When you read the news, you’ll see a discussion about America’s opioid crisis hitting rural areas hard. The Rust Belt states have been some of the hardest-hit areas.

West Virginia leads the nation in the number of deaths as a result of opioid overdoses. Ohio is second. Across the country, it’s estimated more than 72,000 people died last year of an opioid overdose.

Florida has been given less attention in the national discussion. The fact of the matter is the crisis has affected the Sunshine State almost more than any other.

These nine facts about prescription pain meds show the depth of the crisis in Florida. They also bring hope and new ideas for ending the crisis.

When we talk about the opioid crisis, many people think of illegal substances like heroin. But the current crisis was actually fueled by legal opiates.

What are opioids? They are a class of drugs that have pain-relieving and sedative properties. The category includes both substances derived from the opium poppy and synthetic ones.

Opium, heroin, and morphine are some of the best-known opioids. Others include:

  • Codeine
  • Oxycodone
  • Fentanyl
  • Hydrocodone

All these substances are effective painkillers. They’re also known to be highly addictive, especially with long-term use.

2. Florida Had the Third-Highest Number of Deaths in 2016

The national discussion has focused on Rust Belt states like Ohio and Pennsylvania. West Virginia, New Hampshire, and DC bear some of the highest costs.

These facts overlook that Florida had the third-highest number opioid overdoses in 2016. In Florida, nearly 2,800 incidents were recorded that year.

3. Prescription Pain Meds Are Frequently Prescribed

Over the past two decades, the number of prescriptions for pain-relievers has soared. The USA now has the highest number of opioid prescriptions of any country in the world.

Florida physicians played a role in this soaring statistics. For every 100 Floridians, doctors wrote an average of 63 prescriptions for narcotic pain meds. That translates into more than 12 million prescriptionsevery year.

4. The Crisis Affects All Age Groups

The opioid crisis in Florida has affected people of all ages. People between the ages of 25 and 44 were most likely to overdose. They accounted for the largest number of deaths in 2016.

5. Is Big Pharma to Blame?

The opioid crisis isn’t unique to the United States, although it’s worse here. Across the nation and in other affected countries, people are asking, “Why?”

One common narrative accuses pharmaceutical companies of rewarding doctors for “pushing” pills. This theory has led to an advocacy group suing pharmaceutical companies in Canada.

Even if this is true, it only tells part of the story. In countries like the United States, cases of chronic pain have been increasing. Since narcotic pain meds are effective pain relief, it makes sense patients and doctors demand them.

6. New Laws Are Fighting Back

As Floridians try to put an end to the opioid crisis, some lawmakers have adopted a “get tough on drugs” attitude. In 2016, lawmakers passed a motion to include fentanyl in existing drug-homicide laws.

This means that if you sell someone a lethal dose of a drug and they overdose, you could be charged with homicide. The arrival of fentanyl on the black market has been one of the drivers of increasing opioid deaths. Fentanyl bought on the street is often more potent, leading to overdose.

New opioid laws in 2018 targeted prescription pain meds. One new law limited physicians to writing three-day prescriptions for narcotic pain meds. In some cases, they can write a prescription for seven days.

The goal is to make it more difficult for patients to stay on opioids long term. Long-term opioid use leads to addiction. Short-term use reduces the chance of addiction.

7. The Opioid Crisis Affects Everyone

Even people who don’t use prescription pain meds have been affected by the opioid crisis. In South Florida, some counties have hired grief counselors for emergency service workers. First responders see abnormal amounts of death when they respond to overdoses.

Even children are being affected. The number of babies born addicted to opioids has soared in the last few years.

Other health issues abound. The rates of diseases like Hepatitis C and HIV are on the rise. Many opioid users inject the drug. If they share needles with other users, they increase the risk of infection.

Addiction has serious effects beyond the individual. It affects entire families and communities as well.

8. The Florida Model of Rehabilitation May Not Be Working

In the early 1990s, a new model for rehabilitating people emerged in South Florida. Called the “Florida model,” it allowed users to spend the day in medical facilities. At night, they would return to “sober homes.”

The opioid crisis has increased the number of rehab facilities. It’s also fueled fears about insurance fraud and other unethical practices. The state has been cracking down on unnecessary testing and unethical practices.

There are also fears some centers aren’t helping people overcome addiction. Instead, they’re paid to keep patients in a cycle of relapse.

9. There Is Hope

As new opioid laws show, Floridians are serious about ending the opioid crisis. New laws aren’t the only measures being taken.

