This Florida City Has Been Named the Drug Overdoses Capital of the State

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Written By Moses Bates

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Drug overdoses are a serious public health issue that affects millions of Americans every year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 93,000 people died from drug overdoses in 2020, the highest number ever recorded. While the opioid epidemic has been the main driver of this crisis, other substances such as methamphetamine, cocaine, and fentanyl have also contributed to the rising death toll.

Florida is one of the states that has been hit hard by the drug overdose problem. In 2020, the state reported 7,922 overdose deaths, a 37% increase from 2019. However, not all cities in Florida have the same level of risk. A recent report by the Florida Department of Health has revealed that one city in particular has the highest rate of drug overdose deaths in the state: Jacksonville.

Why Jacksonville?

Jacksonville is the most populous city in Florida, with an estimated population of 929,647 as of 2020. It is also the largest city by area in the contiguous United States, covering 874.6 square miles. The city is located in the northeastern corner of the state, along the Atlantic coast and the St. Johns River.

The report by the Florida Department of Health, which analyzed data from 2019, found that Jacksonville had a drug overdose death rate of 49.8 per 100,000 residents, the highest among the 67 counties in Florida. The report also showed that Jacksonville had the highest number of drug overdose deaths (462) and the highest number of opioid overdose deaths (323) in the state.

There are several factors that may explain why Jacksonville has such a high drug overdose problem. Some of these factors are:

Geographic location: Jacksonville’s proximity to major interstate highways, such as I-95 and I-10, makes it a hub for drug trafficking and distribution. The city also has a large port, which can facilitate the smuggling of drugs from overseas.

Socioeconomic conditions: Jacksonville has a high poverty rate (16.4%), a low median household income ($54,701), and a high unemployment rate (6.6%) compared to the state and national averages . These factors can create stress, despair, and hopelessness among the residents, which can increase the likelihood of substance abuse and addiction.

Lack of access to treatment: Jacksonville has a shortage of substance abuse treatment facilities and providers, especially for low-income and uninsured individuals. According to a 2018 report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), only 11.9% of the people who needed treatment for illicit drug use in Florida received it. The report also found that Florida ranked 49th among the 50 states in terms of per capita spending on substance abuse services.

What is being done?

The drug overdose crisis in Jacksonville is a complex and multifaceted problem that requires a comprehensive and coordinated response from various stakeholders, such as law enforcement, health care, education, and community organizations. Some of the initiatives that have been implemented or proposed to address the issue are:

Operation Save Our Sons: This is a program launched by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office in 2017, which aims to reduce drug-related violence and crime among young men in the city. The program offers mentoring, counseling, education, and job training to at-risk youth, as well as referrals to substance abuse treatment and recovery services.

Project Save Lives: This is a pilot program started by the city of Jacksonville in 2018, which provides rapid intervention and treatment to overdose victims who are brought to the emergency department of four participating hospitals. The program connects the patients with peer recovery specialists, who offer support, guidance, and linkage to treatment and other resources. The program also provides naloxone, a medication that can reverse opioid overdoses, to the patients and their families.

Jacksonville Opioid Abuse Prevention Coalition: This is a coalition formed by the city of Jacksonville in 2019, which brings together representatives from various sectors, such as health care, law enforcement, education, faith, and media, to develop and implement strategies to prevent and reduce opioid abuse and overdoses in the city. The coalition focuses on four areas: prevention, treatment, recovery, and data.


Jacksonville is facing a serious drug overdose problem that has claimed hundreds of lives and affected thousands of families. The city has been named the drug overdoses capital of the state by the Florida Department of Health, due to its high rate and number of drug overdose deaths. The problem is driven by multiple factors, such as geographic location, socioeconomic conditions, and lack of access to treatment.

However, the city is also taking steps to address the issue, by implementing programs and initiatives that aim to prevent, treat, and recover from substance abuse and addiction. The drug overdose crisis in Jacksonville is not insurmountable, but it requires a sustained and collaborative effort from all stakeholders and the community at large.

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