FL Attorney General Takes Fentanyl Fight To County With Most Deaths
NEW PORT RICHEY, FL — On National Fentanyl Prevention and Awareness Day Monday, it seemed only logical for Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody to take her message to Pasco County where there are more fentanyl possession arrests and deaths than any other county in the state.
Standing with Pasco County leaders, Moody repeated the message that has been her constant mantra for the past three years: the opioid fentanyl is so dangerous, it should be designated a weapon of mass destruction.
According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement 2022 Medical Examiners Interim Drugs Identified in Deceased Persons Report, District 6, consisting of Pasco and Pinellas counties, is the area of the state with the highest number of total deaths. Last year, there were 374 deaths, nearly 100 more deaths than the next closest district, Jacksonville.
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Moody said District 6 saw a 33 percent increase in total deaths from fentanyl from 2020 to 2022.
“The nation’s drug overdose death rate continues to skyrocket because of the massive influx of illicit fentanyl into our country,” she said. “Sadly, Florida is not immune to this deadly crisis. On National Fentanyl Prevention and Awareness Day, I’ve joined leaders in the hardest hit part of our state to warn about this highly lethal synthetic opioid and the potential emerging trend of counterfeit Xanax pills containing even more fentanyl than we have seen in previous pills seized.”
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Joining Moody was Families Against Fentanyl founder James Rauh.
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“Families Against Fentanyl commends Attorney General Moody for convening today’s important event and for the decisive leadership she continues to show combating the illicit fentanyl crisis,” he said. “Because of her advocacy, more and more elected officials, members of law enforcement and nonprofit leaders are coming to the conclusion that illicit fentanyl needs to be treated like the weapon of mass destruction it is. Until this scourge has been defeated, we need to make every day ‘National Fentanyl Prevention and Awareness Day.”
“We appreciate the attorney general’s strong and steadfast leadership to prevent substance abuse in our community,” said Pasco County Board of Commissioners Chairman Jack Mariano. “Awareness about the dangers and deadly repercussions of fentanyl is key, and we stand with our attorney general to remind the people of Pasco County — and those beyond — that fentanyl is one of the most dangerous drug threats facing our country.”
Shatterproof Chief Public Policy Officer Kevin Roy said law enforcement simply isn’t able to keep up with the massive quantities of fentanyl created in illegal labs and then pressed into pill and smuggled across U.S. borders and even shipped in packages from China through postal services.
“Fentanyl in our country is a multidimensional problem: a national security, law enforcement and public health challenge that requires a multidimensional solution spanning foreign policy, homeland security and public health, while developing a deeper understanding of demand for the substances,” Roy said.
Shatterproof, a national nonprofit organization focused on reversing the addiction crisis, developed Treatment Atlas, a free-to-the-public, nonprofit platform available in Florida and 11 other states, which allows people to find and compare addiction treatment facilities for substance use disorders so patients can make informed decisions about their care.
“Through this unique resource as well as our continued work with Attorney General Moody and her team, and via federal and state efforts, we hope to reduce the alarming trends in deaths from fentanyl, address this urgent public health crisis and save lives,” Roy said.
More than 110,000 Americans died from drug overdoses last year—mainly due to illicit fentanyl, said The deadly substance is also the No. 1 killer of adults ages 18 to 45, although the drug does not only threaten adults. A study conducted by Families Against Fentanyl found that children under the age of 14 are dying of fentanyl poisoning at a faster rate than any other age group.
Fentanyl is mixed into other illicit substances, like cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana, as well as counterfeit pills. The Drug Enforcement Administration reported that six out of 10 counterfeit pills contain a potentially lethal dose of fentanyl.
And now, according to information from the U.S. Border Patrol, there is a potential emerging trend of counterfeit Xanax pills containing even more fentanyl than detected in pills seized in the past, she said.
According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, illicit fentanyl is primarily manufactured in foreign clandestine labs and smuggled into the United States through Mexico. Relatively cheap to produce, the drug is then mixed with other illegal drugs like heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine to increase its potency. The DEA said is sold as powders, nasal sprays and increasingly pressed into pills made to look like legitimate prescription opioids.
The DEA said as little as 2 milligrams of fentanyl can be lethal depending on a person’s body size, tolerance and past usage. DEA analysis has found counterfeit pills ranging from .02 to 5.1 milligrams (more than twice the lethal dose) of fentanyl per tablet.
About 42 percent of pills tested for fentanyl contained at least 2 mg of fentanyl, considered a potentially lethal dose.
And drug trafficking organizations typically distribute fentanyl by the kilogram. One kilogram of fentanyl has the potential to kill 500,000 people, said the DEA.
Often, drug users take illegal pills disguised as methamphetamine or Xanax without even knowing they contain fentanyl, much less a fatal dose.
As a result, Moody has worked with Walmarts around the state to make sure all first responders have free access to naloxone, a nasal spray that can immediately reverse the effects of a fentanyl overdose.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, synthetic opioids (like fentanyl) are the primary driver of overdose deaths in the United States. Between Jan. 31, 2020, and Jan. 31, 2021, overdose deaths involving opioids rose 38.1 percent and overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids (primarily illicitly manufactured fentanyl) rose 55.6 percent.
Just last week, a Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office detention deputy was hospitalized after conducted a routine check on an inmate’s bunk. He encountered a powder and, before he could sea it in a rubber glove, the deputy was overcome by the substance.
There have also been multiple reports around the state of parents unintentionally causing their children to overdose on fentanyl when the drug is used or left near the child.
On National Opioid Prevention and Awareness Day, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and First Lady Casey DeSantis acknowledged one year of helping Floridians break the cycle of addiction through the state’s Coordinated Opioid Recovery Network, geared to disrupting the revolving door of addiction and overdose by providing patients with the tools to choose sustainable recovery.
The CORE Network is the first of its kind in the U.S. and aims to eliminate the stigma of addiction and treat substance use disorder as a disease with the same level of continuous care.
Floridians battling with addiction can use CORE for stabilization and to receive medication-assisted treatment from a network of specialized medical experts that will help guide them on a sustained pathway to healthy success.
“The Florida CORE Network is pioneering the future of recovery in America,” said DeSantis. “Florida refuses to sit idly by as these deadly drugs ruin and take lives. In one year, we’ve saved more lives than any other state by providing essential addiction treatment to those who need it most.”
He said, during first year the CORE Network was introduced to 12 Florida counties:
“Since its inception last August, CORE has helped to facilitate connections with key stakeholders and health care networks across our state to combat overdose and addiction and connect individuals suffering from substance use disorder with life-saving care,” said Department of Child and Families Secretary Shevaun Harris. “The work that the CORE program has done in its first year is unprecedented, and the department is so proud to work alongside the Department of Health and other partners in continuing the fight to end the opioid epidemic.”
Additionally, Moody developed the Dose Of Reality website to inform Floridians about the dangers of opioid misuse. The site links to the Treatment Atlas tool for Floridians struggling with addiction.
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