Health & Fitness

How this South Florida city became an overdose capital

A man convulses in the street from a heroin overdose two blocks away from the Delray Beach police station on Nov. 18.
A man convulses in the street from a heroin overdose two blocks away from the Delray Beach police station on Nov. 18. WLRN

The man had just risen from the dead.

He’s in his mid-20s. Sitting on a couch, pale as a ghost, sweaty, wide-eyed, disoriented.

“What happened?” asked Delray Beach police Sgt. Ed McCabe.

“I guess … I overdosed,” said the man.

The man’s roommates found him unconscious and turning blue. He was overdosing on heroin. They pulled out two auto-injectors of naloxone — an overdose-reversal drug —and jabbed them into his thigh.

He came to.

“How much did you use?” asked McCabe.

“A cap,” said the man.

The residents of the house are prepared for episodes like this. It’s a sober home. The man is a recovering heroin user from Ohio. And like thousands of others, he came to South Florida to get well.

Delray Beach is at the epicenter of a South Florida overdose epidemic, estimated to have claimed more than 900 lives last year. An outgrowth of pill mills. A proliferation of recovery centers. And much stronger street heroin. They’re all contributing to the problem, which McCabe sees regularly.

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Opioid overdoses

▪ An estimated 4,000 people died from opioid overdoses in Florida in 2016.

▪ Governors of five states have declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency.

▪ Florida lawmakers have called on Gov. Rick Scott to do the same.

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