The Catastrophe That Is Fentanyl

We’ve talked about the fact that Fentanyl is the drug that killed music icon Prince and is killing people at an alarming rate in Florida. It’s even deadlier than heroin. At a talk I gave recently on the Marchman Act, representatives of Emergency Medical Services in Palm Beach County told me that there are 8-10 deaths weekly in 2016 in Palm Beach County alone.

8-10 deaths each and every week in Palm Beach County.

Under pressure from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) physicians are getting more and more reluctant to prescribe opiods such as hydrocodone. As prescription opioids get more and more difficult and expensive to procure, people addicted to them have begun turning to heroin–a shift that’s created an epidemic of heroin use in whole new groups of people. Now, a new opioid is rising in use and overdose.


No. Not twice. If I told you that a drug was twice as powerful as heroin, that would give you pause, right? How about a drug that’s three times deadlier than heroin? Unthinkable, right? Get this: according to the DEA, Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, is 50-100 times more powerful than morphine, and 25-50 times more potent than heroin. Fentanyl’s presence in communities like West Palm Beach, Ft. Lauderdale, Stuart, Ft. Pierce, Tampa and Orlando seems to be rising sharply, which means that, given its potency, deaths from the drug are also rising.
In 2014, over 25,000 Americans died of opioids or heroin: 16,000 from opiates and another 8,000 from heroin.
While our EMS personnel state that we lose 8-10 people per week in Palm Beach County, authorities are not sure how many people are dying nationally from fentanyl overdoses every week. The numbers are clearly climbing sharply in the United States and Canada. Fentanyl is often, unbeknownst to the consumer, mixed with drugs like cocaine and heroin since it’s cheaper than either of them, and much stronger.

Next time: What does fentanyl do in the brain?

Let us know how if we can help you get your loved ones and friends into treatment recovery from drug addiction and the catastrophe of opiate addiction or alcoholism through the use of Florida’s landmark Marchman Act. Just call me at 561-655-8081,

The drug that reportedly killed pop music icon Prince is wreaking havoc setting death records in South Florida, from Fort Lauderdale to West Palm Beach to Vero Beach and Port St. Lucie. According to the medical examiner, toxicology tests have concluded that the entertainer died from an accidental overdose of the opioid fentanyl, CNN reported.  The Palm Beach Post, Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel and Miami Herald report that heroin and fentanyl were among a handful of drugs – including sedatives, cocaine and morphine, which have caused the most deaths in Florida.

Because Fentanyl is so much more powerful than heroin and killing so many people in South Florida, law enforcement and paramedics in cities throughout South Florida, including Delray Beach, Boca Raton, West Palm Beach, Ft. Pierce and Vero Beach, are carrying Narcan, a drug used to reverse the effects of opioid overdoses.

The opiate drug Fentanyl, often prescribed by doctors for cancer treatment, can be made illicitly and is blamed for a spike in overdose deaths in the United States. This drug is 25 to 50 times more potent than heroin and 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

If someone you know is addicted to alcohol or drugs that can be a setup for stepping up to worse drugs like Fentanyl. Please consider a Marchman Act hearing before something worse happens to a friend or family member. We’re experts in the Marchman Act hearings and serve people from St. Lucie, Martin, Palm Beach, Okeechobee, Broward and Dade counties.

Great Changes in the Marchman Act Effective July 1, 2016

The Florida Legislature has made it easier to get help for a loved one with changes that take effect July 1, 2016. In the past, if someone were floundering in the raging seas of drug addiction or alcoholism there was little one person could do.  It took either the family or three friends to get the suffering person into treatment via the Marchman Act.  Very difficult to do at times.

So many times, families are in denial that there’s a problem and so often well-meaning friends are unwilling to put their names on the dotted line to help commit a friend to a addiction or alcoholism recovery treatment center, even if that friend might be in mortal danger.

The good news is that the Florida law has been changed and now one unrelated person can file.


1.The law is changed so that instead of requiring three unrelated individuals to file a Marchman Act petition, one unrelated individual can now file a petition for treatment.  This makes it easier to get the ball rolling for impaired individuals to receive help.

