Manatee County is my home and the epicenter of the Florida’s Heroin Epidemic. That was shocking to read in my local newspaper headlines Monday. It was even harder to say it out loud. Like so many people I look for the good things in life. I see so many wonderful elements in this county, but I can’t turn a blind eye to what is happening if I hope to help change things.
Time To Speak Up For Solutions
Similar to many families suffering from the opioid epidemic my first reaction was to not tell anyone. How would that look on my Facebook page that I live in the Epicenter of a Heroin Epidemic? The stigma is almost palatable. What should I do?
- I didn’t cause this
- I can’t control this
- I can’t cure this, but I want to do something
Maybe by just being honest that will allow others to start talking about the crisis without any shame or embarrassment. No other disease makes its victims feel so second rate or unlovable as addiction.
Breaking the stigma starts with acknowledging this is a brain disease. The American Medical Association just established an Addiction Specialty, a first. The next step is to begin to understand the facts about an escalating problem.
Manatee County Florida
"As of Monday morning, Manatee County paramedics have responded to 447 overdose calls since June 1, according to Manatee County EMS Deputy Chief Jake Saur.
Since Jan. 1, paramedics have administered 1,119 does of naloxone, which counters the effects of an overdose, to 686 patients, according to Saur.
Saur said that number reflects the calls made as an overdose, but EMS could respond to more overdoses called in under a different code. EMS is trying to keep medical supplies in stock, but the epidemic is as bad or worse than last year when Manatee achieved the ignoble designation as the epicenter of Florida’s heroin crisis."
I have lived in this county for the last 38 years. It has some the most beautiful beaches in the world with sunsets that take your breath away. There are high school footballs games on Friday night and church services on Sunday morning. There is beautiful wildlife teeming our shores and lakes. Friendly caring people are the norm not the exception. Remembering the good things about this place helps to remind me of why Manatee County is so worth fighting for.
Who do I fight?
The heroin dealers, the suppliers, the unfortunate people who buy it? Who is the enemy in this war? The truth is, I believe my silence is the enemy.
I personally know parents who have lost their children and grandchildren to this disease. They don’t even know how to process the loss much less let others know how wonderful their child was until heroin entered the picture. The fact that these loved ones feel they need to defend the reputation of their lost child is a clear red flag there is a problem with our thinking.
Who are we, to condemn anyone?
We used to have an image of someone who abused alcohol as homeless person laying under a bridge with an empty bottle next to them. We called them ugly names. Then we learned this could happen to business people, doctors, pilots, and mothers. We learned that these people simply had a physical reaction to alcohol that made it nearly impossible for them to stop. We learned to talk about it and that helped everyone feel normal and get help. Today the World Health Organization says these people suffer from Alcohol Dependence Syndrome.
Let’s apply that same protocol to the heroin epidemic. These people are not heroin addicts or druggies. They are just people who were often given a pain prescription for pain and they didn’t know they were hard wired to become enslaved to this drug. They are victims that need to get high and often destroy their lives and families in the process. And the substance they seek may be laced with Fentanyl so they unknowingly overdose. It is all so heartbreaking.
How to help
This is a case of too little too late. While Congress decides what to do with funding the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act we might want to start laying the ground work by getting educated ourselves. Go to Reach Out Recovery’s A-Z section and click on heroin. Did you know the signs of an overdose can include one or more of the following:
- Extremely slow and shallow breathing
- Pinpoint pupils
- Possibly coma or death
- Someone who is overdosing should be taken to the hospital immediately
Did you know if you find anyone having an overdose they can be revived with a nasal spray of nalaxone? Use of naloxone kits resulted in almost 27,000 drug overdose reversals between 1996 and 2014, according to a government study published earlier this year. Providing naloxone kits to laypersons reduces overdose deaths, is safe, and is cost-effective, researchers noted. (Partnership For Drug Free Kids) If the victims are not having an overdose it will not harm them. Available from any first responder or ER. CVS pharmacy is now selling these life saving devices to anyone with out a prescription. Unfortunately it is not available in FL. Remember most everyone who overdoses didn't mean to. Every time they buy a drug it is a new recipe. They are never sure of what is in it. With huge profits to be made, the recipe continues to become more deadly by adding the cheap, but lethal drug, Fentanyl, to each batch.
Being willing to talk openly about this and other health issues will be the best first step in helping to reach those affected with an addiction. Love and acceptance is something no one can reject.
Life will go on in our beautiful Manatee County. I just want it to go on for the victims who need us to speak up and stop being embarrassed. It’s a disease, not a stigma. Get information, get help, get over it. People are dying and being polite isn’t going to save anyone.
Reach Out Recovery Exclusive By: Nadine Knapp