Prescription drug deaths down in Florida

Overall drug deaths on the rise

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Deaths from prescription drug overdoses are declining following a state and federal crackdown on pill mills in Florida, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement drug death report for 2011 released Wednesday.

"Rarely do we see changes this radical," Attorney General Pam Bondi said.

The 2011 FDLE drug death report shows a 17 percent decline in deaths caused by oxycodone. Overall, prescription drug deaths are down 6 percent.

"We put in place tough penalties," Bondi said. "We strengthened the regulation oversight."

While the state is winning the battle against prescription drug abuse, it may be losing the war. Overall drug deaths rose from 9,001 in 2010 to 9,135 in 2011. Even so, FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey still considers the decline in prescription drug deaths a victory for Florida.

"Florida was recognized as a supplier state for a large part of our country," Bailey said. "That particular problem was addressed, and I'd call it an unqualified success."

With the decline in painkiller deaths comes an increase in overdoses from cocaine and alcohol. A combined 1,200 people died from those drugs last year.

But is the crackdown on pills to blame? FDLE hasn't found a link.

"There's speculation that it's a supply and demand issue, that some of the addicts, if you will, that we've blocked from oxycodone have turned to these other drugs, but we don't know that," Bailey said.

Before the report was released, seven people a day were dying from prescription drug overdoses in Florida. While the overall percent has fallen, it hasn't dropped enough to lower that statistic.

Since May 2011, Florida's Drug Strike Force teams have made 3,300 arrests, seized more than 700,000 pills and $10 million in cash. They've also closed 254 illegal pain clinics.

To see a county-by-county breakdown of the statistics in the drug death report, click here.

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