Florida: More than 7,000 overdose deaths in one year

Although their advocates say they save lives, test strips to detect if there is fentanyl in a dose of heroin or cocaine will remain illegal in Florida, the US state with the second highest number of overdose deaths.

A few days ago, the Republican majority in the Florida Congress rejected including the legalization of these reagents in a law related to drug policies, which prevents their commercialization.

Those who voted against argued that they can encourage drug use, the same argument used by those who oppose “narcan”, the antidote for opiate overdoses, circulating among drug users and being widely provided to police officers and paramedics who must attend to those emergencies.

From May 2020 to April 2021, 100,306 people died from overdoses in the United States and in 64% of cases synthetic opiates were involved, especially fentanyl, which originates in China and arrives in the US from Mexico. , according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).


In Florida, in twelve months (October 2020-September 2021), overdoses claimed the lives of 7,574 people (7,422 a year earlier), a figure only surpassed in California, where there were 10,098 deaths from this cause in the same period (8,480).

Not legalizing fentanyl detection strips “is another big mistake,” Joy Stampler, an activist for drug decriminalization and decent treatment for those who consume them, tells Efe, who believes that it should be a priority for the authorities of Florida and all over the US reduce overdoses.

Stampler lost her son Jonathan to a heroin overdose in 2003 and is the widow of Jack Fishman, the scientist who developed the “narcan,” the nasal spray that, if used early enough, can reverse the effects of excess drug use. the organism.

According to those who advocate a change in drug policy and what is known as “harm reduction”, the number of overdose deaths would decrease if users could determine that the cocaine, heroin or other drug they are going to consume has been “cut” with fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is 50 times more powerful than heroin and cheaper.

“If they know there’s fentanyl, at least there’s a chance someone will decide not to take that dose,” says Stampler to explain his position in favor of widespread use of test strips among drug users.

According to the non-governmental organization Harm Reduction, fentanyl test strips can be used in injectable drugs, powders or pills.

They only detect the presence of the opioid, not the amount.


“Knowing that something has fentanyl in it allows people to put in place appropriate harm reduction strategies to reduce the risk of overdose,” says the NGO.

Last week, five cadets from the West Point Military Academy overdosed after consuming cocaine mixed with fentanyl in a house they had rented for the holidays in Wilton Manors, in South Florida (USA).

According to information provided by the police, two went into cardiac arrest and the others were exposed to fentanyl when they were given mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

A few days later Axel Giovany Casseus, 21, was arrested, who allegedly sold them the drug.

On Sunday, March 13, also in Broward County, which borders Miami-Dade County, four men had to be hospitalized after using drugs in a house, where police later found remains containing fentanyl.

Democratic US Congressman Ted Deutch, whose jurisdiction includes Wilton Manors, criticized Florida’s Congress for not passing the bill to legalize test strips.

Deutch considered that it is not “realistic” to think that young people are not going to drink alcohol in large quantities or try hard drugs and that is why it is necessary to give them “tools” so that they are safe, in addition to taking measures to stop the flow of synthetic opioids from Mexico.

“It’s scary to see that fentanyl is everywhere,” says Stampler, who has his own foundation to help drug users survive and, if they wish, quit too.

The foundation distributes disposable syringes, narcan, and also fentanyl test strips from select locations in South Florida.

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