Treasure Coast Opioid Task Force Member Reflects on the Latest Opioid Epidemic - Fentanyl
Fort Pierce - April 15, 2022: According to the CDC, more people between the ages of 18 and 45 died from fentanyl overdoses last year than from Covid, car accidents, cancer and suicide, combined.
Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid that is similar to morphine, but 50 to 100 times more potent. It’s killing people across the country, in Florida, and along the Treasure Coast.
Dr. Kenneth Palestrant, a leading member of the Treasure Coast Opioid Task Force, says this latest drug epidemic is effecting our region, just as it has the rest of the nation.
"It’s bad everywhere," he said. Dr. Palestrant is the founder of the Pinnacle Wellness Group who has lived along the Treasure Coast for the past 30 years. “73% of the deaths that we’ve seen recently involve fentanyl," he said. "That’s a tremendous upsurge, and that’s a DEA statistic by the way.”
Dr. Palestrant points to a case last year when a drug dealer in St. Lucie County was busted with about a pound and a half of fentanyl. “Two milligrams is a lethal dose. One pound is 454 grams. One gram is a thousand milligrams. So do the math. A pound and a half could kill a lot of people, and we’re seeing that all the time.”
The surge in fentanyl deaths comes at a time when it seemed as if the opioid crisis involving prescription drugs was waning. But Dr. Palestrant says the two are related. The pendulum has now swung from the doctor’s office to the street. "Because the laws in the different states have cracked down on opioid prescribing, what ends up happening is that a lot of these people who are addicted to the prescription opioids, and they’re not getting it from their doctors anymore, they go out on the street, and unfortunately the stuff in the street is contaminated with fentanyl.”
Up until 2018 fentanyl used to be mailed into the U.S. from China says Dr. Palestrant, now it’s primarily coming from Mexico. “The Mexican cartels get the chemicals from China and they manufacture illicit pills. So it’s not just a heroin addict shooting up, no. There are so many outlawed pills out there that are manufactured by the cartels and shipped across the border."
In 2021 the DEA seized 91 million pills coming across the Mexican border that contained fentanyl. “I hate to say this, its chemical warfare against our country," said Dr. Palestrant.