As with the rest of the U.S., Florida battles daily with substance abuse and addiction cases that contribute to high death rates. Drug rehab programs throughout the state help many people who are struggling with substance use disorders but wish to put their addiction behind them.
Florida is above the national average for drug-induced deaths. As of late 2018, data from the Florida Medical Examiner’s Office showed that drugs were involved in 12,080 deaths across the state. Many of them involved prescription drug use. According to the report, prescription drugs account for 61 percent of all drug occurrences in the report when ethyl alcohol is excluded.
Some of the statistics from the report are:
Other illicit substances like synthetic marijuana and synthetic cathinones (also called flakka) can be found in Florida. These designer drugs can be unpredictable because they come in dozens of slightly altered chemicals but sold under the same names.
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The medical examiner’s report also said the five most frequently occurring drugs found in the deceased in drug-related cases in Florida were ethyl alcohol, benzodiazepines, cocaine, cannabinoids, and morphine. Marijuana is the most common illicit drug in the United States. However, heroin is the second most easily attainable illegal drug.
Alcohol remains a top drug of abuse in Florida. According to the June 2018 update of the Patterns and Trends of Substance Abuse report by the Florida Alcohol and Drug Abuse Association, more than 15 percent of Floridians engage in binge drinking.
In March 2018, former Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed a unanimously passed bill (HB 21), which aims to discourage and prevent patients from getting addicted to prescription pain relievers before turning to street drugs such as heroin and fentanyl.
Part of the bill limits prescriptions that doctors can write for patients who need treatment for acute pain. In many cases, doctors would be limited to writing three-day prescriptions. However, they could prescribe up to seven days’ worth of supplies if it is deemed medically necessary, according to the bill.
The bill also requires physicians or their staff members to check a statewide prescription database before prescribing or dispensing controlled substances.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, addiction is a complex but treatable disease that affects brain function and behavior. The disease can change the brain long after substance abuse has stopped, which is why users are vulnerable to relapse. While it is treatable with the appropriate programs, research shows that at least three months (90 days) or more are needed to properly treat substance addiction.
Florida Alcohol and Drug Abuse Association. (2018, June). PATTERNS AND TRENDS OF SUBSTANCE USE. Retrieved from https://cdn.ymaws.com/www.fadaa.org/resource/resmgr/files/resource_center/Patterns_and_Trends_2019_Pub.pdf
Medical examiners Commission. (2019, November). Drugs Identified in Deceased Persons by Florida Medical Examiners. Retrieved from https://www.fdle.state.fl.us/MEC/Publications-and-Forms/Documents/Drugs-in-Deceased-Persons/2018-Interim-Drug-Report-FINAL.aspx
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018, January). How long does drug addiction treatment usually last? Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/frequently-asked-questions/how-long-does-drug-addiction-treatment
News Service of Florida. (2018, March 2018). Rick Scott signs bill targeting opioid addiction. Retrieved March, 2018 from http://floridapolitics.com/archives/259262-rick-scott-signs-bill-targeting-opioid-addiction
Saunders, Jim. (2018, March 19). Gov. Rick Scott signs bill targeting opioid addiction in Florida. Retrieved March, 2018 from https://www.tallahassee.com/story/news/2018/03/19/gov-rick-scott-signs-bill-targeting-opioid-addiction-florida/438455002/