Florida opioid deaths up 42% during 1st year of COVID-19 pandemic

Florida

FILE – This photo provided by the U.S. Attorneys Office for Utah and introduced as evidence in a 2019 trial shows fentanyl-laced fake oxycodone pills collected during an investigation. In a resumption of a brutal trend, nearly 71,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2019 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a new record high that predates the COVID-19 crisis. The numbers were driven by fentanyl and similar synthetic opioids, which accounted for 36,500 overdose deaths. (U.S. Attorneys Office for Utah via AP)

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Compared to before the COVID-19 pandemic, drug-related deaths rose 17% in Florida, according to a report by the Florida Medical Examiners Commission. Opioid-related deaths rose even higher.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement provides the MEC report on drug-related deaths every year. The Medical Examiners report stated that 243,088 people died in Florida in 2020.

The total deaths from drugs? 14,708, according to the MEC report.

Preliminary data from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for 2021 only goes through April. From that limited set of data, covering a 12-month period, provisional estimates report a 27.2% increase in drug overdose deaths across the U.S.

In Florida, there was a 24.5% increase from April 2020 to April 2021. The CDC notes that this data is incomplete due to underreporting. Estimates show about 200 reported drug overdose deaths from January to April, this year.

The MEC report provided the following data on the various drug-related deaths and relevant factors in 2020, and how much that changed from 2019.

The final version of the 2020 data, fully analyzed, showed there were 2,134 drug-related deaths, a 17% increase. Opioid-related deaths and opioid-caused deaths were up more significantly.

Fentanyl, cocaine, ethyl alcohol and methamphetamine were among the drugs causing the most deaths in Florida. The Florida MEC found that Fentanyl, heroin, mitragynine, meth, cocaine, methadone and morphine accounted for 50% of deaths where the drugs were present upon examination.

“The drugs that caused the most deaths were fentanyl (5,302), cocaine (2,400), ethyl alcohol (1,389), methamphetamine (1,386), benzodiazepines (1,152, including 722 alprazolam deaths), morphine (916), fentanyl analogs (848), amphetamine (768) and heroin (708),” according to the Florida MEC report.

According to Florida’s medical examiners, opioid-related deaths increased by 28%, with 7,842 deaths reported. More directly, 6,089 Floridians died directly due to opioids, a 42% increase compared to 2019.

From 2018 to 2020, Fentanyl deaths increased by the highest proportion.

Among other drugs listed in the report, morphine and heroin deaths declined from 2018 to 2021. Still, the number of fentanyl deaths more than doubled over that period of time.

There were only 2,348 Fentanyl deaths in 2018. In 2020, there were 5,302 deaths caused by the drug statewide. Another 504 Floridians died with fentanyl present in their bodies, but not the direct cause of death.

Medical Examiner Districts in Tampa Bay listed in the report accounted for 1,288 Fentanyl deaths. 94.7% of the deaths were accidental, according to the Florida MEC.

Listed DistrictNumber of Fentanyl Deaths
St. Petersburg591
Lakeland134
Sarasota224
Tampa339
(Source: FDLE)

The report showed most of Florida’s fentanyl-caused deaths were among those aged 26 or older. Of those, the majority were ages 35 to 50.

Copyright 2022 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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