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Lawmakers, Doctors Wrestle With How To Combat Opioid Abuse

Nick Evans

Florida’s law enforcement, emergency and mental health workers are struggling to cope with a rising tide of opioid overdoses.  Lawmakers are looking for solutions ahead of the coming year’s legislative session.

Deaths from opioid overdose are on the rise and Florida’s lawmakers are promising to tackle the issue in the coming legislative session.  Sen. Dana Young (R-Tampa) says part of the problem is over-prescribing. 

She explains patients receiving a fifteen day supply have a fifteen percent chance of becoming dependent, “And those receiving a thirty day supply have a nearly 30 percent chance of becoming dependent.”

“This demonstrates clearly that one key intervention point must be the amount of these drugs prescribed.”

Governor Rick Scott is calling for a 3 day cap on most opioid prescriptions and 50 million dollars in new funding for treatment and enforcement efforts.  How his administration plans to distribute that money remains unclear.

Meanwhile a panel of different service providers are urging lawmakers to support medication assisted therapies to combat opioid abuse.  Doctor Aaron Wohl from Lee Emergency Physicians says until it’s easier to get treatment, the problem will persist.

“Currently it’s much easier to get high than it is to get help in Florida,” Wohl says.  “Until effective treatment for opioid addiction is easier to obtain or access than painkillers heroin or fentanyl, unfortunately opioid overdose deaths are likely to remain at record high levels.”

Medication assisted therapies involve treatments like Methadone or Suboxone as well as counseling and peer support. 

Wohl and others also encourage lawmakers to bolster efforts to mitigate the harm of intravenous drug use by expanding access to overdose treatments like Narcan and needle exchange programs.

Nick Evans came to Tallahassee to pursue a masters in communications at Florida State University. He graduated in 2014, but not before picking up an internship at WFSU. While he worked on his degree Nick moved from intern, to part-timer, to full-time reporter. Before moving to Tallahassee, Nick lived in and around the San Francisco Bay Area for 15 years. He listens to far too many podcasts and is a die-hard 49ers football fan. When Nick’s not at work he likes to cook, play music and read.