Opioid deaths in Florida increase 42% in first year of COVID-19 pandemic


TAMPA, Florida (WFLA) – Compared to before the COVID-19 pandemic, drug-related deaths have increased 17% in Florida, according to a report by the Florida Medical Examiners Commission. Opioid-related deaths have further increased.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement provides the MEC’s ​​report on drug-related deaths annually. The forensic pathologists report said 243,088 people died in Florida in 2020.

Total drug-related deaths? 14,708, according to the MEC report.

Preliminary data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for 2021 only goes through April. From this limited set of data, spanning a 12-month period, preliminary estimates point to a 27.2% increase in drug overdose deaths in the United States.

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 that around 200 drug overdose deaths were reported from January through 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 has changed from 2019.

The final version of the 2020 data, fully analyzed, showed that there were 2,134 drug-related deaths, an increase of 17%. Opioid-related deaths and opioid-related deaths have increased 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, methamphetamine, cocaine, methadone and morphine accounted for 50% of the deaths where drugs were present during the exam.

“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 by alprazolam), morphine (916), analogues of fentanyl (848), amphetamine (768) and heroin (708) ”, according to the Florida MEC report.

According to Florida medical examiners, opioid-related deaths have increased by 28%, with 7,842 deaths reported. More directly, 6,089 Floridians died directly from opioids, an increase of 42% from 2019.

From 2018 to 2020, fentanyl-related deaths increased by the highest proportion.

Among other drugs listed in the report, morphine and heroin-related deaths declined from 2018 to 2021. Nonetheless, the number of fentanyl-related deaths more than doubled during this period.

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

The Tampa Bay medical examiner districts listed in the report accounted for 1,288 fentanyl-related deaths. 94.7% of the deaths were accidental, according to the Florida MEC.

Classified district Number of fentanyl-related deaths
Land of lakes 134
Sarasota 224
Tampa 339
(Source: FDLE)

The report showed that most of the deaths caused by fentanyl in Florida were in people aged 26 or older. Among them, the majority were between 35 and 50 years old.


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