Drug overdoses are now the leading killer of Americans under 50, driven largely by the opioid epidemic that is ravaging every state — and Florida is no exception. A report issued this week shows more than 1.27 million hospital emergency room visits or inpatient visits linked to opioids in 2014, with emergency room visits nearly doubling in the last decade. Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency last month, unlocking $27 million in federal funds for prevention, treatment and recovery services. Legislators also passed two bills this spring attacking the problem: one increases penalties for traffickers of fentanyl, a synthetic cousin of heroin that is far more deadly; another cracks down on unscrupulous owners of halfway houses. But as the death toll mounts, even more focus and funding should be directed toward saving those with addictions. During this month's special legislative session, Sen. Kevin Rader, D-Delray Beach, made a fervent plea for more action on the treatment front: "This crisis affects every person in the state of Florida. They know someone — their family member, a friend. It is devastating our communities, and we must do something and act next session."
Up to 65,000 Estimated total deaths nationwide from drug overdoses in 2016
8.2% Increase in death rate among young adults nationally from 2010 to 2015 after decades of declines
10,784 Estimated number of Florida overdose deaths in 2016
139.5% Increase in Florida deaths caused by fentanyl in the first six months of 2016 compared to the first six months of 2015
23% Statewide increase in deaths caused by prescription drugs from 2014 to 2015. Data for the first half of 2016 suggests a continued increase, six years after the peak of Florida's pill mill crisis
69% Increase in heroin-related deaths from 2014 to 2015 in Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough counties