Miami hospitals feel effects of growing heroin epidemic

Jackson Memorial Hospital doctors treat 183 overdoses in September

MIAMI – Miami Fire Rescue and hospitals in the area are feeling the effects of the growing heroin epidemic in the city.

"Over the past three to four months, (we've seen) a five-fold to 10-fold increase in the number of patients that come in with heroin and opioid-related overdoses," Dr. Alejandro Baez said.

Baez is an emergency physician at Jackson Memorial Hospital. He outlined the impact heroin is having on the emergency room last week in a report.

"It has taken a significant toll on our ability to care for the multiple tens of thousands of patients that come to the emergency department," he said.

Not only are doctors seeing more patients who've taken heroin, they, like first responders on the street, are having to use more of the drug Narcan to reverse the effects.

JMH treated 183 overdoses in September, compared to 53 in September of last year. Narcan costs jumped to more than $7,000, up from about $2,000 for the same period in 2015.

"The heroin is spiked, blended, mixed with some sort of other drug. Most of the time, it's fentanyl," Baez said.

Baez said the surge in synthetic drugs, like the potent fentanyl and carfentanil, an even stronger synthetic used as an elephant sedative, means that doctors need more medicine and more time to treat overdose patients.

He said his overdose patients range in age from young teens to people in their 70s.

"We're seeing patients that we're treating today with an overdose, and then two days later, we see them again with the same problem," he said.


About the Author:

Amy Viteri is an Emmy Award-winning journalist who joined Local 10 News in September 2015. She's currently an investigative reporter and enjoys uncovering issues facing South Florida communities. A native of the Washington, D.C., area, she's happy to be back in South Florida, where she earned a masters degree at the University of Miami.