Last December we covered a serious topic relevant to South Florida regarding opioid abuse, specifically heroin. Like most states which made valiant efforts to curb prescription opioid consumption, an unintended consequence was an exponential increase in a demand for heroin. A drug that can be bought easily on the streets, inexpensively. What’s more, the drug is often far more potent than most prescription opioids and is often laced (unbeknownst to the user) with fentanyl—a drug that is 100 times stronger than morphine and 50 times more potent than heroin. As a result of greater heroin use, Florida had more overdose deaths in 2015 than any year in the previous decade.
Human Cost of Heroin Use
When discussing the American opioid addiction epidemic with regards to costs, the conversation is usually directed towards the death toll associated with using drugs in that family of narcotics. In 2015, there were 332 fatal drug overdoses in Palm Beach County, Florida alone, The Palm Beach Post reports. A figure that rose in 2016, significantly.
While opioids like heroin are highly addictive and can easily result in premature deaths, such drugs can wreak havoc on those who do not have a choice—specifically babies. Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) has been on the rise in the wake of more expectant mothers using heroin. NAS occurs when a fetus is exposed to opioids during the course of the pregnancy. When the baby is born, his or her supply to the drug is cut off resulting in acute opioid withdrawal. The condition requires close medical supervision for several weeks. And there is no way of knowing the impact that drugs will have on the baby later in life.
Providing the necessary resources for deterring opioid use, expanding access to addiction treatment and reversing opioid overdoses with the drug naloxone is not an easy task. And such resources cost state taxpayers a lot money. But they are necessary for saving lives. The human costs of the opioid addiction epidemic are, without question, the most important when shaping policy. However, it is important that we try and get a grasp on the financial burden that the epidemic has brought upon the state.
A Price Tag On Opioid Abuse
The Palm Beach Post tasked themselves with figuring out that total cost of the heroin epidemic in Florida. The researchers came to their findings by reviewing 58 million Florida Agency for Health Care Administration hospital diagnostic and billing records covering patients from all 67 counties. They compared the overall costs of the epidemic in the first nine months of 2010, a year when heroin deaths in Florida were approaching a 10-year low, to the first nine months of 2015. You can see a breakdown of the Post’s findings below:
- Florida hospitals charged $460.6 million related to the heroin epidemic for the first nine months of 2010, compared to $1.1 billion in 2015.
- $5.7 billion: All Florida hospital charges tied to the heroin epidemic between 2010 and late 2015.
- $2.1 billion: Amount of all Florida hospital charges tied to the heroin epidemic in which Medicaid was the primary payer.
- $967 million: Florida hospital charges for babies born addicted between 2010 and 2015.
- $826 million: Amount where Florida Medicaid was the primary payer for babies born addicted between 2010 and 2015.
- One every two days: Average number of Florida patients treated for heroin-only overdoses in 2011.
- One every 90 minutes: Average number of Florida patients treated for heroin-only overdoses July through September 2015.
Opioid Addiction Treatment
If you are battling with opioid addiction, whether it be prescription painkillers or heroin, please contact Synergy Group Services. Our Palm Beach County Florida opiate addiction rehab program combines traditional counseling with Alternative Medicine to achieve a synergistic outcome with unparalleled success. With each day that passes where opioid addiction is left untreated, the risks become exponentially greater.