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Drug Related Deaths in Florida Rise; Prescription Drug-Related Deaths Fall

Sascha Cordner

The overall number of drug-related deaths in Florida is on the rise. Meanwhile, the state is seeing a drop in the number of prescription drug related deaths. Attorney General Pam Bondi says the decrease is the result of a two-year effort by the state to crack down on pill mills. And, the effort also grew with the help of pill mill legislation in 2011.

A report released by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement shows the number of overall prescription drug deaths fell by almost 7-percent. The number of deaths caused by Oxycodone, one of the lead causes of Florida drug-related deaths, also saw a decline by nearly 18-percent. And, Attorney General Pam Bondi says this is a big win:

“For the first time in nearly a decade, we have seen a decline, and that is so tremendously important because we have a crisis in our state," remarked Bondi. "This is a milestone. We know we have a long way to go. We have so far to go in this fight against drugs, but these numbers to us, in such a short time, are truly remarkable.”

Still, as the state continues its push to crack down on pill mills, the number of drug-related deaths is increasing. And, Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey says while the state is making headway in fighting prescription drug abuse, there’s still more work to do:

“In 2011, there were 9,100 drug-related deaths. And, that number is up by 134 from 2010," said Bailey. "And, alcohol continues to be the number one drug found in the deceased. And, despite the decrease in prescription drugs deaths, pharmaceuticals are still the cause of more deaths in Florida than illegal drugs.”

Bailey says the strides they’ve made in cracking down on prescription drug abuse is still very positive. According to the FDLE,  the creation of the seven regional drug enforcement strike forces has led to more than 3,300 arrests have been made, including 61 doctors, 785,000 pills have been ceased, and 254 pill mills have been shut down. 

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on twitter @SaschaCordner.

Sascha Cordner has more than ten years of public radio experience. It includes working at NPR member station WUFT-FM in Gainesville for several years. She's worked in both radio and TV, serving in various capacities as a reporter, producer and anchor. She's also a graduate of the University of Florida with a bachelor's degree in telecommunications. She is the recipient of 15 awards from the Associated Press, Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), and Edward R. Murrow. Her award-winning stories include her coverage on the infamous “Dozier School for Boys” and a feature titled "Male Breast Cancer: Lost in the Sea of Pink." Currently, Sascha serves as the host and producer of local and state news content for the afternoon news program "All Things Considered" at WFSU. Sascha primarily covers criminal justice and social services issues. When she's not reporting, Sascha likes catching up on her favorite TV shows, singing and reading. Follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter:@SaschaCordner.