Florida Prescription Drug Abuse Statistics

The United States has struggled with prescription drug abuse in various forms for decades. The most recent epidemic predominantly involves prescription narcotic painkillers, which are chemically similar to heroin. Since the early 2000s, these drugs have been widely prescribed to treat moderate to severe pain, in many cases with the intention that the individual would heal and stop taking them.

Unfortunately, greater access to opioid painkillers has led many Floridians to develop addictions to these drugs. With tighter restrictions on the prescription, diversion, and sale of opioid drugs, many of these individuals have turned to heroin rather than struggle to get oxycodone or hydrocodone drugs. Many people in Florida also struggle with addiction to other types of prescription substances, including benzodiazepines and stimulants.

Although the southern state’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) and strict laws against pill mills have helped slow the increase in prescription drug addiction, there are still many people who suffer form this condition in Florida.

Prescription Drug Misuse and Deaths in Florida

A report from National Public Radio (NPR) in 2011 stated that, at the time, Florida was the center of the US’s prescription drug abuse epidemic with opioids surfacing as the leading problem. In fact, areas of the state with severe opioid addiction and overdose problems were referred pejoratively to as “The Oxy Express,” largely due to the startling rise of pain management clinics that were essentially barely legal drug distribution fronts.

Since these reports surfaced, Florida has taken many steps to improve its prescription drug abuse problems. In March 2018, Governor Rick Scott signed the latest piece of legislation aimed at preventing physicians from overprescribing painkillers, in an effort to stem to the tide of addiction.

Unfortunately, the Sunshine State still battles prescription drug misuse, overdoses and death. In 2021, according to data collected by the Florida Department of Health, there were:

  • 8,093 overdose deaths statewide.
  • 6089 opioid overdose deaths.
  • 105,490 EMS responses to overdoses.

According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s Medical Examiners Commission report for 2020, opioids and benzodiazepines were the two prescription drugs most commonly found in overdose deaths. Prescription versions of amphetamine and methamphetamine were not separated in the autopsy reports, and the only other prescription drug that caused deadly harm was zolpidem, the active medication in Ambien.

Commonly Misused Prescription Drugs in Florida


In 2021, illicit fentanyl, related analogs like carfentanil, and heroin collectively led to over 4,700 overdose deaths; however, morphine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, and methadone were also involved in over 2,100 deaths. Floridians have struggled with to these substances for over a decade. Even though they are tightly restricted in the state now, they are still widely diverted and abused.

2021 Overdose death statistics for prescription opioids are outlined below:

  • Morphine was present in 335 deaths, causing 277 deaths.
  • Oxycodone was present in 241 deaths, causing 335 of these deaths.
  • Hydrocodone was present in 79 deaths, with 165 of those caused directly by this medication.
  • Methadone was present in 116 deaths and directly caused 78 deaths.
  • Codeine was involved in 14 deaths and caused 132 deaths.
  • Tramadol was involved in 55 overdose deaths, and it was the direct cause of 233 deaths.


These anti-anxiety, insomnia, and epilepsy medications are widely misused because they act quickly on the same receptors as alcohol. In standard prescription doses, when used as directed by a medical professional, benzodiazepines can prevent panic attacks or seizures and help patients relax enough to get some sleep. However, they are also easily misused, and they are often mixed with alcohol or opioids to increase the feeling of intoxication; this practice can quickly lead to overdose.

The most common benzodiazepines found in overdose deaths in 2021 were:

  • Alprazolam (Xanax): present in 424 deaths, causing 349 directly.
  • Clonazepam (Klonopin): present in 254 deaths, causing 44 directly
  • Diazepam (Valium): present in 151 deaths, causing 63 directly.
  • Lorazepam (Ativan): present in 140 deaths, causing 14 directly.
  • Temazepam (Restoril): present in 135 deaths, causing 19 directly.


According to the Florida Medical Examiners 2021 report:

  • Cocaine was present or the cause of 1,971 deaths.
  • Methamphetamine was present or the cause of 1,338 deaths.
  • Amphetamines were present or the cause of 1,245 deaths.

Other Sedatives

Zolpidem, sold predominantly under the brand name Ambien, was involved in 52 overdose deaths, and it was attributed as the cause of 22 overdose deaths.

Changes to Prescription Drug Laws in Florida

Because of changes to how medications are prescribed in the southern state, many surveys show that adolescents are less likely to abuse these drugs than they were 10 years ago. For example, the 2016 FYSAS found that, among high school students, past-month abuse of prescription painkillers and prescription amphetamines was 2 percent or less. Even better, more than two-thirds of respondents reported that taking a prescription drug without a prescription or smoking cigarettes posed great risk of harm. Most students reported that they and their friends agreed that using various drugs was wrong with 92.7 percent reporting it was wrong to take prescription drugs without a doctor’s order.

However, youth substance use still reflected adult struggles in Florida. The survey also reported that prescription opioids and depressants were misused among adolescents at higher rates than illicit drugs except for marijuana and inhalants. The group of prescription depressants was the only pharmaceutical drug category among Florida’s adolescents in which prevalence of abuse increased.

Florida Prescription Drug Addiction Resources

Although many Florida residents struggle with dependence and addiction, there is a lot of help available through medically supervised detox and evidence-based rehabilitation across the state. These resources can be found through an online search, the help of the Department of Health, through national agencies like the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), or by calling our admissions navigators at .

In fact, SAMHSA is an incredible resource for anyone who struggles with mental or behavioral problems, including addiction, or who has a loved one who struggles with these conditions. SAMHSA manages a National helpline as well as an online treatment finder; they also support National Recovery Month to promote successful recovery from mental illness and addiction.

The Florida Alcohol & Drug Abuse Association (FADAA) is a nonprofit organization that provides certification to member programs, ensuring a specific high level of quality care in their centers.

The Florida Department of Health manages the Substance Abuse and Mental Health (SAMH) Program within the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF), so many of the state’s rehabilitation programs provide support for families, adolescents, and pregnant women.

Treatment for Prescription Drug Addiction in Florida

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction and are ready to start discussing treatment options, call us today at . There, a compassionate treatment navigator can help you find treatment options that work for you at our inpatient rehab near Tampa, FL.

If you are worried about the cost of treatment, River Oaks offers a variety of ways to pay for drug and alcohol rehab; they can also help you verify your insurance coverage for addiction treatment. Recovery is possible, contact us today to start the admissions process and get back to living the life you deserve.

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