Jason Ackner, Unity Behavioral Health director and CEO, was a guest panelist on 850 WFTL on Friday, May 26 to discuss the alarming impact opioid addiction is having in South Florida and throughout the nation. He was joined by the St. Lucie County Sherriff’s Office head of narcotics division, Captain Eric Coleman, CBS12 News reporter Lynda Figueredo, and Mike Counes, director of Palms Detox Center at Good Samaritan Medical Center.

The nearly hour-long discussion highlighted some terrifying statistics about opioid addiction and abuse in Florida, including:

  • An estimated 4,000 people died from opioid overdoses in Florida in 2016, with nearly 600 occurring in St. Lucie County. 2017 overdoses are on track to surpass that number.
  • In 2016, every 15 hours someone in St. Lucie County died from an opioid overdose. That’s nearly double the rate of murders and fatal car crashes.

One of the topics discussed on the panel was the new trend of heroin being laced with fentanyl, a highly dangerous and potentially fatal opioid. Despite national headlines about the dangers of fentanyl, especially with the recent the passing of Prince due to a fentanyl overdose, abuse of this drug has not slowed.

“I think that just shows the overwhelming power of addiction. That in the face of death and knowing the statistics are probably far worse than playing Russian roulette, people continue to do this,” Ackner said during the panel discussion. “That shows the powerful grip of addiction and how desperate people are to keep doing what they do.”

Another topic the panel touched on was the state of the addiction recovery industry in South Florida, some of the shady practices and the inadequate care found at many facilities.

“We’ve got to do the right thing for the right reasons,” Ackner said. “Too many people in South Florida specifically, and there’s a real bad reputation now, are flying in from around the country, they’re given three-four days of treatment, their insurance benefits are up and then they’re thrown back on the streets.”

Watch the full video here.

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