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Florida drug deaths drop, but oxycodone is still the top killer

A just-released report by Florida medical examiners has both good and bad news regarding drug deaths in Florida. While drug-related deaths fell 8.8 percent last year in the state from the previous year, the prescription painkiller oxycodone was still responsible for more of Florida’s drug-related deaths than any other drug last year. This is despite the fact that oxycodone-related fatalities dropped 41 percent in 2012.

So what has caused this significant decline in oxycodone deaths? Florida Lawyer General Pam Bondi, in commenting on the findings, noted that while 98 out of the 100 leading oxycodone dispensers in the U.S. used to be in Florida, the state currently has none of them.

Indeed, Florida has declared war on doctors, clinics, and pharmacies who dispense dangerous drugs irresponsibly. In 2011, Florida Governor Rick Scott designated seven Statewide Drug Enforcement Strike Force teams to work within the state’s legal system to prevent health care providers, many of whom operated so-called “pain clinics,” from overprescribing or irresponsibly prescribing drugs.

Meanwhile, Regional Drug Enforcement Strike Forces have shut down 254 clinics, which were no more than “pill mills,” and have arrested 4,226 people. Of those, 76 were physicians. They have seized over 876,000 pills and $11 million, not to mention numerous weapons and vehicles.

Although Lawyer General Bondi was pleased that drug-related deaths in Florida have dropped, she noted that more people are still turning to prescription drugs rather than the so-called illicit drugs like heroin and cocaine. Of the 8,330 Floridians who had drug-related deaths in 2012 (down from 9,135 in 2011), more had prescription drugs in their system than illicit drugs.

Nonetheless, it is worth noting that the data about heroin is disturbing. While cocaine-related fatalities in Florida dropped by 9.1 percent, and methadone fatalities by 21.4 percent, deaths from heroin increased by a startling 89.5 percent in 2012. The Florida medical examiners called heroin the most dangerous of all drugs.

While prescription drugs have become the new scourge that illegal drugs used to be, that does not mean that doctors who prescribe them are without responsibility. While shutting down disreputable facilities is an important step in fighting this, seemingly legitimate doctors can and should be held legally responsible for prescribing irresponsibility when the medication harms or kills a patient.

Source: naplesnews.com, “Florida drug-related deaths drop 8.8 percent in 2012” Kareem Copeland, Sep. 24, 2013

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