While drug-related deaths across Florida rose an alarming 20 percent last year over 2008, South Florida saw a notable decrease in two key areas of substance abuse: cocaine and heroin.
Still, addiction experts say, there is an indication that the nation's sixth-largest metro area could be on the verge of a new wave of addiction unseen since the cocaine craze of the early 1980s.
Two separate reports released this week by James C. Hall, director of Nova Southeastern University's Center for the Study and Prevention of Substance Abuse, and the Florida Medical Examiners Commission, show more than 8,600 deaths in Florida in 2009 in which victims had at least one prescription drug in their system that contributed to their passing. That's up from about 6,200 drug-induced deaths in 2008.
What's more, both reports say almost all the increase in drug deaths — especially in Broward and Miami-Dade counties — is due to a disturbing and relatively new trend of drug abusers mixing opiates and narcotics like heroin and cocaine with opioids — prescription drugs like oxycodone — or simply switching indiscriminately from one to the other.
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