Florida Underreporting Overdose Deaths

The opioid epidemic is something that needs to be addressed nationwide. However, it is hard to truly understand the scope of the problem when the numbers are not accurate. So what is going on with the state of Florida, and why are their numbers not meeting up with the National Average?

Researchers at the University of South Florida studied overdose deaths from opioids between 2008 and 2017. They have determined through this data that a third of all overdose deaths were not included in government reports. Another 3000 deaths that were caused by cocaine usage were also not included. Nor were the potential deaths caused by the use of heroin, which is another opioid, included in the state's reporting.

USF

Florida Underreporting

Troy Quast , who is a Ph.D. professor at the USF College of Public Health, also found that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Multiple Cause of Death (MCOD) database underreported deaths caused by benzodiazepines by 45 percent and amphetamines by 17 percent.

A lot of this is due to the fact that Medical Examiners can take weeks, sometimes even months, to find out the cause of death and what drugs might have been involved. The MCOD, on the other hand, collects data at the time of death, where it may be unclear of the cause. Clearly, this has resulted in many of the deaths caused by drug overdose to be underreported.

Underreporting is a serious matter when it comes to the opioid crisis. Quast mentions in an interview:

“The CDC data are widely reported in the news and referenced by politicians, which is problematic since those estimates significantly undercount the true scope of the epidemic for specific drugs,” said Quast. “The rate of under-reporting for all overdose deaths in Florida is near the national average, so the problem is not the state.”

This abnormality in tallying deaths is something that seems to affect federal statistics too, not just Florida. This is something that needs to be addressed and soon. Without knowing the true numbers, working to find an actual solution to the problem and scale it up to help people nationwide would be unlikely, if not impossible.

Allowing for faster toxicology reporting and hold off on the data for opioid deaths so they’re only recorded after the toxicology reports have come back are two steps that would have an immediate impact. This way, the state can know for sure how many people have died as a result of opioids and other drugs, and in what proportion.

Scope

The True Scope of the Issue

The opioid crisis is, of course, a grave concern. Over 130 people die on a daily basis due to these drugs. With over 2 million prescriptions for highly addictive opioids, this problem is critical to address before more addicts are created.

Companies like Purdue Pharmaceuticals bear the majority of blame for creating, distributing, and using less than ethical marketing techniques when it comes to dangerous drugs like OxyContin. Data shows that Walgreens alone was provided over 1.5 billion pills worth of various opioids to be used by the population.

Since companies like Purdue promised these drugs were not addictive, a lot of the responsibility rests on their shoulders. Companies should have to pay for and provide resources and opportunities for people who have been hurt by their greed.

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