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Report: Heroin, prescription narcotics most lethal drugs

By Staff | Jul 1, 2010

In 2009, the four most lethal drugs in Florida were heroin, Methadone, Oxycodone and fentanyl, according to a report from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
The Florida Medical Examiners Commission Report on Drugs Identified in Decreased Persons was released Wednesday by FDLE. There were about 171,300 deaths in Florida in 2009. Of those, 8,653 people were found to have died with one or more of the drugs in the report in their bodies.
The most frequently occurring drugs found in 2009 were ethyl alcohol, at 4,4046; all benzodiazepines, at 3,379; oxycodone, at 1,948; and cocaine, at 1,462. The drugs that caused the most deaths were Oxycodone, Methadone, ethyl alcohol, cocaine, morphine and hydrocodone.
Also listed were all benzodiazepines, with the majority of deaths caused by Alprazolma. Alprazolma is also known as Xanax, according to the report.
“Prescription and over-the-counter abuse is growing faster than any other drug segment and law enforcement is responding with aggressive enforcement,” Commissioner Gerald Bailey wrote in a prepared statement.
“FDLE and our partners are working daily to target traffickers, take out pill mills and stop doctors who prescribe pain medicine without medical necessity,” he said.
According to the report, the four drugs that were the most lethal caused death in more than 50 percent when the drug was found. Heroin came in at 85.6 percent, Methadone at 73.1 percent, Oxycodone at 60.8 percent and fentanyl at 56.7.
Though heroin continues to be the most lethal drug named in the report, occurrences of heroin decreased by 15.9 percent and deaths cause by heroin dropped by 20 percent when compared to 2008, FDLE officials reported.
In Medical Examiner District 21, which encompasses Lee, Hendry and Glades counties, Oxycodone was identified in 67 cases and Alprazolma was found in 60. Cocaine was a factor in 48 cases, diazepam in 32, Methadone in 31 and Hydrocodone in 24. Morphine was present in 22 and propoxyphene in 16.
In 2009, heroin was identified in nine cases in District 21 but was the cause in only eight of those cases. According to the report, the figure is up from seven heroin deaths in 2008, four deaths in 2007 and one death in 2006.
Cocaine-related deaths have decreased in District 21. Compared to the 48 cases recorded in 2009, there were 67 in 2008, 79 in 2007 and 96 in 2006.
According to Bruce Grant, director of the Office of Drug Control, prescription drugs killed 2,488 Floridians in 2009 — equivalent to nearly seven days per day.
“The illegal diversion and abuse of prescription drugs continues to be our greatest public health threat,” he wrote. “The vast majority of these tragic deaths are due to accidental overdose, the risk of which is greatly enhanced by the mixing of potent, pure and potentially poisonous prescription painkillers and depressants.”
In nine categories of drugs, accidental deaths attributed to between 52 percent and 88 percent of the manner of death. According to the report, suicide came in second place, scoring between 4 percent and 26 percent.
The Florida Medical Examiners Commission Report on Drugs Identified in Decreased Persons contains information compiled from autopsies performed by medical examiners across the state. To view the 2009 report, visit online the Florida Department of Law Enforcement website: www.fdle.state.fl.us.
Medical examiners collected information in the following drugs: ethyl alcohol; amphetamines; methamphetamines, or crystal meth; MDMA, or Ecstasy; MDA; MDEA; Alprazolma, or Xanax; diazepam, or Valium; flunitrazepam, or Rohypnol; other benzodiazepines; cannabinoids, or marijuana; carisoprodol and meprobamate; cocaine; GHB; inhalants; phencyclidine, or PCP; ketamine; zolpidem; buprenorphine; fentanyl; heroin; Hydrocodone; hydromorphone; meperidine; Methadone; morphine; Oxycodone; oxymorphone; propoxyphene; and tramadol.