TALLAHASSEE — The fight to stop drug abuse made a leap of progress in 2011.

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports state officials announced Thursday that deaths related to oxycodone, the widely abused prescription painkiller, dropped by 17.7 percent in 2011.

Prescription drug overdoses as a whole fell by 6.37 percent. Officials attribute the decline to the state’s efforts to take down pain clinics and pill pushers.

“Within two years of establishing our prescription drug abuse efforts, Florida has seen a decrease in prescription drug deaths for the first time in nearly a decade,” said Attorney General Pam Bondi, who pushed for legislation cracking down on the state’s “pill mills” in 2011.

It was a pleasant surprise for Bondi, because the new laws targeting prescription drug abuse were in place for only about six months of 2011. In addition, the state prescription drug monitoring database, which requires pharmacists to enter in prescriptions for most painkillers, had been operational only about three months.

However, the report released by Florida Department of Law Enforcement wasn’t all positive.

It found that overall deaths attributed to overdoses are up, thanks largely to increases in fatalities linked to cocaine, alcohol and benzodiazepines, normally prescribed for anxiety or insomnia.

In 2011, drug-related deaths totaled 9,135. In 2010, that number was 9,001.

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel contributed material for this report.

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