Mr. Sparky

It’s not just Florida and the Suncoast dealing with the problem of opioid abuse. A new report from federal health officials presents a sobering story that shows we’re not alone.

Opioid abuse around the nation has reached epidemic levels, with states such as Ohio and West Virginia hit especially hard.

This is probably the worst drug situation in our country in decades if not a century,” Dr. Wilson Compton of the National Institute on Drug Abuse said.

In 2015, nearly 92 million Americans used a prescription opioid, more than  11 million reported misusing opioids, and 2 million admitted they were addicted, with deaths up four times higher between 1999 and 2015.

The study shows those most likely to misuse opioids include people with low incomes, the unemployed and under-insured.

“They’re people at risk for not having full access to health care, so we think that’s part of a club here,” Compton said.

The research also finds that almost half of those who misuse opioids get them from family and friends.

In one of the hardest hit areas — the state of Ohio — U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions unveiled a new program aimed at reducing drug overdoses. The opioid fraud and abuse detection unit will track down physicians and health care providers that illegally prescribe painkillers.

“We cannot capitulate intellectually or morally to this kind of rampant drug use,” Sessions said. “We must create a culture that is hostile to drug abuse.”

Fighting an epidemic that is stretching from coast to coast.

“In the face of the worst drug crisis in our history, we need to use every lawful tool we have and we will,” Sessions said,”but I’m convinced that this prescription drug abuse effort is a winnable war.”

 

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Grant Boxleitner
Grant Boxleitner is the SNN evening news anchor. He joined the SNN news team in October 2009 as a reporter and fill-in anchor. Boxleitner covered the British tourist murders, a story that made international headlines. He was a member of the SNN reporting team that won a Telly Award for the 10th anniversary 9/11 special about the Suncoast’s connections to the terrorist attacks. He also covered 2012 visits to Sarasota by Mitt Romney and Vice President Joe Biden. Boxleitner was named co-anchor of the SNN Morning Edition in March 2014. He anchored SNN's live 2016 Florida Presidential Preference Primary coverage and anchored coverage of live speeches from the candidates throughout the campaign. In March 2016, he was named SNN evening news anchor. He hosts the weekly SNN feature segment, "Feel Good Friday." You hear his voice at Ed Smith Stadium as the public address announcer for the Baltimore Orioles spring training games. Boxleitner has been a journalist in Southwest Florida since 1997. He joined WBBH-TV NBC-2 in Fort Myers as a reporter in September 2006, fulfilling a longtime career goal of breaking into television news after beginning his career in newspapers. Boxleitner grew up in Marengo, Ill., and is a U.S. Army veteran, completing a combat mission during Desert Storm. He earned a bachelor’s degree with a double major in journalism and political science from Northern Illinois University. During his time in Florida, he completed a master’s degree in media and journalism studies at USF-St. Petersburg. When he’s not on the air, you may find him working out at the YMCA, eating in a Suncoast restaurant or spending time with family and friends.