In a move that would help rein in the Florida’s growing opioid epidemic, Governor Rick Scott on June 14 signed a bill into law making mandatory minimum prison sentences for people caught with more than four grams of fentanyl or carfentanil and holding drug dealers accountable in cases of overdose and death. According to the legislation, drug dealers can face murder charges if their customers overdose on fentanyl and die.
“I’m proud to sign this important piece of legislation today to help fight this national epidemic, which has taken the lives of too many Floridians. This legislation provides tools for law enforcement and first responders to save lives,” said Scott.
In addition to fentanyl and its analogs, the new law makes it easier for the state to pursue charges against drug traffickers for synthetic marijuana, codeine and similar substances. To criminalize drug traffickers of fentanyl, beginning October 2017, anyone possessing 4 or more grams of fentanyl will be sentenced to three years in prison, 14 grams or more to 15 years in prison and 28 grams or more to a 25-year prison term.
Known as House Bill (HB) 477, the fentanyl legislation was sponsored jointly by Representative Jim Boyd and Senator Greg Steube. The new law is being seen as a great step in the state’s fight to end the opioid crisis.
Fentanyl, a deadly drug
A powerful synthetic opioid analgesic, fentanyl is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine. It is usually used to treat severe pain in post-surgery cases and advised to cancer patients with an intolerance to other drugs. However, recent cases of fentanyl-related overdoses and deaths are linked to illegally made fentanyl often mixed with heroin and/or cocaine.
Compared to the first half of 2015, deaths due to fentanyl in Florida saw a jump of 135 percent in the first six months of 2016, media reports said. As per the report, there was a significant increase in occurrences of deaths caused by fentanyl and fentanyl-analogs. In 2016, the Sunshine State reported 183 fatalities due to fentanyl-analogs.
What has aggravated the state’s opioid overdose crisis is that over the past few years, drug dealers in South Florida have been distributing fentanyl mixed with heroin and passed it as a fake pharmaceutical pill. Experts say that drug dealers often mix fentanyl with drugs such as heroin, and Xanax and most of the time users do not even know whether they are buying heroin or fentanyl.
Road to recovery
According to data compiled by The New York Times, in 2016, there were 59,000 to 65,000 American fatalities due to a drug overdose in 2016. While the paper could not specify the number of deaths caused by opioids, basis trends and reports from the previous years, most of the deaths were likely linked to opioids, including fentanyl.
Addiction to opioids is hard to break but timely treatment can make recovery possible. So, if a person is suffering from addiction to opioids or any other harmful drugs, he/she should immediately seek professional help to lead a sober life. As a leading behavioral health care provider, Sovereign Health offers comprehensive treatment programs for addiction and mental health disorders in a clean and safe environment.
Basis a patient’s symptoms and level of addiction, addiction treatment program at Sovereign Health of Florida may include medically assisted detoxification, behavioral therapies and experiential therapy. For more information on our addiction treatment program Florida, call our 24/7 helpline number or chat online with our representatives.