When thinking of Florida, towering palm trees, sunny skies, waterfront views and sandy beaches are what come to mind. Florida is much more diverse than that of course, but overall, it’s a state that is marked by its stunning coastal regions. It does, after all, have the longest coastline in the United States. The setting of Florida draws in residents and visitors alike, making Florida the 4th most populous state. The state is also known for its threat of natural disasters such as hurricanes and floods. We’ve seen our fair share of these natural disasters over the years, but there is something even more dangerous lurking underneath: Florida’s drug culture.

Florida deals with many of the same drug problems as other states, espeically with its long list of spring break hotspots. With numerous resorts and places to party, it’s not uncommon for drugs and alcohol to be used to extremes. Another emerging problem is that of perscription drugs. The River Source has seen this firsthand, as we’ve worked with a handful of Florida patients who have fallen victim to prescription drug dependencies because of the radically relaxed attiude toward pain pills.

Why Addiction is Prevalent in Florida

When speaking with patients from Florida, The River Source has learned that there are a combination of factors that make this state a target for drugs and alcohol. First is the party atmosphere that exists in the state. It’s common for teens and young adults to travel to Florida for spring break parties and summer excursions. These party atmospheres create dangerous environments where people are more likely to engage in dangerous activities. Also, Florida’s location and varied borders make it easier to bring in illegal substances from international countries.

But there’s something new emerging in Florida, and that’s the prescription drug problem. In 2011, Attorney General Pam Bondi said that every day in Florida, seven people die from abusing prescription medications. The Tampa Bay area has the largest prescription drug problem, and the state has cracked down on administering these drugs over the past year. Of course, this won’t come easy, as the Sunshine State has also built up quite the reputation for its pain management clinics, also called pill mills. People, dubbed “prescription tourists”, actually travel to the state to get their hands on illegally prescribed medications.

How Does Florida Compare to Other States?

Florida is above the national average for drug and alcohol abuse. Approximately 8 percent of Florida residents reported using illegal drugs in the past month, compared to the national average of 8 percent. The rate of drug-induced deaths is higher than the national average, with 2,396 people having died in Florida in 2007. This number is similar to that of gun-related deaths and motor vehicle accidents combined. Drug-induced deaths account for 16.1 per 100,000 residents, exceeding the national average of 12.7 per 100,000 people.

To delve deeper into the rates of drug use in Florida, consider that 3.5 percent of residents reported that they used a drug other than marijuana in the past month. There has been concern over prescription pain pills and meth, as meth labs have been creeping up in the southern states. The number of meth lab seizures has increased by a whopping 148 percent over the past several years, with 128 incidents in 2007 and 318 incidents in 2009. The River Source has found that these findings are consistent with the types of drug abuse problems our Florida patients are coping with.

A Close Look at the Numbers

Below is the percentage of the Florida population using and/or abusing drugs.

Illicit Drugs Age 18+
Past Month Illicit Drug Use 1 7.46%
Past Year Marijuana Use 9.12%
Past Month Marijuana Use 5.36%
Past Month Use of Illicit Drugs other Than Marijuana 1 3.72%
Past Year Cocaine Use 2.37%
Past Year Non-Medical Pain Reliever Use 4.41%
Alcohol Age 18+
Past Month Alcohol Use 56.29%
Past Month Binge Alcohol Use 2 24.34%
Past Year Dependence, Abuse & Treatment Age 18+
Illicit Drug Dependence 1 1.81%
Illicit Drug Dependence or Abuse 1 2.55%
Alcohol Dependence 3.40%
Alcohol Dependence or Abuse 7.24%
Alcohol or Illict Dependence or Abuse 1 8.58%
Needing but not Receiving Treatment for Illicit Drug Use 1, 3 2.40%
Needing but not Receiving Treatment for Alcohol Use 3 6.91%
1 – Illicit Drugs include marijuana, cocaine, heroin, hallucinogens, inhalants, or prescription-like psychotherapeutics that are used non-medically. Illicit Drugs Other Than Marijuana include cocaine, heroin, hallucinogens, inhalants or prescription-like psychotherapeutics that are used non-medically

2 – Binge alcohol is defined as drinking five or more drinks in the same setting on at least one day in the past 30 days

3 – Needing But Not Receiving Treatment refers to the respondents needing treatment for illicit drug or alcohol use but not seeking specific treatment at a facility

4 – Major Depressive Episode is defined as having a period of at least 2 weeks where a person experienced a depressed state of mind or loss of interest in daily activities. They also have the symptoms listed in the DSM-IV

Source: National Survey on Drug Use & Health, 2004 and 2005, SAMHSA, Office of Applied Studies

Serious Psychological Distress 10.21%

Why Florida Residents Should Seek Treatment in Arizona

Florida is a beautiful state to call home, but it’s also known for its laissez fair attitude and relaxed coastal cities that promote partying. Seeking treatment in Arizona at The River Source has proven to be a smart decision for many of our Florida patients. The warm weather and sunny skies still grace our community every day, but the quiet confines of the desert make it easier to focus on getting clean and learning the right combination of tools for long-term recovery.