient treatment with fewer than nine hours of treatment services each week.