Rx Drug Deaths Down Across Florida

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By: Lanetra Bennett
September 24, 2013

Tallahassee, FL - Florida leaders say their relentless efforts in the war on drugs are finally starting to pay off. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement shows drug-related deaths in Florida have gone down.

The new report shows a decrease of nearly 9 percent in the total drug-related deaths compared to 2011.

The Assistant Commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement says while one death is too many, overall the numbers are "promising."

But, the report does point out some specific continuing drug problems.
State and local law enforcement officials say they stand together in the fight against drugs.

State and local law enforcement officials say they stand together in the fight against drugs. Tuesday afternoon, they stood side-by-side to announce that their efforts have paid off.

"We'll continue to bolster our efforts." Says, Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford.

The newly released 2012 Drugs Identified in Deceased Persons report says there were more than 178,000 reported deaths in Florida last year, and says 8,330 of them were drug-related.

That is down by 8.8 percent from 2011.

The report says deaths caused by oxycodone decreased by 41 percent and cocaine is down by nine percent.

Mark Zadra, FDLE Assistant Commissioner, says, "We've seen more than a 50 percent decrease in oxycodone deaths in the last two years. We are shutting down the Oxy Express."

Agents say the report isn't all good news, noting that more people died from methamphetamine and heroin over doses.

The report says deaths caused by heroin increased by 89.5 percent.

The report says prescription drugs continue to be found more often than illicit drugs in deaths in Floridians.

Pam Bondi, Florida's Attorney General, says, "If you have this stuff in your cabinet, get rid of it. Get it out of your cabinets. Take it away from your kids and talk to your kids about it."

The report says the drugs that caused the most deaths include: oxycodone, cocaine, methadone, morphine, and hydrocodone.

Philip Thorne, Springfield Police Chief, says, "We're going to be ever-vigilant. We want those who deal in illicit drugs to know we're coming for you."

The complete report can be found at www.fdle.state.fl.us.

Press Release: FDLE Office of Public Information

TALLAHASSEE – Attorney General Pam Bondi and Florida Department of Law Enforcement Assistant Commissioner Mark Zadra released the 2012 Drugs Identified in Deceased Persons Report by Florida Medical Examiners showing deaths caused by oxycodone plunged by 41 percent in 2012 and overall occurrences of prescription drug deaths fell by 9.9 percent.

Governor Rick Scott said, “With Florida at a 42 year crime low - it’s thanks to our heroes in law enforcement that Florida families are safer today. We’ll continue working with partners across the state to ensure we keep families safe.”

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi said, "While this drastic decline in deaths caused by prescription drugs is great, we must remain steadfast in our efforts to save more lives from prescription drug abuse."

The report shows that in 2012, drugs were either present or the cause of death in 8,330 Floridians, down from 9,135 in 2011. Drug deaths fell not only in oxycodone, but fewer people died in 2012 from methadone, hydrocodone and cocaine as well.

“The impact of Florida law enforcement is being felt by the pill traffickers,” said FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey. "I'm pleased with the report but there is still work to do.”

In March 2011, Governor Scott created the Statewide Drug Enforcement Strike Force teams and along with General Bondi, worked with lawmakers to close loopholes that allowed illegitimate doctors and pharmacies to overprescribe and dispense these dangerous drugs – often under the guise of a pain clinic.

“Florida’s Sheriffs are pleased to see the continued reduction in drug-related deaths. It is because of the Prescription Drug Monitoring Database and the Drug Strike Force teams that law enforcement has been able to crack down on prescription drug abuse,” said Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, president of the Florida Sheriffs Association. “This success would not have been possible without the leadership of Attorney General Pam Bondi and the work of the Florida Legislature that passed HB 7095, which created the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program and enacted laws that made pill mills a business guaranteed to fail. We appreciate Governor Scott keeping a strong stance on pill mills and those who deal in trafficking amounts of drugs. Florida’s Sheriffs have worked tirelessly to rid our state of pill mills and we will continue to bolster our efforts to reduce the number of fatal drug overdoses in our state.”

President of the Florida Police Chiefs Association, Chief Philip Thorne said, “While this report is encouraging, Florida law enforcement must remain vigilant in our efforts to combat illegal drugs in our state. One life lost to prescription drugs is one too many.”

"More lives are being saved because of the focus on reducing drug abuse," said State Surgeon General and Secretary of Health Dr. John Armstrong. "Looking forward we want to increase collaboration among state agencies, non-profits and local communities so that Florida families can experience lives free from the impact of drug overdoses."

Despite the drop in prescription drug deaths, those drugs continued to be found more often than illicit drugs in cause of death.

The drugs that caused the most deaths in 2012 were oxycodone, alprazolam, ethyl alcohol, cocaine, methadone, morphine, hydrocodone and diazepam.

The complete report can be found at www.fdle.state.fl.us. A report summary is attached.

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