2009 Report by Florida Medical Examiners Commission on Drugs Identified in Deceased Persons

 The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) today released the Florida Medical Examiners Commission Report on Drugs Identified in Deceased Persons. The report contains information compiled from autopsies performed by medical examiners across the state in 2009. During that period, there were approximately 171,300 deaths in Florida. Of those, 8,653 individuals were found to have died with one or more of the drugs specified in this report in their bodies.

The report indicates the most frequently occurring drugs found in decedents were Ethyl Alcohol (4,046), all Benzodiazepines (3,379), Oxycodone (1,948), and Cocaine (1,462). The drugs that caused the most deaths were Oxycodone, all Benzodiazepines (with Alprazolam, also known as Xanax, accounting for the majority of the deaths), Methadone, Ethyl Alcohol, Cocaine, Morphine and Hydrocodone.

The four drugs that were the most lethal, meaning more than 50 percent of the deaths were caused by the drug when the drug was found, were Heroin (85.6 percent), Methadone (73.1 percent), and Oxycodone (60.8 percent), and Fentanyl (56.7 percent). Heroin continues to be the most lethal drug named in this report; however, occurrences of Heroin decreased by 15.9 percent and deaths caused by Heroin also decreased by 20 percent when compared to 2008.

Similar to last year, the 2009 report indicates that prescription drugs continued to be found more often than illicit drugs both as a causal factor and merely present in the decedent. Prescription drugs account for 79 percent of all drug occurrences in this report when Ethyl Alcohol is excluded. Oxycodone occurrences increased by 23.8 percent in 2009 and deaths caused by Oxycodone also rose by 25.9 percent when compared to the previous year.

“Prescription and over-the -counter abuse is growing faster than any other drug segment and law enforcement is responding with aggressive enforcement” said FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey. “FDLE and our partners are working daily to target traffickers, take out pill mills, and stop doctors who prescribe pain medicine without medical necessity.”

"The illegal diversion and abuse of prescription drugs continues to be our greatest public health threat. Prescription drugs killed 2,488 Floridians in 2009, equivalent to nearly 7 deaths per day. The vast majority of these tragic deaths are due to accidental overdose, the risk of which is greatly enhanced by the mixing of potent, pure, and potentially poisonous prescription painkillers and depressants,” said Bruce Grant, Director of the Office of Drug Control. “The crackdown on pill mills initiated by the Lieutenant Governor’s Prescription Drug Task Force's unprecedented partnership of law enforcement and health officials, new anti-pill mill legislation, and the proliferation of local ordinances banning new pill mills all highlight our initial efforts in a comprehensive campaign to stem this unacceptable situation. The implementation of the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program in December of this year, coupled with community-based prevention strategies like drug take-back programs, physician education, and treatment are all part of the long-term strategy to reverse this deadly trend."

Medical Examiners specifically collected information on the following drugs: Ethyl Alcohol, Amphetamines, Methamphetamines, MDMA (Ecstasy), MDA, MDEA, Alprazolam (Xanax), Diazepam (Valium), Flunitrazepam (Rohypnol), other Benzodiazepines, Cannabinoids (Marijuana), Carisoprodol/Meprobamate, Cocaine, GHB, Inhalants, Phencyclidine (PCP), Ketamine, Zolpidem, Buprenorphine, Fentanyl, Heroin, Hydrocodone, Hydromorphone, Meperidine, Methadone, Morphine, Oxycodone, Oxymorphone, Propoxyphene, and Tramadol.

The Florida Medical Examiners Commission 2009 Report of Drugs Identified in Deceased Persons is available on the FDLE Web site at

For Further Information Contact:
Heather Smith, Kristen Chernosky or Mike Morrison
FDLE Office of Public Information
(850) 410-7001


Bruce A. Hyma, M.D., Chairman
Medical Examiners Commission
(305) 545-2400


Bruce Grant
Director of the Office of Drug Control
(850) 488-9557