  1. The law makes it clear that the Marchman Act includes people with a “co-occurring disorder” such as bipolar disorder or a personality disorder. This is very helpful to families when the loved one suffers with a mental illness and substance abuse is also an issue but perhaps not the prominent issue.
  1.  Another helpful change is that the new law increases the initial time for treatment to 90 days rather than the 60 days it used to provide. That extra month can be a huge option where the impaired person is really struggling.
  1. The law makes it clearer that when the impaired individual has the resources to pay for treatment that he or she should pay or to make the necessary arrangements with his or her insurer to pay for it.
  1. The law makes it a little more difficult to get an order for treatment when the impaired person has not previously failed at treatment. That is to say, it’s easier to get a Marchman Act order if your loved one has already failed. But don’t let that stop you, an order can still be gotten, if we can show sufficient evidence. Talk to us. We serve people in Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Martin and St. Lucie counties.

But It’s Just a Beer!

One of the more worrisome aspects of raising children is the fear that they might be drinking alcohol or using drugs. Many of us think that it’s okay if teens have the occasional beer so long as they’re not driving or getting too crazy. Let me caution you about that. While moderate drinking can be safe for adults, underage drinking is a serious matter. By underage, I mean drinking by anyone under 21 years of age. As a professional in the field I’m seeing more and more young people finding their way into recovery from addiction through the Marchman Act. Along with addiction to heroin and other opiates, alcohol plays a role in many young lives. Parents need to be aware of the downside of teenage drinking.

It is hugely important to understand that alcohol is a gateway drug to powerful drugs like opiates, vicodan, heroin and other narcotics.

The immediate risks and harm a youngster may experience from drinking alcohol are heavy duty and include:
* increased likelihood of automobile crashes;
* death from alcohol poisoning (excessive drinking);
* violent behavior or become the victim of violent crime;
* unprotected sex
* depression and anxiety.

“Oh, the occasional beer won’t hurt my kid.” Or will it?

The occasional beer might not be harmful to you and your friends. However, when it comes to underage drinking there are some serious factors to consider.

1.Youngsters might say they’re just having a beer once in awhile, but peer pressure among teens is huge and that occasional beer can too often end up being quite a few more. The average teen has a major challenge saying no to the kids he or she is trying to impress, to the group.

2. Development of the human brain is not complete until about the age of 24 or 25.
A number of reports and studies indicate that drinking by young adults (anyone under 25 years of age) can have serious long-term consequences. It is now understood that the human brain is still developing and growing until the mid-20’s. Heavy drinking before the brain has fully developed can cause several long-lasting problems.

A recent study by neuroscientist Susan Tapert of the University of California, San Diego compared the brain scans of teens who drink heavily with the scans of teens who don’t. The researchers found damaged nerve tissue in the brains of the teens who drank. It is believed that this damage negatively affects attention span in boys, and girls’ ability to comprehend and interpret visual information.

And, according to scientists in the area of pediatrics and adolescent medicine, the earlier a child drinks the more likely that young person is to become addicted.

Next week we’ll discuss the 7 signs to be aware of that tend to show your youngster might be drinking or abusing alcohol and other drugs.

Are You Worried About All The Opiate Drugs Mom Takes?

A friend happened to go into his mother’s medicine cabinet and was stunned at the variety of painkillers he found. Names like hydrocodone, oxycontin and tramadol. He asked me “With all the talk about opiate addiction, should I be concerned?”

Yes, you should be concerned. Opiate or opioid addiction is not just for young people. In fact, so many senior citizens are getting addicted to opiates and other pain killers that legislation has been filed in the U.S. Senate to deal with the problem.

In announcing their bill Senators Sherrod Brown (D. OH) and Pat Toomey (R. PA) said “the image of opioid addiction in America is often that of a working-age adult that started using painkillers as relief or a young person introduced to drugs like oxycodone as a party drug and turned to heroin when the pills became too expensive.” This is the usual age group which the Marchman Act is designed to help get into recovery from drug addiction.

At the Law Offices of Joseph M. Considine we have helped many families get help for loved ones addicted to opiates, painkillers, alcohol and other drugs. However, recovery through the Marchman Act is not just for younger people or working men and women. A group that is often overlooked are senior citizens, who the senators say are, unknowingly or unwittingly, given duplicate and unsafe prescriptions for opiates.

The fact of the matter is that seniors have a higher risk of cognitive impairment, falls, and fractures and even overdose deaths from prescription opiates. Between 1993 and 2012, inpatient hospital stays related to opioid overuse by Medicare beneficiaries rose more than 10 percent annually according to the senators.

Get this: Nearly one-third of all people using Medicare benefits will be given at least one opioid prescription each year, but Medicare Payment Advisory Commission says that less than one percent of the beneficiaries account for 70 percent of the painkiller spending.

