South Florida has been the focus of national conversation surrounding the opioid epidemic for many years, with Delray Beach at the very center. The peak of the crisis saw the Delray Beach Police Department responding to an average of multiple opioid overdoses per day. In October 2016 alone, the city reported96 opioid overdoses.
While Delray Beach has continued to earn a negative reputation from the media, new reports from the Palm Beach Post reveal that opioid deaths are declining in the “Village by the Sea.” This past June, the city did not report a single opioid-overdose death, making it the first month with no such incidents since July of 2015, although one death has occurred since the beginning of July.
The past three years of the opioid epidemic in Delray—and the nation—have been devastating. Though with statistics from Palm Beach County also suggesting a decline in opioid deaths—from 233 over the first four months of 2017, to 88 over the same time period this year—it is clear that our First Responders and the availability of ethical and compassionate addiction treatment have made a tremendous impact.
The Post quoted State Attorney Dave Aronberg, who stated of the County statistic, “That’s a drop of 62 percent. That’s a dramatic drop and it’s counter to the national trend, which is moving in this opposite direction.’’
While Aronberg warned that the statistic is only for a certain time period, and that numbers could increase at any time, the news is encouraging in a community that has endured so much.
By the Numbers: The Opioid Epidemic
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), more than 115 people in the United States die from an opioid overdose on a daily basis. Synthetic opioids such as fentanyl were responsible for 20,100 overdose deaths in 2016.
As Attorney Aronberg stated, the national trend of overdoses is still very much alive. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) just released new information to warn the public of an increased supply of illicit opioids—ones even stronger than fentanyl.
“The dramatic rise in the supply of illicitly manufactured fentanyl and fentanyl analogs has been mirrored by an equally dramatic rise in deaths involving synthetic opioids other than methadone, a category which includes fentanyl and fentanyl analogs,” warned the CDC.
Among those analogs is carfentanil, which has produced new warnings in upstate New York and Colorado over the past several weeks. Manufactured first as an elephant tranquilizer, the analog comes with substantial risk of overdose and death, even in insignificant doses.
While we can be proud of the heroic efforts taking place in Delray Beach and Palm Beach County to combat the opioid epidemic, we cannot stop our fight at any time. The nation continues to suffer the effects of a brutal and unforgiving battle—with dozens taken from us every day.
“This has been an all-hands-on-deck approach to the epidemic. We are doing this without help from the federal government, which has largely ignored this problem and left the response to local and state governments. We have been fighting this fight sometimes with one hand tied behind our backs,’’ stated Attorney Aronberg to the Post.
The progress made is undoubtedly credited to the task forces and law enforcement of the local area, as well as moral treatment centers that have provided addicts with safe and ethical treatment. The sober home task force has spearheaded efforts to arrest those guilty of patient brokering and unethical treatment, giving hope to the many who seek refuge in South Florida for treatment.
As we continue on in the fight against opioid addiction, we must draw hope from positive news and motivation to help from the stories of those we have lost.
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