Prescription Drugs Are Leading Cause of Drug Overdose Death In Florida

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released findings from a recent analysis of drug overdose deaths in Florida between 2003 and 2009. The report found, between 2003 and 2009, the number of annual deaths in which testing showed lethal concentrations of one or more drugs increased 61 percent, from 1,804 to 2,905. The new data show that, on average, eight people in Florida die every day from a drug overdose death.

The report highlights the devastating effects prescription drug abuse causes in communities around the country. Prescription medications were implicated in 76.1% of all drug overdose deaths in Florida, while drugs like heroin and cocaine were implicated in 33.9% of the deaths. The greatest increase in death rates among prescription drugs were for oxycodone (Percocet, OxyContin) with a 264.4% increase; alprazolam (Xanax) with a 233.8% increase; methadone with a 79.2%; hydrocodone (Vicodin, Lortab) with a 34.9% increase; and morphine with a 26.2% increase. Among illicit drugs, there was an overall decrease in death rates of 21.4%, with a 62.2% decrease for heroin and a 10.8% decrease for cocaine.

These new data reinforce the importance of the work the Obama Administration is undertaking to address prescription drug abuse in America. In April, ONDCP released the Administration's comprehensive action plan on prescription drug abuse - Epidemic: Responding to America's Prescription Drug Crisis. The plan, which coordinates efforts among Federal agencies, focuses on four key areas: education for healthcare professionals, patients, and the public on safe and appropriate use of prescription drugs; expansion of state-based prescription drug monitoring programs; convenient and environmentally responsible disposal methods to remove unused medications from the home; and smart law enforcement to reducing the prevalence of pill mills and doctor shopping.

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