Drug overdose deaths down in Florida, state officials remain concerned
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Drug overdose deaths down in Florida, state officials remain concerned

State leaders announced “encouraging” data on overdose deaths in Florida. Attorney General Ashley Moody on Tuesday released the 2023 Florida Medical Examiners Interim Report, which presents drug-related death data for the first half of 2023.

“Everyone in Florida has felt the effects of opioid deaths,” Moody said.

Attorney General Moody says Florida has seen a decline in overall drug-related deaths. But state leaders remain cautiously optimistic, calling fentanyl a weapon of mass destruction.

Drug overdose deaths down in Florida, state officials remain concerned

“Florida saw a 7 percent decline in overall drug-related deaths, a 10 percent decline in fentanyl-related deaths and a 10 percent decline in opioid-related deaths,” Moody’s reported.

Moody says this is the third consecutive report showing a decline in drug-related deaths in Florida.

“This is the largest percentage decrease in fentanyl-related deaths in our state since 2016,” Moody said.

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But state officials say thousands of people still die from overdoses in Florida.

“I’m an 18-year-old recovered opioid addict. I was what you would call a functioning addict,” said Longwood Deputy Mayor Matt Morgan.

Law enforcement officials say Tampa Bay has dropped from fourth in Florida for fentanyl-related deaths to sixth.

They say fentanyl remains at the heart of the problem.

“This is absolutely a mental illness. Make no mistake,” Morgan said. “At the same time, you have to be very firm with those who are trafficking these drugs and the fentanyl that is coming across our border.”

Morgan himself was a former WWE wrestler and painkiller addict. He battled addiction for several years before seeking help.

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He says fentanyl now poses an even greater threat to drug users.

“If I had been taking painkillers like I was 18, 20 years ago, when I was addicted, I would have been dead 35 times over,” Morgan said.

FDLE Commissioner Mark Glass says the vast majority of drugs are now laced with fentanyl.

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Glass says prescription painkillers can often contain trace amounts of fentanyl, even though they look like the same pills you can buy at a pharmacy.

“Seven and nine grains of salt,” Glass said. “Put them in there. And it’s going to kill you. So if it’s not mixed well or properly, and most of it isn’t, it’s just thrown together, it’s going to kill you. And now you have to remember that these people are going to be taking and mixing other types of drugs with it. Heroin, cocaine. All of these things are done in a variety of ways, including marijuana.”

State officials praise the SAFE initiative, a state-funded program aimed at combating drug gangs and drug dealers.

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“To date, 110 investigations have been approved, with $14.7 million in commitments,” Glass said.

Glass says the initiative began less than a year ago, and investigators across the state have already seized massive amounts of drugs, weapons and cash.

“Over the course of approximately six to eight months, we seized over 37 kilograms of fentanyl, over 30,000 fentanyl pills, 55 kilograms of cocaine, 20 kilograms of methamphetamine, seized half a million dollars in cash, 72 firearms and made over 410 arrests,” Glass said.

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While government leaders say the new data is encouraging, their work is not over.

State leaders pressure federal government to stop flow of drugs across international borders and into the U.S.

They credit the SAFE Initiative, investment in drug recovery resources and aggressive prosecution of drug dealers with reducing the number of overdoses.