NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. (970 WFLA) - Pasco County Sheriff’s Office said Thursday the district six medical examiner's office recently released drug-related death statistics for the county, and the numbers reveal that deaths from prescription pill abuse continue their downward trend.

Officials said the number of prescription drug deaths dropped to 63 in Pasco in 2013, down from a high of 142 prescription drug deaths in 2010. Factoring in the deaths from a combination of both prescription drugs and illicit drugs and the numbers are 153 in 2010 and 73 in 2013, deputies said.

Sheriff Nocco credits several factors for the continuing downward trend, and states that while the numbers are promising, they are still too high.

The prescription pill epidemic began more than 10 years ago as these drugs became a more medically acceptable means of treating pain, officials said, however, with the medicinal use came abuse and illegal use which translated into a black market for the many forms of prescription narcotics. This illegal trade and creation of prescription pill addicts fueled crime not only in PascoCounty and the TampaBay area, deputies said, but people would come from other states to purchase the easily available drugs and take them back across state lines.

The sheriff’s office highlights key factors in the reduction of prescription drug related deaths may include:

-Sheriff Nocco asking for and receiving additional funding from the Pasco County Commissioners to hire more deputies to fight the growing prescription drug abuse problem

-The ongoing public awareness campaign

-The prescription pill database that was created by the Florida legislature in 2011. This allows medical practitioners and law enforcement agencies help to pinpoint which individuals are being over-prescribed medication by doctor-shopping, or visiting more than one doctor for the same ailment to receive multiple subscriptions.

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