Two years after the state and local governments clamped down on prescription drug abuse, the efforts appear to be working as intended.
A recent report from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement shows the total number of drug-related deaths dropped nearly 9 percent from 2011 to 2012. Deaths where drugs were present dropped from 9,135 in 2011 to 8,330 in 2012.
Deaths of people using oxycodone — a strong opiate available by prescription — declined by a whopping 41 percent. Methadone and hydrocodone deaths also declined, as did deaths related to the class of prescription drugs that include Xanax and Valium.
On the other hand, while cocaine deaths dropped by 9 percent, heroin-related deaths rose 89 percent statewide, from 62 to 117 last year. (The drug itself is particularly deadly. The report says all but 8 percent of deaths in which heroin is involved are overdoses.)
The increased incidence of heroin use was something law enforcement officials had anticipated, and they say it is directly linked to the prescription drug crackdown. When it’s harder to get synthetic heroin — oxycodone and the like — prices rise and people turn to other street drugs. That’s not all bad. When drug activity is “out in the open like that” it’s easier to fight it with traditional methods.
The overall numbers are encouraging, and they clearly reflect the effectiveness of the new laws.
Statewide, the prescription drug monitoring database helps prevent “doctor-shopping.” The FDLE also created a prescription drug strike force that attacked the problem of bogus pill mills.
Doctors, hospitals and pharmacies have become much more aware of the problem before they fill a prescription.
The statewide reduction in the crime rate is directly attributable to the reduction in illegal drug activities.
We are seeing safer, healthier communities. It’s good to see these laws working as they were intended.