Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Heroin, Needle Use Growing

A new report from the National Institute on Drug Abuse says that a heroin “epidemic” is growing in South Florida, citing an increase in deaths. Public-health officials worry that teen-agers and young adults who are shooting the drug are too young to remember the spread of HIV and other diseases through shared needles.

As the Miami Herald reports (paywall alert), heroin-related deaths in Miami-Dade went from 15 in 2011 to 33 in 2012. Statewide, the number jumped from 62 to 117.

There has also been an increase in the number of patients seeking heroin treatment at publicly funded medical facilities.  Between January 2012 and June 2013, it rose from 161 to 386.

The NIDA report said deaths linked to other drugs, including cocaine and oxycodone, still eclipse those from heroin. However, the drug’s rapid spread across the state led NIDA to call it “epidemic.”

Equally worrisome, those addicted to prescription painkillers are increasingly using needles rather than pills. James N. Hall, a drug-abuse epidemiologist at Nova Southeastern University, cited a survey of painkiller addicts who sought treatment in Broward County that showed more than half said they preferred injection.

An earlier report by Meredith Rutland in the Miami Herald described how prescription drug users were seeking cheaper alternatives after the state cracked down in June 2011. That law placed heavy restrictions on the distribution of prescription drugs and authorized a database tracking system.

The crackdown lowered the number of pill mills from 130 in 2009 to 50 in 2012, she reported. That caused the price to jump to $30 from $10.

Meanwhile,  Mexican gangs have been flooding the Florida market with a strain of heroin that is more potent than in the past. Some bags are reportedly selling for as little as $10.

Originally founded in December 2006 as an independent grassroots publication dedicated to coverage of health issues in Florida, Health News Florida was acquired by WUSF Public Media in September 2012.