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Doctors weigh-in on opioid-related deaths amid the pandemic

Opioid pills
Posted at 4:26 PM, Aug 31, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-31 18:59:23-04

Aug. 31 is International Overdose Awareness Day, a day to recognize the lives lost to overdose and a reiterated fight to end the crisis.

A report from the Florida Medical Examiner’s Commission reveals overdoses have increased by 51% since 2019.

The report can be found here.

And amid COVID-19, some doctors worry the numbers could get worse.

Dr. Gus Castellanos, MD spent two decades as a neurologist and sleep specialist in South Florida. He actually comes from a family of doctors.

”I just followed in their foot steps,” Castellanos said. “I went into it because that was what we did in our family.”

He was fascinated by the brain and helping patients, but what he didn’t like was the stress.

”What stressed me out the most by far has got to be the healthcare system. The business side if you will — the administration, regulation and the legal ramifications,” Castellanos said.

To the point he turned to prescription drug samples to relieve the external pressures.

“I started using the pills — and that has a two-sided effect, one getting hooked on the pills and on the other side not dealing with the real problem,” Castellanos said.

And at age 49, Castellanos suffered an overdose.

”But that turned out to be the biggest blessing because since that overdose I’ve been clean and sober — it’s been 17 years now,” he said.

And his message today as a mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) instructor is for area front line workers to be more mindful about how they are dealing with COVID-related stress.

”External pressures have gotten 10 times worse now,” said Castellanos.

Dr. Flora Bensi-Enchill, DMD is a member of the T. Leroy Jefferson Medical Society, a group of medical professionals who are hosting a webinar Tuesday evening at 6pm entitled “On the Front Lines of the Opioid Pandemic,” part six of a opioid series. The webinar will address the state’s prescription drug monitoring program, patient management strategies and clinically relevant findings. To attend visit, here:

”I think we probably may not understand the effects until maybe a few years down the road when really start dissecting all the different things that it’s affecting,” said Bentsi-Enchill. If we understand more about what we can do as healthcare professionals to help limit the epidemic it will make a huge difference — in terms of the prescriptions we write and things like that.”

The Florida Medical Examiner’s Commission released in the spring revealed overdoses involving fentanyl increased by 70 percent. But Paul Petrino, operation’s manager for the Palm Beach Medical Examiner’s Office (District 15) says to carefully examine the data depending on where you live. For example, when comparing numbers from Jan. 1 to Aug. 30 from 2019 until 2021 overdose deaths were up by 18-percent in 2020 in Palm Beach County and they are down 15-percent in 2021.

If you need help finding substance abuse and mental health services call the national helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

To learn more Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) visit:

To learn more about the T. Leroy Jefferson Medical Society visit: