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Heroin Overdoses In Broward Remain At Record Levels

opioid crisis
Franieleon via Flickr
The Florida Agency For Health Care Administration records from 2017 show that 1,642 people were treated in Broward County Hospitals for an opioid overdose.

Last year saw 1,642 opioid overdoses treated in Broward County emergency rooms. And 85 percent of those cases were overdoses on heroin.

That's compared to 15 percent of overdoses that were attributed to prescription drugs, according to a new report by The United Way of Broward County Commission On Substance Abuse’s surveillance team, the division of the opioid community response team that looks at overdose trends across Broward County.

Epidemiologist Jim Hall, who works at Nova Southeastern University, compiled the data from reports submitted by county hospitals to the state's Agency For Healthcare Administration (AHCA). He presented the findings to the community response team Thursday morning at the Broward Sheriff’s Office training center in Lauderdale Lakes.

Over 99 percent of people who overdosed and made it to a hospital survived. “Only five of those cases were deceased patients,” Hall said. 

Those numbers underscore the importance of the overdose prevention drug Narcan (name brand for the generic called naloxone), which works by reversing the effect of an opioid overdose in the brain. He also said quick action is needed to get someone to an emergency room. 

"The most important thing to know, if anyone is suspected of seeing someone in a drug overdose ... immediately call 9-1-1," Hall said. "If Narcan is available, administer it. That's what saves lives."

Read More: Controlling Addiction With Prescription Drugs: Broward Takes Stock Of Vivitrol Use

Hall said the number is higher than years before 2016, which averaged only 1,000 such overdoses county-wide.

“We've kind of hit the wall in terms of high numbers,” Hall said. “We're still at that highest level. The epidemic appears to be plateauing.”

The surveillance division of the community response team was unable to determine how many of the reported overdose cases were repeat visits.

However, it was able to determine what happened to patients after waking up from an overdose: More than 1,230 of the 1,642 cases were discharged from the ER with no follow-up treatment.

“It shows how burdened hospitals are,” Hall said. “As long as there are individuals who remain addicted to opioids, this epidemic will continue and continue to spread.”

Friday, Aug. 31, is International Overdose Awareness Day. Local chapters of the Fed Up! coalition are hosting two rallies in South Florida that will feature speakers and education on how to use Narcan, the brand name for the generic drug naloxone.

  • Charles F. Dodge City Center, 601 City Center Way, Pembroke Pines, FL 33025 from 7 - 9 p.m.
  • Florida Atlantic University Research Park, 777 Glades Rd. Boca Raton, FL 33431 from 4 - 8 p.m.

Caitie Muñoz, formerly Switalski, produces WLRN's midday public affairs program, Sundial weekdays at 1 and 8 p.m. Prior to transitioning to production, Caitie covered news and stories concerning quality of life in Broward County and its municipalities for WLRN News for four years.