The Opioid Crisis: The epidemic within the coronavirus pandemic

Seminole County Sheriff Dennis Lemma joins ‘The Weekly on’

ORLANDO, Fla. – Health officials say the coronavirus pandemic has created the greatest mental health, substance abuse and overdose crisis in U.S. history.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were nearly 94,000 overdose deaths across the country in 2020, including more than 7,500 in Florida -- an increase of 29.4% and 37% year-over-year, respectively.

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The driving force behind the spike in overdoses is fentanyl, according to Seminole County Sheriff Dennis Lemma, which is 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times more potent than heroin.

[WATCH: News 6 Anchor Justin Warmoth discusses opioid crisis with Sheriff Lemma]

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“We’re seeing fentanyl mixed in all types of substances, from marijuana to, in some cases, tobacco,” Lemma said. “A lot of people who are taking these drugs are not realizing that they’re taking the heavier-dosed fentanyl, and they’re nearly dying immediately upon taking the drug.”

Lemma joined News 6 anchor Justin Warmoth on “The Weekly on” to discuss his role on the Statewide Task Force on Opioid Abuse and how it’s working to address the crisis.

Because of the social stigma surrounding addiction, Seminole County leaders are hosting an overdose awareness event Saturday, August 28, from 10 a.m. until noon at Reiter Park in Longwood.

About the Author:

Justin Warmoth joined News 6 in February 2013 as our Brevard County reporter. In March of 2016, after anchoring the weekend mornings since August of 2015, Justin was promoted to weekday morning anchor. You can catch him Monday through Friday mornings from 5-7 a.m. and at noon.