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Report: Florida Has 17th Highest Drug Overdose Rate

A pile of opioid powder, pills and a syringe.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Florida had the 17th highest rate of drug overdose deaths in the nation in 2017, a 17 percent increase from the previous year.

That's 25.1 deaths for every 100,000 people, and current projections estimate this will grow to 59 deaths per every 100,000 people by 2025.

Benjamin Miller, Chief Strategy Officer Well Being Trust, a mental health and drug abuse advocacy group that analyzed the CDC data along with Trust for America’s Health, said crackdowns on pain medicine prescriptions alone don't address the issue.

"It's not just about the number of opioids being prescribed, though I think that's an important thing to address,” Miller said. “It's really about social and community factors that are much harder to address.

Miller said solutions include expanding access to health insurance, especially for mental health care, and better integrating substance abuse help into primary care.

Other recommendations:

  • Identifying and addressing “upstream” risks such as trauma and extreme stress.
  • Building resiliency in children and adults with programs in schools, workplaces and community settings.
  • Promoting responsible opioid prescribing practices.
  • Patient education about the risks of addiction when taking opioids.
  • Improved non-drug pain management interventions.
  •  Expanded availability and use of rescue drugs.
  • Enhancing and enforcing mental health parity laws.
  • Drug disposal programs.
  •  Support for “whole person” healthcare including mental and behavioral health, substance misuse screening within primary care settings and ensuring availability of evidence-based substance abuse treatment programs.

Miller said the United States has not yet prioritized investing in prevention and intervention..
"It's not simply enough to know people are dying prematurely to drug and alcohol,’ Miller said. “We have to be able to do something. So our call to action is pretty basic - that we know there are public policies and interventions that could be done in our communities tomorrow to help with some of these problems."

And Miller says it’s not just about health outcomes. It’s also costing the country a lot of money.

In 2014, Well Being Trusts estimates $249 billion in health care costs from about 3 point 8 percent of the population with a diagnosis related to drugs, alcohol or suicide risk.

National highlights from the report:

  • West Virginia continued to have the highest rate of drug overdose deaths (57.8 deaths per 100,000) in 2017. Ohio was second (46.3 per 100,000) and Pennsylvania was third (44.3 deaths per 100,000).
  • Drug overdose death rates were higher in 2017 compared to 2016 in 39 states and the District of Columbia. States with the largest change in drug overdose death rates between 2016 and 2017 were: New Jersey (29 percent increase), Nebraska (27 percent increase), Indiana (23 percent increase), and, North Carolina (22 percent increase).
  • Drug overdose death rates were lower in 8 states, most were less densely populated states: Wyoming (31 percent decrease), North Dakota (13 percent decrease), Oklahoma (7 percent decrease), New Hampshire (5 percent decrease), Idaho (5 percent decrease), Massachusetts (4 percent decrease), New Mexico (2 percent decrease) and Missouri (1 percent decrease).
  • The increase in opioid overdose rates was driven by a 45 percent increase in the death rate from synthetic opioids including fentanyl. Heroin, natural and semisynthetic opioids, and methadone overdose death rates were flat or declined nationally.
I took my first photography class when I was 11. My stepmom begged a local group to let me into the adults-only class, and armed with a 35 mm disposable camera, I started my journey toward multimedia journalism.
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