Four Times More Florida Deaths from Legal, than Illegal, Drugs

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Florida had four times as many deaths from legal drugs as illegal drugs in 2009, according to a report from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published today, signaling what it says is a need for more attention to prescription drug abuse.

By 2007, unintentional poisonings in Florida had grown to be the second leading cause of injury-related death, after motor vehicle accidents. Of all unintentional poisonings, 93 percent were drug overdoses.

Of all overdoses occurring in Florida between 2003 and 2009, about 86 percent were unintentional, about 11 percent were suicides and 2.6 percent were of undetermined intent.

From 2003 and 2009 in Florida, the number of annual deaths that showed lethal amounts of one or more drugs increased 61 percent from 1,804 in 2003 to 2,905 in 2009 – when drug overdoses caused eight deaths each day. In addition, the overdose death rate in Florida increased 47.5 percent during the same time period.

Between 2003 and 2009, death rates from all drugs, except for cocaine and heroin, increased. The death rate for prescribed drugs increased just over 84 percent, with the greatest death rate increase stemming from oxycodine (264.6 percent).

Since 2007, Florida has seen the rapid increase of hundreds of pain clinics that prescribe large quantities of oxycodine and alprazolam (Xanax), some of which is ultimately used for non-medical purposes, according to the report, part of the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.  Many of the customers of such pain clinics often travel to Florida from Appalachian States such as Kentucky to obtain the drugs for resale in their home states, the report states.

In 2009, Florida decided to take action against pain clinics. Legislation was passed that established stricter licensing requirements for the pain management clinics, put a limit on the amount of drugs that could be prescribed for customers paying with cash, and required tamper-resistant prescription forms.

To continue to address the problem of drug overdoses, the report suggests that states need to implement more complex surveillance systems that are able to track patterns of drug use and the impact of prevention measures. In addition, the report also suggests that there must be more regulations in place for pain clinics across the United States.

For the full, free report click here.