While alcohol is the most commonly abused substance in Florida, due to the state’s prime location near South and Central America, Florida is a hotbed for narcotics trafficking” leading to high rates of drug use for both cocaine and heroin. Prescription drug abuse is also a growing problem. By 2010, Florida had become the leading “Pill Mill” state, due to the high levels of prescription drug abuse.

Florida Cocaine Use

From 2005 to 2006, 390,000 Floridians report using cocaine. The state has a long history of cocaine smuggling, dating back to the 1970s and 1980s when Columbian drug cartel kingpins like Pablo Escobar turned Florida into the United States cocaine smuggling capital. By the 1980s, cocaine abuse was also rampant across the state of Florida and continues to be the state’s biggest drug problem today.

Heroin in Florida

While Florida is also a major state for heroin trafficking, in comparison with other states, Florida does not have a major heroin abuse problem. The vast majority of heroin that enters Florida is not used within the state; rather, it is trafficked to other states for use. Marijuana is also a commonly used drug and marijuana drug use is a leading reason for seeking drug treatment. In 2007, 24,812 Florida residents were admitted to drug treatment facilities due to marijuana use

Club Drugs Growing in Popularity

MDMA (ecstasy) is also found throughout Florida, especially in conjunction with the Miami nightclub party scene. In 2006, 67 deaths occurred because of MDMA; four deaths were related to the party drug GHB. Meth is also found in all of Florida’s 67 counties. To combat the state’s growing problem of meth abuse, police are actively working to shut down meth labs. The number of meth lab seizures increased by 148% from 2007 to 2009, growing from 128 lab seizures to 318 seizures, respectively.

High Levels of Painkiller Abuse

From 2005 to 2006, 777,000 citizens in Florida reported drug use of prescription drugs for non-medical purposes.

According to the Florida Medical Examiner, five people die each day as a direct result of prescription drug abuse. In 2006, 731 deaths were caused by hydrocodone abuse, and this death toll has only increased over the last five years.

Hydrocodone, a synthetic opioid derived from codeine, is known commercially as Vicodin. It is one of the most deadly prescription painkillers currently available today.

Doctors in Florida prescribe ten times more oxycodone pills than doctors in every other state combined. The ready availability of prescription painkillers fuels addiction and makes it more difficult for individuals to stop abusing these pills and successfully maintain sobriety.

Thousands of powerful narcotics are dispensed each day through “pill mills”, so-called pain clinics that exist only to sell large quantities of prescription painkillers through unethical practices, rather than actually helping individuals manage pain. According to the Fort Lauderdale Sheriff’s department, there are more pill mills than McDonalds in Ft. Lauderdale” turning the city into a destination not only for spring breakers, but also for drug traffickers and individuals who are addicted to prescription painkillers.

Bath Salts a New Fad

Florida made headlines in 2012 when a man who was allegedly high on bath salts attacked a homeless man and chewed off 75% part of his face in a fit of zombie-like cannibalism. While investigators later found that marijuana, not bath salts, was responsible for the attack, according to CNN, the high-profile new coverage did bring attention to the growing problems associated with bath salt abuse. While bath salt abuse is not widespread, because of the Miami nightclub scene, individuals in Florida are more likely to be exposed to new club party drugs, like bath salts, which are also increasingly more dangerous.

“Bath salts” are the street name for a family of designer drugs created from synthetic cathiones, which is similar to cocaine and amphetamines, and affects the body by stimulating the central nervous system. Individuals who abuse bath salts are at increased risk for heart attack, brain swelling, coma and death. Bath salts also cause extreme paranoia, hallucinations and erratic behavior, which is why they were originally blamed for the “zombie attack” in 2012.

Finding Help

Blu By the Sea Addiction Treatment helps people overcome their drug use, addictions and challenges. Our customized programs help clients find a new sober life, and move beyond drug use. Learn more here. And come back later this week as we look at current drug laws and treatment options in Florida.