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Prescription Medications Involved in Three-Quarters of Florida Overdose Deaths

By Join Together

Staff A study of drug overdose deaths in Florida between 2003 and 2009 has found that prescription medications were involved in 76 percent of cases.

The death rate for prescription drugs increased 84.2 percent between 2003 and 2009. The greatest increase was seen in the death rate from oxycodone, followed by alprazolam (Xanax) and methadone. By 2009, the number of deaths involving prescription drugs was four times the number involving illicit drugs, the researchers reported in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The study found that during the same time, heroin death rates decreased 62 percent, cocaine overdoses rose until 2007 and then declined in 2008 and 2009 and mehadone overdose rates rose 79 percent.

Florida Governor Rick Scott recently signed into law a bill designed to cut down on prescription drug abuse by controlling 'pill mills' in the state. The law authorizes the creation of a prescription-drug monitoring database to reduce doctor-shopping by people looking to collect multiple painkiller prescriptions. The legislation also imposes new penalties for physicians who over prescribe medication and imposes stricter rules for operating pharmacies.

Federal authorities estimate that 85 percent of oxycodone is sold in Florida. Many of the sales are to people who come from out of state and then resell the pills illegally.