Fentanyl leading cause of drug-related deaths in Florida, according to 2021 FDLE report

FILE - A Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) chemist checks confiscated powder containing fentanyl at the DEA Northeast Regional Laboratory on October 8, 2019 in New York. (DON EMMERT/AFP via Getty Images)

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) says drug-related deaths recorded in the state in 2021 represented a 10% increase in similar deaths from the previous year. Among those deaths, fentanyl caused most deaths, followed by cocaine, the agency said. 

The FDLE announced the findings in its 2021 annual drug report on Monday. There were 264,834 deaths in Florida in 2021. Of the 36,523 deaths investigated by Florida’s medical examiners, toxicology results determined that the drugs listed below were present at the time of death in 16,138 deaths, the report states. The vast majority of the 16,138 deaths had more than one drug occurrence, according to FDLE.

"When reporting the data, Florida’s medical examiners were asked to distinguish between the drugs determined to be the cause of death and those drugs that were present in the body at the time of death," the report reads. 

"A drug is indicated as the cause of death only when, after examining all evidence, the autopsy, and toxicology results, the medical examiner determines the drug played a causal role in the death."

Other highlights in the report:

  • 8,411 opioid‐related deaths were reported, which is a 7 percent increase (569 more). The opioids were identified as either the cause of death or merely present in the decedent.
  • 6,442 opioid‐caused deaths were reported, which is a 6 percent increase (353 more).
  • 9,678 (7 percent increase, 640 more) individuals died with one or more prescription drugs in their system. The drugs were identified as either the cause of death or merely present in the decedent.
  • These drugs may have also been mixed with illicit drugs and/or alcohol. While fentanyl is a prescription drug, data indicates that at least 92% of fentanyl occurrences were illicitly obtained.
  • 6,527 (5 percent increase, 333 more) individuals died with at least one prescription drug in their system that was identified as the cause of death. These drugs may have been mixed with other prescription drugs, illicit drugs and/or alcohol.
  • The drugs that caused the most deaths were fentanyl (5,791), cocaine (2,677), methamphetamine (2,101), ethyl alcohol (1,478), fentanyl analogs (1,152), benzodiazepines (994, including 670 alprazolam deaths), amphetamine (865) and oxycodone (504). Halogenated Inhalants (93 percent), fentanyl (90 percent), heroin (80 percent), synthetic cannabinoids (79 percent), methamphetamine (72 percent), cocaine (67 percent), cathinones (64 percent), mitragynine (61 percent), hallucinogenic phenethylamines/piper.
  • Occurrences of heroin decreased by 45 percent (380 less) and deaths caused by heroin decreased by 48 percent (337 less).