Heroin begins to replace oxycodone
The day before Nicholas Block overdosed, his parents filled prescriptions for 250 oxycodone pills.
“It was too easy to get at the time,” said his mom, Linda Courtright, who is serving a federal prison sentence for distributing oxycodone, which contributed to Nicholas’ death.
In 2009, the year in which Nicholas overdosed in a North Port motel room, there were 68 reported overdoses due to oxycodone in the Sarasota Medical Examiner’s district, which includes Manatee and DeSoto counties. There were three that year in Charlotte County, followed by 12 in 2010. Sarasota’s number of oxycodone overdoses jumped to 86 in 2010.
The annual 2011 statistics have not been released by the state yet. For the first six months of the year, there were 37 oxycodone deaths in the Sarasota district, and seven in Charlotte.
Because the state imposed new “pill mill” legislation, those numbers are expected to drop for 2012.
“I’m sure physicians also are very cautious these days to write a prescription,” said Dr. Riazul Imami, the medical examiner for Charlotte County.
Due to stronger laws, addicts are finding it more difficult to obtain prescription drugs. The pills now are fairly expensive as well.
That has some prescription drug abusers turning to heroin — and officials are beginning to see that trend starting in Southwest Florida.
Officials at Charlotte Behavioral Health Care are starting to see the “tip of the iceberg right now,” said Dave Thompson, program manager of substance abuse and court services for the facility.
“Heroin is real cheap now,” Thompson said.
Pockets of heroin overdoses and reports of increased usage are surfacing in various American communities.
In Duluth, Minn., law enforcement responded to five reported overdoses in one weekend in July. One of the five died, according to the Northlands NewsCenter.
In Clark County, Nev., home of Las Vegas, officials reported 33 heroin overdoses in 2011. Only 13 people overdosed on heroin in 2009 and 2010 combined, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
In Marion County, Ind., officials reported a 21 percent increase in use from 2010 to 2011.
One treatment center in that county reported a 300 percent increase in patients being addicted to heroin in just the last three months, according to the television station WISH.
“That hasn’t really hit us yet,” said Dr. Katina Matthews-Ferrari, chief medical officer for Charlotte Behavioral Health Care.
The first fatal heroin overdose hasn’t occurred yet — as of the first six months of this year — in Charlotte County, but Imami won’t be surprised to see one.
“It’s a concern for us too,” he said.