While opioids control intense pain quickly, long term use can lead to a lessening of the effects of the drug and seniors using opiates regularly aren’t likely to be healthier than seniors who control pain with other medicines.

Can the Marchman Act help with the elderly patient who is addicted to opiates like oxycodone, Norco, vicodan or oxycontin?  Absolutely. The Marchman Act has helped untold numbers of people get into recovery because concerned families took positive steps to help their loved ones, regardless of age.

If you fear that someone in your life might be addicted to opiates or other drugs, call us. We’re here to help you and your family.

Joe Considine Lectures On Divorce and Marchman Act to Professional Groups

Joe Considine has been invited back to present a lecture to the Florida Association of Licensed Mental Health Counselors state conference in February, 2015. Mr. Considine addressed the 2014 conference on alimony reform in Florida and The Marchman Act and was very well received. In addition to speaking to professional associations, Mr. Considine also addresses professionals in treatment centers in South Florida on The Marchman Act.  Admissions staff and clinicians alike have responded very favorably to these talks that educate about the Marchman Act and indicate that they are better equipped to advise families about this law. Joe Considine is available to speak to groups about issues involving divorce in Florida and The Marchman Act.

Marchman Act Gets Results

In helping families with loved ones who are substance  impaired, I have found that in many instances, the impaired individual who is ordered to treatment via the Marchman Act hears the message they need to hear and gets and stays clean and sober. This is such a relief to the family. It is worth the time, aggravation, expense and effort to use this law (Marchman Act) to “motivate” an active alcoholic or drug addict to stop.  There are respected, peer reviewed studies which confirm the efficacy of court ordered treatment as a means of dealing with the addiction. The Marchman Act is an effective tool for families to use.

Many times families are afraid of going into court because they are unfamiliar with the terrain. That certainly makes sense. However, there are a couple things worth noting.

First, many times the impaired individual, literally outside the hearing room waiting for his or her case to be called,  will simply agree to go to treatment. They see the family, the witnesses, and they know the deal. They are faced with either agreeing to go to treatment or listening to their family tell the Court how badly they have behaved under the control of their addiction. Many, many times the impaired individual throws in the towel and tells the Court  he or she accept treatment usually followed with acceptance and a sigh of relief.  Not always, but often this happens.

Secondly, your lawyer will prepare you for what to expect. You will go over your testimony well before the hearing. More importantly, this is your story. You have lived it. No one knows it as well as you do. Relax and tell the Court the truth of your experience.



What Happens in Marchman Act Hearings?

In consultation with many clients through the years, I have helped them use Marchman Act hearings to get their loved ones assessed and treated for substance abuse. Marchman Act cases typically follow a set pattern through the court system.

You will have an attorney meet with you and other witnesses and the attorney will draft a sworn petition for both assessment and treatment. You will be asked by your attorney to give information as to the person’s behavior, identification and location for the Marchman Act petitions. These petitions will be filed with the Clerk of Court.

What happens after the initial Marchman Act petition has been filed at the Clerk’s office?

The Clerk sets the case for hearing within 10 days. The loved one must be served with the paperwork including the notice of hearing which indicates the date and time of the hearing. Usually it is required that there be personal service of the paperwork on the loved one before there can be a hearing so it is important that you work closely with your attorney to make sure your loved one gets served.

What happens at the Marchman Act hearing?

If the loved one is indigent or a minor, he or she is entitled to have the representation of a court appointed attorney.

Testimony is given to the Judge at the Marchman Act hearing for involuntary assessment. You will bring to the hearing those several friends and family members who have firsthand knowledge of the loved one’s condition. The Judge or Magistrate will want to know all that your witnesses have personally observed about the loved one which will lead the Judge to the conclusion that he or she needs to be assessed and then later needs treatment under the Marchman Act.

If the loved one meets the criteria for a Marchman Act assessment, the Judge signs an order granting the petition and setting the appointment for assessment. Sometimes, usually at Drug Court, the Judge or Magistrate orders the assessment to take place at the time of the hearing. The assessment can take up to an hour and is done by an addiction professional, many times a psychologist contracted with by the courts. When the matter is heard by the Magistrate, the assessment can take up to several days especially if the family can afford to place the loved one in a treatment facility.

After a Marchman Act Hearing

If the loved one was served but is not at the Marchman Act hearing or does not show up for the court ordered assessment appointment, the Judge or Magistrate will have the sheriff pick up the loved one and transport him or her to the assessment location.

