Officials: Number of prescription drug-related deaths down in Orange Co.

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ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - For the first time in years, the number of accidental deaths from prescription drugs is down in Orange County, WFTV found out Wednesday.

Orange County credited a crackdown on doctors and pharmacists.

The medical examiner reports 116 drug-related deaths last year, but that number's down 15 percent from 2011.

The number of people dying in Orange County hit a high in 2010, but the drop last year has law enforcement encouraged they're making the right decisions in dealing with a problem that nationally remains an epidemic, officials said.

Part of the effort includes prescription drug drop-off locations such as the Orlando Police Department's headquarters.

The Drug Enforcement Administration said 70 percent of children and teenagers who get powerful prescription painkillers find them in their family's medicine cabinet.

In Orange County, drug turn-in events have taken 4,800 pounds of prescription drugs out of circulation.

"As most of you know, Florida has been at the epicenter of this problem across the country. Here in Orange County, we have been very proactive in combating the problem," said Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings.

Beyond aggressive law enforcement work, keeping unwanted prescription drugs from ending up in the wrong hands is a big part of getting the numbers of deaths down.

Saturday, April 27 is National Prescription Take Back Day, and officials said anyone can anonymously drop off prescription medication at Orlando Police Department's headquarters, which has a drop box.

Orange County Medical Examiner Dr. Jan Garavaglia believes the number of deaths has dropped because the message is getting out.

"That therapeutic window, where the amount you are treated with versus the amount that will kill you, in some of these drugs, is not far apart," Garavaglia said.