Thousands of Floridians are dying from drug overdoses

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Drug overdose deaths in Florida spiked from 2015 to 2017, with people dying from illegal drugs such as heroin and cocaine, and prescription opioids including morphine and codeine, according to an analysis by the Rockefeller Institute of Government.

The 2018 data, which was provisional, showed a decline in the number of deaths both in Florida and nationwide, though the institute remained cautious about the change for a variety of reasons.

The Rockefeller Institute, a public policy research arm of the State University of New York, used an interactive chart and graphs to track drug overdose deaths based on the number and rate of deaths over 100,000 in each state.

In Florida, the 2015 numbers showed 3,352 deaths and a death rate of 16.6 per 100,000.

In 2016, the number rose to 4,996 deaths, and the death rate jumped to 24.2.

And in 2017, the Florida data showed 5,440 drug overdose deaths – the highest number of deaths of all states.

Florida’s death rate per 100,000 in 2017 was 25.9, similar to Nevada, New Mexico, and Louisiana, but lower than West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and several northeast states, the institute’s data show.

The 2018 data for Florida showed a decline: 4,936 deaths and a death rate of 23.2 per 100,000.

However, the institute said “Drug overdose deaths are often initially reported with no cause of death (pending investigation), because they require lengthy investigation, including toxicology testing. Reported provisional counts may not include all deaths that occurred during a given time period. Therefore, they should not be considered comparable with final data (2015-17) and are subject to change.”

Nationwide, the number of deaths rose from 52,623 in 2015 to 70,699 in 2017. The provisional data for 2018, showed a decline to 67,744 deaths.

West Virginia consistently had the highest death rates between 2015 and 2018, as high as 54.9 per 100,000.

Diane Rado
Diane Rado has covered state and local government and public schools in six states over some 30 years, focusing on policy and investigative stories as well as legislative and political reporting. She spent most of her career at the St. Petersburg (Tampa Bay) Times and the Chicago Tribune. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and did a fellowship in education reform at the University of Michigan in 1999-2000. She is married to a journalist and has three adult children.

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