Spate of drug overdoses alarms Manatee emergency workers

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Posted: Thursday, November 7, 2013 5:48 pm | Updated: 9:06 pm, Mon Mar 10, 2014.

BRADENTON, Fla. -  A spike in deadly drug overdoses alarms Manatee County emergency workers, who say it could be a consequence of Florida's crackdown on pill mills. “Here at Manatee Memorial, we take care of overdoses every day,” says Teresa Rawe, the hospital's Emergency Services Medical Director. “It's pretty rare, though, we have a death every day, much less eight of them in seven days.”

Police say an uptick in heroin use shows how well the crackdown on prescription drugs has worked. But pills do come in precise doses, and those who venture onto street drugs to find their high, also wander into a greater danger zone.

“With the heroin, it comes in different strengths. There's no quality control in these drug manufacturing plants for opiates. “So, presuming that what's happening is this last batch of heroin that has hit Manatee County is much more potent than people are used to seeing,” Rawe says.

Those who have wound up in a Manatee Memorial ER after an OD range in age from 16 to 42. Most are in their 20s and 30s, Rawe says. The drug seems to put them to sleep, then their breathing and heartbeats just stop.

"And I think we're going to see potentially the same numbers stay elevated until there's a determination of what is going on," says Capt. Larry Luh, acting Chief of Emergency Medical Services in Manatee County. An ambulance that must answer an overdose call might not be able to respond to a heart attack or stroke victim. So it's not only drug addicts who feel an impact.

“We work really hard to save lives, and we like that if somebody is in a critical state, to at least give us something to work with, and by taking a drug that was their choice – as opposed to a heart attack that wasn't someone's choice – is really difficult for us to even understand,” Rawe says.

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  • Gross Negligence posted at 12:13 pm on Sat, Nov 9, 2013.

    Gross Negligence Posts: 2

    I am apalled by this Emergency Room physician. What she is seeing in her ER is the fallout of iatrogenic addiction. Physician created addiction. Manatee County had 31 Pain Clinics (AKA Pill Mills) at the height of the Florida OxyExpress. Oxy as we all know is synthetic heroin. It was prescribed and dispensed by physicians. Now that the DEA stepped in, many of the Pill Mills are gone. But the one outstanding question all citizens of FL should be asking, how did this happen? Don't we have the Department of Health Medcial Quality Assurance Department to protect the public health safety? What about our appointed Boards of Medcine and Osteopathy? The body responsible to granting the privelege AND rescinding the privelege of practicing medicine in our State? They did nothing, and had the power and authority to end this gross practice of medicine. Had the DOH MQA and BOM's acted with the authority given, FL would be a much healthier State. Now that the Pill Mills are almost gone - we have a generation of drug seeking citizens. Now seeking heroin, as the synthetic heroin started this. Started by physicians. Every physician in FL should be ashamed by the behavior of their peers. To make matters worse, many of the Pill Mill physicians STILL have their license to practice medicine. Shame on the DOH MQA and the BOM's. And shame on ALL physicians in FL who allowed the "code of silence" prevail. Greed trumped the Hippocratic Oath. The Florida DOH MQA and the BOM's are fully responsible for this epidemic, and should be investigated.

  • Gross Negligence posted at 10:31 pm on Fri, Nov 8, 2013.

    Gross Negligence Posts: 2

    I am apalled by the remarks of T. Rawe, DO. This epidemic was created by the physician community. Oxy is only available by a prescription. Where were you when there were 31 DOH registered Pain Clinincs (AKA Pill Mills) in Manatee County alone?
    And, where was the physician community when their peers, both MD and DO, were writing scripts like this was candy? Florida was the OxyExpress due to physicians! And, physicians let this go. The Boards of Medcine/Osteopathy let this go. Failed peer review is what happened. Greed won over the Hippocratic Oath. The FL DOH MQA in cooperation with the Boards of Medicne/Osteopathy are FULLY responsible for this epidemic. It took the DEA to stop this when is should have been controlled by the agencies whose mission is to protect the public health safety. Oxy is heroin - the patients coming to your ER are physician created addicts. The entire medical profession, pharmacists included should be ashamed. The code of silence amongst physicians trumped the entire situation. FL physicians are responsible for a >11/day mortality rate. Yes they are.

  • jillybeans posted at 10:53 pm on Thu, Nov 7, 2013.

    jillybeans Posts: 1

    It is amazing to me Miss Rawe that being a medical director of an emergency room you would have such a myopic view of who is deserving of treatment in your hospital....Hasn't anyone told you drug addiction is a disease, it is this kind of attitude that surrounds this disease with such shame. Get with it Miss Rawe there is a drug war that is so strong that it is killing our youth!! I hope that you never have to come up against someone like yourself when you need help. Way to show compassion Miss Rawe.

  • seabourne posted at 10:48 pm on Thu, Nov 7, 2013.

    seabourne Posts: 3

    Oxycontin, the most prescribed pill for pain, is synthetic heroin and the leading cause of heroin use today. Once the prescription ends the addiction is still there and the injured person is left an addict with the closest thing to their addiction is heroin. Medical use of cannabis could prevent most of these addictions. A topical cannabis liniment works better for pain than any opiate. It even stops the pain of gallstones. While the ER want to prescribe Demerol, Oxycontin, or other opiate a topical spray works. Florida needs this useful medicine. It will save lives and prevent addictions.

  • Julia Negron posted at 8:11 pm on Thu, Nov 7, 2013.

    Julia Negron Posts: 1

    Dear ABC7 - I am deeply shocked by the attitudes displayed in this video piece. The ER doctor implies "addicts" lives are less valuable than a heart attack victim? Obesity leading to that heart attack may well be easier to control than a brain hijacked on opiates. To treat a dying patient with the attitude that it was their "choice" and view the heart attack patient chomping down cheeseburgers differently is the height of unethical doctoring. Shame, shame on the medical professional in this piece. Some education is needed; all lives are worth saving! Stigma rears it's ugly head. Julia Negron, Certified Addiction Specialist


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