There’s some encouraging news in the ongoing fight against fentanyl in Florida.
While the U.S. set a new record last year for the number of deaths from a drug overdose, more than 110,000 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Florida saw a slight decrease in 2022.
According to a new report from the non-profit Project Opioid, Florida saw 2.6% fewer fatal overdoses in 2022 compared to the year before.
Nearly all of those deaths, according to federal and state data, were due to fentanyl, often disguised in fake pills.
“This is the drug crisis of 2023. It’s nothing like what we saw five, 10 years ago when we were battling prescription pills, when we were battling cocaine and heroin,” said Andrae Bailey, founder and CEO of Project Opioid.
Fentanyl is now the leading cause of death in the U.S. among adults under the age of 40.
“We now are facing a crisis with drugs unlike anything we have seen in American history,” said Bailey.
While most southwest Florida counties stayed relatively flat with its number of fatal overdoses, the biggest drops came in Central Florida.
Brevard County nearly slashed its deaths in half.
Meanwhile Orange and Seminole Counties each saw more than 11% drop in deaths.
“Leaders are waking up to the fact that we must do more or we’re going to continue seeing record deaths,” said Bailey.
New federal data obtained by Fox 4 Investigates shows how the fentanyl epidemic started.
The number of prescription opioid pain pills shipped in the U.S. plummeted nearly 45% between 2011 and 2019.
Florida hit its peak use of prescription opioids in 2010, when more than 1.2 billion pills were shipped to the Sunshine state.
By 2019, that number was nearly slashed in half, around 644 million, as crackdowns limited the number of pills being prescribed.
“But deaths have skyrocketed and doubled in many communities and across America. This is fentanyl replacing prescription opioids,” said Bailey.
Bailey says the best way to fight overdoses is to put more Narcan, which reverses the effects of an opioid overdose, in schools and public facilities.
Last week, the Lee County School Board District approved putting Narcan in every school.