2003 Report by Florida Medical Examiners Commission on Drugs Identified in Deceased Persons

Today, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) released the Florida Medical Examiners Commission’s Report on Drugs Identified in Deceased Persons. The report contains information compiled from autopsies performed by medical examiners across the state in 2003. During that period there were approximately 170,000 deaths. According to the report, 6,767 individuals examined had drugs in the system.

Medical Examiners collected information on the following drugs: Ethyl Alcohol, Amphetamines, Methamphetamines, MDMA (Ecstasy), MDA, MDEA, Alprazolam, Diazepam, Flunitrazepam (Rohypnol), other Benzodiazepines, Cannabinoids, Carisoprodol/Meprobamate, Cocaine, GHB, Inhalants, Ketamine, Fentanyl, Heroin, Hydrocodone, Hydromorphone, Meperidine, Methadone, Morphine, Oxycodone, Propoxyphene, Tramadol, and Phencyclidine (PCP).

The report reveals a decrease in the incidences of Heroin in 2003 when compared with 2002. This decrease includes cases in which the drug levels found during the exams were both lethal and non-lethal. In addition, the report indicates the three most frequently occurring drugs found in decedents were Ethyl Alcohol (3,467), all Benzodiazepines (1,794), and Cocaine (1,614). The drugs that caused the most deaths were Cocaine, all Benzodiazepines, Methadone, Oxycodone, Ethyl Alcohol, Heroin, Alprazolam, and Morphine.

The three drugs that were the most lethal, meaning more than 50 percent of the deaths were caused by the drug when the drug was found, were Heroin (88 percent), Fentanyl (63 percent), and Methadone (60 percent). The report also reveals that excluding newly tracked prescription drugs, prescription drugs of Benzodiazepines, Hydrocodone, Methadone, and Oxycodone continued to be found more often than illicit drugs in both lethal (60 percent) and non-lethal (55 percent) levels during 2003.

“This report shows that with few exceptions, both illicit and prescription drugs persist in being a continuing and increasing danger to the citizens of the State of Florida,” said FDLE Commissioner Guy Tunnell. “While heroin deaths have decreased over the past year, most of the other illicit and prescription drug deaths remain at an alarming level for the year, although decreases are noted during the second half of the year.”

“The results from this report are evidence of the immense danger associated with drug abuse and more specifically prescription drug abuse,” said Jim McDonough, Director of the Florida Office of Drug Control. “Far too many Floridians are dying from prescription drugs. To address this problem Florida will continue to strengthen its efforts in the areas of prevention, treatment, and law enforcement in order to reduce the unacceptable amount of deaths that result from the abuse of prescription drugs.”

Source: http://www.fdle.state.fl.us/publications/examiner_drug_report_2003.pdf ;May 26, 2004

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