The death rate from illegal drugs is declining in Florida, but legal drug fatalities are more than making up for these gains. From 2003 to 2007, legal drug overdoses increased 84.2% in the Gulf state, with the anxiety medication alprazolam (aka Xanax) causing the most fatalities. Legal drug overdose has increased so much that, as of 2007, “unintentional poisoning” incidents (93% of which are legal drug overdoses) are the leading cause of injury-related death in Florida, surpassing car accidents.
Why is this problem affecting Florida in particular? The state saw the opening of many “pain clinics” in 2007, where doctors liberally prescribed drugs such as oxycodin and alprazolam. The ease of obtaining these drugs at the pain clinics attracted drug-seekers from other states, as well.
Although the problem prompted stricter requirements for the clinics in 2009, such as more stringent licensing regulations, legal drugs continue to be abused in Florida. Lawmakers recently passed legislation requiring counterfeit-proof prescription pads for doctors prescribing addictive drugs. However, it seems that legislation restricting the frequency with which certain drugs are prescribed may be necessary to curb Florida’s legal drug enthusiasm.