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Health News Florida

'Dime A Dozen,' Overdose Crisis Rages In South Florida

The man had just risen from the dead.

He’s in his mid-20’s. Sitting on a couch in a house in Delray Beach. Pale as a ghost, sweaty, wide-eyed, disoriented.  Like he just woke up from a nightmare.

 

“What happened?” asked Sgt. Ed McCabe, of the Delray Beach Police Department.

“I guess...I overdosed,” said the man.

The man’s roommates found him unconscious and turning blue -- not breathing. He was overdosing on heroin. They pulled out two auto-injectors of naloxone -- an overdose reversal drug -- and jabbed them into his thigh.

He came to.

“How much did you use?” asked McCabe.

“A cap,” said the man.

 

Delray Beach Fire Rescue Chief Neal de Jesus brought in a stress management counselor to help his firefighters cope with the overdose deaths. "They're seeing deaths at a rate that is unlike anything we've seen," he said. "It's just not normal."
Credit Peter Haden / WLRN
Delray Beach Fire Rescue Chief Neal de Jesus brought in a stress management counselor to help his firefighters cope with the overdose deaths. "They're seeing deaths at a rate that is unlike anything we've seen," he said. "It's just not normal."

The residents of the house are prepared for episodes like this. It’s a sober home. The man is a recovering heroin user from Ohio. And like thousands of others, he came to South Florida to get well.

 

Sgt. McCabe says that  over the past five years this has become routine.

“The overdoses. They’re like a dime a dozen,” McCabe said. “You just…,” he pauses. “You just get used to it.”

Delray Beach is at the epicenter of a South Florida overdose epidemic estimated to have claimed 1,000 lives last year. Medical examiners are still counting.

Three things came together to create this South Florida overdose crisis. Listen to the first: 

  

[Click the “Listen” link above to hear the radio story]

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Delray Beach Fire Rescue answers a double-overdose call on Nov. 18, 2016.
Peter Haden / WLRN
Delray Beach Fire Rescue answers a double-overdose call on Nov. 18, 2016.

DBPD Sgt. Ed McCabe says the overdose calls are constant. "You just get used to it," he said.
Peter Haden / WLRN
DBPD Sgt. Ed McCabe says the overdose calls are constant. "You just get used to it," he said.

Delray Beach Fire Rescue answers a double-overdose call on Nov. 18, 2016.
Peter Haden / WLRN
Delray Beach Fire Rescue answers a double-overdose call on Nov. 18, 2016.

A nasal Narcan unit is part of Delray Beach Fire Rescue Capt. Kevin Saxton's standard response kit. First responders use the drug nalaxone (brand name: Narcan) to revive heroin overdose victims. Dec. 12, 2016.
Peter Haden / WLRN
A nasal Narcan unit is part of Delray Beach Fire Rescue Capt. Kevin Saxton's standard response kit. First responders use the drug nalaxone (brand name: Narcan) to revive heroin overdose victims. Dec. 12, 2016.

Delray Beach Fire Rescue answers a double-overdose call on Nov. 18, 2016.
Peter Haden / WLRN
Delray Beach Fire Rescue answers a double-overdose call on Nov. 18, 2016.

Delray Beach Fire Rescue Chief Neal de Jesus brought on a stress management counsellor to help his firefighters cope with the overdose deaths. "They're seeing deaths at a rate that is unlike anything we've seen," he said. "It's just not normal."
Peter Haden / WLRN
Delray Beach Fire Rescue Chief Neal de Jesus brought on a stress management counsellor to help his firefighters cope with the overdose deaths. "They're seeing deaths at a rate that is unlike anything we've seen," he said. "It's just not normal."

Delray Beach Fire Rescue answers a double-overdose call on Nov. 18, 2016.
Peter Haden / WLRN
Delray Beach Fire Rescue answers a double-overdose call on Nov. 18, 2016.

Delray Beach Fire Rescue paramedics transport an overdose victim to the hospital. Nov. 18, 2016.
Peter Haden / WLRN
Delray Beach Fire Rescue paramedics transport an overdose victim to the hospital. Nov. 18, 2016.