The Florida Senate recently passed a bill targeting fentanyl dealers and establishing strong deterrents that address the growing crisis of fentanyl-related overdose and overdose deaths in the state. Senate Bill 150 and the related House Bill 477 were met with bipartisan support as well as endorsements throughout the law enforcement community. Governor Rick Scott signed the bill into law in early July.
Fortunately for people addicted to the deadly drug, the State has also increased funding for mental health and Florida drug rehab. This approach targets fentanyl on two levels; it helps get dealers off the streets and gives addicts better access to life-saving treatment.
Fentanyl Acts as a Catalyst to the Opioid Epidemic
Opioids are some of the most highly addictive known substances and fentanyl is nearly off the charts in potency. Users may begin with a legitimate painkiller prescription, but that frequently leads to addiction. Without access to legal drugs, they may progress to buying the drugs on the street, which is costly, then advance to heroin, which is a powerful, accessible, and comparatively cheap opioid.
Dealers in Florida and around the country often cut heroin with fentanyl, whether or not the user is aware of what is bought. In some cases, straight fentanyl is sold as heroin. A lethal dose of heroin is about 30 milligrams. It only takes about 3 milligrams of fentanyl to “kill an average-sized adult male,” according to the health, medical and scientific publication, STAT.
Steeper Fentanyl Penalties Hold Dealers Personally Accountable for Overdose Deaths
Under the new law, anyone arrested with more than four grams of fentanyl can face a first-degree felony. Florida authorities now have the authority to charge dealers with murder if a customer dies from overdose. The law also includes synthetic forms of the drug, such as carfentanil, which is powerful enough to sedate large animals such as elephants and rhinos, says the Herald.
The purest fentanyl is as much as 100 times more powerful than heroin and can have 10,000 times the potency of morphine.
One of the biggest problems with previous drug laws was that they did not address fentanyl specifically. According to the Bradenton Herald, fentanyl dealers had little to deter them from cutting heroin with the deadlier drug. They only faced low-level charges for possession of a controlled substance with a low bond no matter how much of the drug they possessed.
Governor Scott Addresses the Critical Need for Mental Health and Florida Drug Rehab Access
An unfortunate truth is that lawmakers sometimes devote most, if not all, of their attention to crime and punishment, full stop. Meanwhile, the people affected by dealer crimes fall through the cracks and continue to suffer from addiction. Addicts go on to face their own crimes, lives fall apart, and too often they die from overdose. Bradenton News says over 500,000 Florida residents have died from opioids in the past 15 years. Recently, the Lake County Sheriff’s office sent their own stern warning to heroin dealers. Now Florida is taking a one-two punch approach to the fentanyl crisis.
In addition to instituting tougher laws with harsher sentences, Governor Scott announced a larger budget devoted to mental health and Florida drug rehab access. Tampa Bay/Sarasota Channel 10 News reports that $1 billion in funding has been earmarked for mental health resources and access to Florida drug rehab.
People Addicted to Fentanyl and Synthetics Have New Hope in Treatment
Although opioids in general and fentanyl in particular are almost unimaginably addictive, it is possible to leave drugs behind and build a new life. Channel 10 spoke with recovering addict Jessica Zielman, who found the life-saving help that she needed. After losing her family, overdosing twice and contemplating suicide, she went into treatment. Now, she has reunited with her daughter and is working toward a career helping other addicts.
Treatment for an addiction to opioids is not easy, but there is help in Florida to get you through every stage. Here are just a few of the many options available:
- Detoxification in a safe, medical setting
- Residential, partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient, and other levels of care
- Co-occurring disorder treatment
- Individual therapy
- Group therapy
- Family counseling
- Health and wellness
- Nutritional counseling
The State of Florida is taking a hard stance on the opioid epidemic by honing in on one of the deadliest drugs, fentanyl. No longer can drug dealers make bail and hit the streets again. Now they could face charges as steep as murder when the drugs they sell take a life. Paired with new funding for mental health and drug treatment, the changed laws gives Florida residents struggling with addiction more hope than ever for a better, healthier life.
If you or someone you care about is struggling with an addiction to fentanyl, heroin, or any other drug, help is available. Contact us today to learn more about admissions and treatment options.