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Broward County M.E. Sees Rise In People Dying From Mix Of Drugs

Broward County Medical Examiner Dr. Craig Mallak warns of dangerous drug combinations at an opioid epidemic town hall in Pembroke Pines on Aug. 24, 2017.
Peter Haden
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Drug overdose deaths are going up in Broward County.

Deaths from opioid overdoses topped 520 in 2016, according to the county Medical Examiner's Office. That’s about 10 a week.

Cocaine overdose deaths were up more than 60 percent in Broward in 2016 — to 230 people.

It’s part of an overall trend that’s wreaking havoc around the country: poly-substance abuse.

“There are no normal drugs anymore,” said Broward County Medical Examiner Dr. Craig Mallak. “Everything’s a combination.”

Mallak says the majority of drug overdose victims coming to his office now have multiple drugs in their system. That makes determining the exact cause of death much more complicated — and time consuming.

“Having 30 drugs in a case — in a single person’s system — toxicologists have to work up every single one of those,” said Mallak. “For us to be effective, the work has to be timely.”

He said his office generally completes toxicology reports in under 15 days, but analyzing multiple drugs in each victim requires a lot of additional overtime from staff.

Mallak spoke at a Broward County opioid epidemic town hall Thursday in Pembroke Pines.

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Peter Haden is an award-winning investigative reporter and photographer currently working with The Center for Investigative Reporting. His stories are featured in media outlets around the world including NPR, CNN en Español, ECTV Ukraine, USA Today, Qatar Gulf Times, and the Malaysia Star.