National Opioid and Substance Awareness Day is on Tuesday, September 13, and the Florida Department of Health in Marion County (DOH-Marion) is recognizing this day to educate residents on the continued impact of opioids in the community.
The opioid epidemic has impacted communities across the United States. It has been felt through individuals experiencing new or worsening addiction; families, friends, and workplaces being affected by substance use and deaths; and community first-responders, hospitals, and treatment facilities seeing increased overdoses and a need for addiction treatment.
DOH-Marion is alerting residents to one of the newest concerns – widespread fentanyl in the illicit drug supply. According to statistics from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the number of opioid overdose deaths increased by more than 350% from 2015 to 2020 in Marion County, and the overall number of drug overdose deaths increased by more than 570%.
In 2020, opioids were involved with 83% of all drug overdose deaths in Marion County. Overdoses began increasing to high levels locally in 2016, and synthetic opioids (primarily fentanyl) are considered the primary cause, according to DOH-Marion.
Fentanyl is up to 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Counterfeit pills that look just like legitimate prescriptions are a high risk for possible overdose. The Drug Enforcement Administration states that approximately 40% of fake pills contain potentially fatal amounts of fentanyl.
Illegally manufactured fentanyl has also been found mixed in many other drugs, including cocaine, ecstasy, and marijuana. You cannot see, smell, or taste if fentanyl is in a drug, and the equivalent of just three grains of salt is enough to cause a fatal overdose, according to the CDC.
“It’s very important that people understand the drug landscape has changed,” said Florida Department of Health in Marion County Community Health Director Christy Jergens. “Any use of illicit drugs puts you at risk of exposure to fentanyl.”
Opioid and substance use help is available. If you or a loved one suffers from opioid or substance abuse, call 352-266-4769 to talk with someone today and get connected to help. Anyone expecting a child but struggling with addiction is encouraged to call 352-364-2666.
To learn more about treatment options that may be available near you, visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website.
For additional information, including resources for families and medical/care providers, visit the Florida Department of Health in Marion County’s Overdose Data to Action program webpage.