From “Scarface” to “Miami Vice,” Florida’s drug problem has been portrayed as the story of a single narcotic: cocaine. But for Floridians, prescription drugs are increasingly a far more lethal habit.
An analysis of autopsies in 2007 released this week by the Florida Medical Examiners Commission found that the rate of deaths caused by prescription drugs was three times the rate of deaths caused by all illicit drugs combined.
Law enforcement officials said that the shift toward prescription-drug abuse, which began here about eight years ago, showed no sign of letting up and that the state must do more to control it.
“You have health care providers involved, you have doctor shoppers, and then there are crimes like robbing drug shipments,” said Jeff Beasley, a drug intelligence inspector for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which co-sponsored the study. “There is a multitude of ways to get these drugs, and that’s what makes things complicated.”
The report’s findings track with similar studies by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, which has found that roughly seven million Americans are abusing prescription drugs. If accurate, that would be an increase of 80 percent in six years and more than the total abusing cocaine, heroin, hallucinogens, Ecstasy and inhalants.
The Florida report analyzed 168,900 deaths statewide. Cocaine, heroin and all methamphetamines caused 989 deaths, it found, while legal opioids — strong painkillers in brand-name drugs like Vicodin and OxyContin — caused 2,328.
It is ironic that with all the money the United States has spent on "the war on drugs" over the last 4o years, the biggest killers are perfectly legal in the U.S.: tobacco, alcohol, and prescription drugs. The number of deaths caused by "legal drugs" is far greater than what are caused by illegal drugs. About 600,000 people a year are killed by tobacco, alcohol, and prescription drugs as compared to 30,000 by street drugs.
Here at GCASA we work to reduce the demand for legal and illegal drugs by giving people accurate information and helping them to make healthy choices. We have seen a huge increase in our treatment of people addicted to opiates to the extent that we have developed a whole new opiate addiction treatment program. For more information you can ask any GCASA counselor or call John Bennett, GCASA's Director of Treatment, at 585-815-1849, or Maryann Bowman, GCASA's Director of Prevention, at 585-815-1877 or email John at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Maryann at email@example.com.. You can reach me, David Markham, Executive Director, at 585-815-1800 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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