Overdose deaths spike in Central Florida, Volusia County officials find

Florida saw 35% spike in overdose deaths from 2019 to 2020

VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. – Overdose deaths are hitting a record high in Volusia County with data from the medical examiner showing they spiked 75% in 2020.

Volusia County Medical Examiner James Fulcher called the number of deaths and amount of drugs he’s finding in people terrifying.

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“When you think about the amount of drug in that person’s blood could kill multiple people. It’s really quite scary,” he said.

His data shows the number of overdose deaths in the county jumped from about 200 in 2019 to 344 in 2020 which is a 75% spike. Compare that to the CDC’s preliminary data showing Florida averaged a 35% jump and the national average was a 30% jump.

In Volusia, Fulcher said the synthetic opioid fentanyl was in almost all the overdose deaths. According to the DEA, fentanyl is 80 to 100 times stronger than morphine.

(Image credit: 2020 Volusia County Medical Examiner annual report)

“We know through our investigation that these people unfortunately don’t think they’re doing fentanyl,” he said.

Other drugs like cocaine or meth move from dealer to dealer and Fulcher said most cut it with more fentanyl each time.

“The challenge with this is there’s so much fentanyl in these substances you can’t take enough Narcan to get around it,” he said.

Fulcher says 2021 is on track to have similar numbers to 2020. He thinks COVID-19 stressors are a major factor, too.

“I truthfully believe that if we can get COVID a bit more under control locally and life could return to more or less normal, we’d drop down below that 200 a year in overdose deaths again,” he said.

About the Author:

Molly joined News 6 at the start of 2021, returning home to Central Florida.