More doctors and patients are choosing alternatives to legal opiates. Opiate addiction treatment is also experimenting with new methods. Public funding for new initiatives intended to reduce harm and help people find support has also increased.

The crisis appeared to worsen in 2017 and 2018. Despite this, there is still hope Florida can successfully put an end to this epidemic.

Keeping Florida Healthy

The pervasiveness of prescription pain meds speaks to larger trends about health. Although ending the opioid crisis should be top priority, we can’t forget how it started.

Healthy living and a focus on well-being are important for all Floridians. Taking steps toward wellness and investing in your health is a smart move. Check out our health features for more.

If you need help staying sober after detox, check out some tips for staying on the straight and narrow.

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How NEOFECT Created a Smart Glove (Robotic Arm) That Uses Online Gaming for Rehabilitation

Wearable technology keeps evolving. And it is transforming the way we experience the world. Watches, eyeglasses, rings, bracelets and even smart home devices like the thermostat are changing how we consumer information, monitor our health and use home products. Smart technology has a significant role to play in how people will live in the future.

NEOFECT wants to change how to aid rehabilitation and the provision of clinicial real-time patient data. In an interview with  Scott Kim, Neofect’s co-founder and CEO of the US office, he spoke to us about how he started NEOFECT, the company’s success factors and challenges they have faced in their bid to change physical therapy using online gaming.

Brief summary about your startup

Established in 2010, NEOFECT is a mobile health startup with a vision to deliver an affordable and effective at-home system to aid neuro patients with central nervous system disorders such as a stroke.

Its first product, RAPAEL Smart Glove, combines a wearable device, virtual reality and gamification for rehab exercise, while its software analyzes the data from built-in sensors and provides training tasks based on the patient’s activity level.

The device has been successfully employed by a number of major hospitals in South Korea since December of 2014, and approved for use in the US and Europe. NEOFECT has offices in S. Korea, San Francisco, and Poland.

Why and how it was started

The President of NEOFECT, Ho-Young Ban, experienced first-hand the difficulties faced by stroke patients and their families when his father and two uncles fell victims of stroke.

Although his uncles were fortunate to survive, they had to turn down the rehab therapy because of the costs involved. So, when his friend Young Choi came up with an idea of Rapael, Ban could not resist.

Soon after, their classmate from the University of Virginia’s Darden MBA program Scott Kim joined the team to launch the US operations.

Kim was born with spinal bifida and went through a surgery and a long rehabilitation process, so he immediately recognized the opportunity and became a co-founder and the CEO of the Neofect’s US office.

What has been the biggest success factors

Personal motivation of the founders combined with the latest, most advanced smart technologies have become the major engines behind the company’s success.

– Gamification, which motivates a patient throughout the rehab process. It helps to induce neuroplasticity for hand function of a patient with a brain damage.

Various rehab games are updated monthly and each game targets specific movements such as squeezing the orange for finger flexion/extension and pouring wine for forearm pronation/supination, for example.

– Artificial Intelligence: the software analyzes data from the glove’s sensors and provides training tasks based on the patient’s activity level. The algorithm is designed to enhance learning multiple functions by offering an optimal task at a proper level of difficulty.

– Wearable Device: RAPAEL Smart Glove is a wearable bio-feedback training gadget. Lightweight and designed to fit different hand sizes, it uses the Bluetooth technology to collect the patient’s data.

What are the biggest challenges you have faced launching and running the company?

The biggest challenge was the product’s concept itself. Many people believed that Rapael could be a threat to the therapists. Fortunately, after we launched the program in several hospitals, we’ve been able to prove that our device is designed with the doctors’ and patient’s needs in mind and helps them make the rehabilitation process more efficient.

Which do you think is most important: the right market, the right product, or the right team?

This sounds like a cliché, but the right team is easily the answer to me. With the right people, you can make necessary adjustments based on new information to make sure there is a product-market fit.

My previous job was to lead a team to make mobile apps – without any exception, all great apps loved by users were made by great teams.

Final words for those chasing the startup dream

Never underestimate the importance of execution. Many people waste their time just to validate what they think or others think, or even just to finish the conceptualization.

However, you should “fail fast” in order concentrate your efforts on building a product which has a market demand, and of course, to save time and money as well.

Plus, you should fail while you are small rather than big, if you’re meant to face it. The earlier you do the reality check, the faster you can reach your goal, although it might cost you a couple of failures at the beginning.

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