Overdose Drug Deaths Continue to Decline in Florida

A report came out last week that showed drug deaths in Florida dropped in 2012. This is reportedly due to the recent crackdowns across the state on pill mills and efforts to track prescription drug prescriptions and those who engage in “doctor shopping.”

The report from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement showed a total of 4329 drug deaths between January and June 2011 compared to 4,126 for the same period in 2012. The 203 fewer deaths represent a 5% decline, which is modest yet encouraging.

The most encouraging aspect of the report showed that where prescription drug addiction rates and pill mills are known to be highest – in Southwest Florida, including Palm Beach County, rates dropped even more – particularly among drug deaths associated with the abuse of prescription opioids. According to the report, the role of oxycodone and hydrocodone in drug deaths dropped by 29 percent and 16 percent, respectively and the role of Methadone and heroin in overdose deaths declined by 18 percent and 17 percent, respectively.

On the topic of these declines, Spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement stated, “We know that law-enforcement drug task forces started in 2011, and with that has come the arrest of nearly 4,000 people and the seizure of 850,000 pharmaceutical pills…and 254 pill mills operating under the guise of pain pill clinics have been closed.”

Prior to the work of the statewide task forces, Florida had some of the highest rates of drug overdoses in the nation – particularly because of the supply and access to opiates and benzodiazepines and the lethal combination of the two drugs when taken together – a common practice among addicts known as taking “drug cocktails.” Other drugs such as MDMA, difluoroethane, alcohol and cocaine played a large role in overdose deaths across the state as well.

A DSM-IV criterion for addiction is “A need for markedly increased amounts of the substance to achieve intoxication or the desired effect.” In active addiction, addicts often lose track of how much they have taken or even what they have taken – which can easily result in an accidental lethal overdose. That is why addiction treatment is essential for recovery from addiction and alcoholism. By removing the addict from access to drugs and alcohol, through detoxification followed by effective drug and alcohol treatment and counseling, their risk of overdose is contained and their potential to get their lives back is remarkably increased.

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