Fatalities involving illicit drug use in Pretoria, South Africa, for the period 2003 - 2012.
BACKGROUND Florida, the epicenter of the recent prescription drug epidemic in the United States, maintains a statewide drug mortality surveillance system. We evaluated yearly profiles, demographic characteristics, and correlation between drug trends to understand the factors influencing drug-induced mortality. METHODS All drug-related deaths reported to the Florida Medical Examiners Commission during 2001-2012 were included (n=92,596). A death was considered "drug-related" if at least one drug was identified in the decedent. Depending on its contribution to death, a drug could be listed as a causative agent or merely present, but not both. RESULTS Rate of drug-caused deaths was 8.0 per 100,000 population in 2001, increasing to 17.0 in 2010 and then decreasing to 13.9 in 2012. Benzodiazepines had the highest mortality rate in 2010, although <10% were solely due these drugs. Opioid-caused mortality rate also peaked in 2010 and started to decline (-28%) in 2010-2012. The heroin-caused mortality rates were negatively correlated with opioids and benzodiazepines (ρ's ≥ -0.670; P≤0.034). Ethanol- and cocaine-mortality rates stabilized to 3.0-3.1 and 2.8-3.0 per 100,000 over 2009-2012, respectively. Amphetamines, zolpidem, and inhalants-caused deaths were on the rise with rates of ≤0.6 per 100,000. CONCLUSIONS Overall declines in benzodiazepine- and opioid-caused deaths in 2011-2012 may have been related to Florida's attempts to regulate prescription drug abuse. This period, however, was also marked by a rise in heroin-caused mortality, which may reflect growing use of heroin as an alternative. Increases in amphetamines, zolpidem, and inhalants-induced mortality are an additional public health concern.