If the Marchman Act assessment indicates that treatment is needed, either at the same assessment hearing or a subsequent hearing for treatment, the Judge or Magistrate may order a minimum of 60 days treatment that the loved one must complete. The treatment facility can later ask the Court for more time than 60 days.

Treatment facilities are not locked down, hence, there is no way to prevent the loved one from leaving.  If your loved one decides to leave the facility, the Court will be made aware and a status conference hearing may be set. If the loved one fails to appear at this hearing, a show cause hearing may be set.  If the loved one does not appear for the show cause hearing, the court may find the loved one in contempt of court and ordered to treatment again or otherwise sanctioned.

If you are ready to help your loved one overcome substance abuse addiction and seek and assessment and treatment under the Marchman Act, contact me for a consultation immediately.

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Who may file a Petition for Involuntary Substance Abuse Assessment or Treatment?

As family members begin to understand the seriousness of their loved ones’ substance abuse. And realize that all the talking, pleading, and yelling, has not gotten your loved one clean or sober, the family usually experiences a great deal of fear and uncertainty as to what to do next. As I’ve previously discussed, the Marchman Act can help you get help for substance abuse even when your loved one does not want to voluntarily get help for substance abuse.

florida court You may ask the court to intervene and get help for your loved one’s substance abuse by using the Marchman Act.Chapter 397 of the Florida Statutes. In this article I will break down who can file a Marchman Act petition in the Florida courts.


If the loved one is an adult (over 18 years old), the petition may be filed by the following:

A.) a spouse

 B.) a guardian

 C.) any relative

 D.) a private mental health practitioner

 E.) a director of a licensed service provider or designee (with power of attorney)

 F.) any three adults with personal knowledge of the person’s substance abuse

  If the loved one is a minor, the Marchman Act petition may be filed by:

A.)    a parent

B.)    a legal guardian or custodian

C.)    a licensed service provider

Another common question is whether you need a lawyer to file a Marchman Act proceeding. While the answer is technically, “No,” it sure makes it easier to have the services of an attorney to navigate you through the court rules and who is familiar with the Marchman Act law and the rules of evidence as there will be a hearing before a Judge or a Magistrate. The lawyer will know what questions to ask to bring out the evidence needed for the Judge to make a proper decision. (Most times these hearings are conducted by Magistrates although the Drug Court is heard by Judges.)

If you would like to discuss filing a Marchman Act petition, please contact me for a confidential consultation.

Getting Help For My Loved One With Substance Abuse Who Won’t Get Help Voluntarily

Substance abuse – When parents and other family members begin to understand the seriousness of their loved ones’ addiction and all the talking, pleading with, and yelling, hasn’t worked, the family experiences a great deal of fear and uncertainty as to what to do next. addiction

The first thing to do is to realize there is little you can do……..on your own…….and then seek the guidance of a mental health professional and/or treatment professional .  In Florida, more than likely you will be directed to the Marchman Act for help.

You may ask the court to intervene and get help for your loved one’s substance abuse by using the Marchman Act.Chapter 397 of the Florida Statutes is known as the “Hal S. Marchman Alcohol and Other Drug Services Act of 1993.” The Marchman Act provides for the involuntary or voluntary assessment, stabilization and treatment of a person abusing or addicted to drugs or alcohol.

The first step in using the Marchman Act is to ask the court to order your loved one to undergo a substance abuse assessment. After a short hearing, the Court may order your loved one to appear for the substance abuse assessment, which happens in a relatively short time after the hearing. A copy of the assessment goes to the Court.

If the assessment indicates treatment is needed, the second step is providing court ordered treatment under the Marchman Act for those loved ones who are still unwilling to get help voluntarily. The assessment will generally indicate the type of substance abuse treatment that is appropriate for your loved one.

Are there any assurances that a Marchman Act proceeding will get your loved one the help he or she needs? No, there are no assurances. That is the nature of the disease of addiction and substance abuse. But it will surely make him or her realize that the people who love him are serious about getting substance abuse help.

Usually, filing the petition is one of the steps the family needs to take to set boundaries with the loved one as well such as no more financial or other support if the loved one decides not to get help. Moreover, it will give the loved one a chance at recovery. The experience of various addiction and treatment professionals with whom I have consulted is that many times filing the petition for involuntary assessment is the first step which ultimately leads (albeit down a bumpy and scary road) to recovery.

If you are in need of assistance with your loved one’s substance abuse addiction problems, call the office for a confidential Marchman Act consultation.

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