Drug And Alcohol Abuse In Pensacola, Florida
As is the case with most cities in Florida, Escambia County’s Pensacola suffers from high rates of substance abuse. The greatest cause for concern among law enforcement and treatment professionals in Pensacola is opioid addiction and abuse, due to the high likelihood of overdose and death. However, alcohol remains the most commonly abused substance in Pensacola by far, and other drugs including cocaine and meth are serious causes for concern as well.
Drug Busts In Pensacola
Recent news clippings revealed stories of $130,000 confiscated in drugs in local Pensacola drug busts. In another incident, police seized 35 kilos of cocaine this year. An Escambia County drug bust revealed a woman possessing fentanyl, black tar heroin, Xanax pills, and a fentanyl and heroin mix. Another drug bust involved synthetic marijuana, ecstasy, cocaine, marijuana, Xanax, and oxycodone pills. While drug use is common in most American cities, such drug busts reveal the extent of Pensacola’s population struggling with substance abuse disorders.
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Heroin Overdoses in Pensacola
Rising opioid overdoses plague many in Pensacola. The Florida Medical Examiners Commission disclosed nearly 10 heroin-related deaths in Pensacola’s Escambia County in 2013. These numbers reflected higher numbers of overdoses than in nearby counties. like Walton county. By 2014, this number jumped to 12 heroin-related overdoses. The number of deaths involving heroin has increased, notably because of how many people are transitioning from prescription opioids to illicit opioids like heroin and non-pharmaceutical fentanyl.
Both heroin and fentanyl are more potent than opioids prescribed by a doctor, with fentanyl being approximately 50 times the potency of heroin. Another factor for increasing heroin overdoses is finances. The cost of heroin (and fentanyl) is cheaper then prescription opioids. Factoring in insurance and copays, patients can find pills like morphine and oxycodone expensive over time. Therefore, they opt for a $15 to $35 bag of heroin as an alternative.
Prescription Opioid Overdoses In Pensacola
In 2013 there were 30 accidental deaths due to prescription opioids in the Pensacola area, which increased by 107% in 2014. Many individuals who accidentally overdose on prescription opioids were originally prescribed them by a doctor. Individuals using prescription opioids who develop an opioid tolerance may switch to other types of prescription or illicit opioids to combat serious chronic pain. The result can be both fatal and non-fatal overdoses. 2015 saw 28 heroin-related deaths in Escambia county’s Pensacola. Other opioids which led to Escambia county overdoses in 2015 included:
- Oxycodone (34 deaths)
- Hydrocodone (45 deaths)
- Methadone (64 deaths) and
- Fentanyl (30 deaths)
Recent deaths mostly involve fentanyl and heroin, with other prescription opioid varying in use.
Babies Suffering Opioid Withdrawal In Pensacola
Expectant mothers in Pensacola and nationally who battle opioid addiction often risk giving birth to babies who are addicted. Sacred Heart Health System noted 39 babies were born in Escambia County with symptoms of opioid withdrawal in 2006. This number increased to 166 by 2016.
Mothers may use prescription opioids to relieve chronic or severe pain and in turn become dependent on the substance. In addition to being addicted to opioids, expectant mothers risk birthing addicted babies. Mothers who abuse illicit opioids like heroin and non-pharmaceutical fentanyl also introduce addictive chemicals to their baby.
Opioids enter the bloodstream, directly impacting the health of the baby. Babies then become dependent on the chemical and once born, endure extremely uncomfortable symptoms of opioid withdrawal. Babies who suffer with opioid withdrawal will have symptoms like:
- Birth defects
- Heart defects
- Spina bifida
- Hypertonia (Tightness of the muscles)
- Torticollis (Twisting if the neck)
- Fetal Growth Restriction (Difficulty gaining weight)
- Violent shaking
- Plagiocephaly (Flattening of the head)
- High-pitched screaming
- Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome
There Is Still Hope
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