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State News

Fentanyl Deaths Drive Medical Examiners Report

alex_proimos_via_wikimedia_commons.jpg
Alex Proimos via wikimedia commons

Florida’s medical examiners are seeing a precipitous rise in fentanyl deaths.  They recently published their interim 2016 report on drug-related fatalities.

The Drugs Identified in Deceased Persons report compiles toxicology results for almost 5400 people across the first six months of 2016.  Stephen Nelson is the Polk County medical examiner and chairs the state board.  He explains incidents of the drug have almost doubled, and deaths tied to fentanyl or its analogs have risen by 139 percent.

“All of the medical examiners’ offices in the state of Florida are seeing a tremendous increase in drug deaths,” Nelson says, “and they are largely led by fentanyl and the fentanyl analogs—the drugs that are made with fentanyl as the basis for them.”

Statewide there were 805 cases where the drug was present or the cause of death.  Nelson explains the report distinguishes between a drug being present and being the cause of death.

“Far and away fentanyl, fentanyl analogs, are the cause of death,” Nelson says. 

“Not just that they’re present—they actually cause the death.”

The state Legislature recently approved a measure elevating penalties for possession and trafficking in fentanyl.  The bill is waiting for Governor Rick Scott’s signature.