is a sprawling metropolis, home to over 430,000 people at the time of the 2014 census. It is a busy port city in the southeastern region of the United States, and it is no stranger to drug trafficking, drug diversion, substance abuse, mental illness, and addiction.
The city of Miami is located in Miami-Dade County, which contains the largest population in the state of Florida. In the state of Florida overall, only 13.1 percent of the people over the age of 12, around 55,000 individuals, who needed treatment for a drug abuse or dependence between 2009 and 2013 actually received it. Meaning an additional 86.9 percent may have also benefitted from treatment for their substance abuse.
Over 6 percent of the population of Miami-Dade County, coupled with the neighboring Monroe County, over the age of 12 were thought to have an abuse or dependency issue related to drugs or alcohol in the years between 2010 and 2012; this is close to 130,000 people.
Substance abuse and mental illness are thought to co-occur between 30 and 50 percent of the time. An estimated 610,000 people in Florida suffer from serious mental illness (SMI), and Miami-Dade County contains the largest percentage of people experiencing a form of SMI in any urban area in the United States at 9.1 percent, which equates to 210,000 individuals. Mental health and addiction treatment in the Miami area ranges from public programs to privately funded options, and there are many different forms and levels of care available.
Miami in a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA)
Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, and Monroe Counties are part of the South Florida HIDTA as classified by the U.S. Department of Justice, or DOJ. Miami has one of the largest international airports in the country, in addition to a large and bustling seaport, highly developed roadways and interstates, massive cruise ship traffic, and miles of coastline in close proximity to South America, Central America, and the Caribbean. All of these features make it easily accessible to tourists and drug traffickers alike. Large quantities of cocaine, heroin, and marijuana may be imported in for both distribution around the country as well as sale and use within the area itself.
In addition to drug smuggling, Miami is also home to a large amount of prescription drug diversion and retail pill mills, marijuana grow houses, and methamphetamine labs. In 2010, Florida doctors were dispensing oxycodone directly from their offices, and 98 out of 100 of those who dispensed the highest amounts of the powerful and highly addictive narcotic were in Florida.
Finding Mental Illness and Substance Abuse Treatment in Miami
Within the vast urban area of Miami, there are many options for individuals suffering from substance abuse, addiction, mental illness, or a combination of these issues. Some of these programs are run by the state of Florida or funded by the government, meaning that they are considered public programs that are either free or low-cost.
The Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) hosts a website with a list of mental health treatment providers in the state; it features a drop-down menu that allows individuals to select their county in order to find local information on substance abuse and other behavioral health programs.
The South Florida Behavioral Health Network is a nonprofit agency striving to help Miami metro area residents who may suffer from mental illness, or issues related to substance abuse and addiction, find a treatment program that suits their specific circumstances by coordinating preventative, recovery, and aftercare services.
Many of the substance abuse treatment facilities in Miami may be private organizations that provide a variety of comprehensive services and luxury accommodations. These programs may accept insurance plans and have professionals on hand to help individuals find ways to fund treatment.
Initially, an assessment should be done to help decide what level of care is optimal, as each individual may need something different. Someone who has regularly abused large quantities of drugs for a long period of time may be dependent both physically and psychologically and may require medical detox services as their first level of care. Depending on the level of dependency, detox may be performed on an inpatient or outpatient basis.
Other treatment services for addiction, mental health, and substance abuse may include different types of therapies, counseling in both a group and individual setting, pharmacological solutions, educational services, family support, life skills training, holistic methods, and community or peer support groups. Treatment is highly individual, and people may move between comprehensive levels of care as recovery progresses. Mental health and medical professionals should work together to decide on a course of action for each individual person.
Recent Drug Trends in South Florida and Miami
The treatment admissions in 2014 for substance abuse in the southeastern Florida region (Broward, Miami-Dade, and Palm Beach Counties combined), which includes the Miami metro area, are broken down by particular primary substance of abuse as follows:
- Prescription opioids: 2,142 admissions
Specifics of the most commonly abused drugs in Miami:
- Heroin: As prescription drugs become more heavily controlled and harder to alter to inject, snort, or smoke due to tamper-resistant packaging and manufacturing of the tablets themselves, people who previously abused prescription opioid narcotics may be turning to heroin as a cheaper and more accessible alternative. Both prescription pain killers and heroin are opioids, and they may therefore produce similar desired effects when abused.Heroin is extremely lethal, and 90 percent of all heroin overdoses in the first half of 2014 were accidental. Heroin fatalities in Florida rose by over 100 percent between the first six months of 2013 and the first six months of 2014.In Miami, between January and June of 2014, heroin was the cause of 16 deaths and involved in 20 fatalities; all incidents included at least one other drug. What may be more alarming is the young age of those dying from heroin-related causes. During the first part of 2014, out of the 16 deaths caused by heroin, 13 were individuals under age 35, nine were between 26 and 34, and four were between 18 and 25.
- Marijuana: Marijuana is the drug most often cited as the primary substance of abuse behind only alcohol in Miami-Dade County. Close to half of all admissions to treatment facilities are for individuals under age 18.In 2014, in Miami-Dade County, there were 1,849 people admitted to a substance abuse treatment facility that reported marijuana as their primary drug of abuse. Within Miami-Dade County, and combined with Monroe County which includes the Florida Keys, there were an estimated 106,346 current marijuana users over the age of 12 residing in this region between 2010 and 2012. Current use is measured by use within the 30 days prior to the survey.
- Prescription drugs: In 2011, controlled prescription drugs, often shortened to CPDs, were estimated by 90 percent of Florida NDTS jurisdictions to be readily and easily accessible to the population. This number dropped to 70 percent in 2013 presumably after the noticeable changes in state legislature. That being said, in 2014 between January and June, there were still over 2,200 deaths from a drug overdose in which a prescription drug was present in the state of Florida. Prescription opioid deaths declined around the state, but Miami-Dade County noticed a 9 percent increase from 2011 to 2013 in prescription opioid deaths up to 190 in total. Prescription opioids include drugs such as Vicodin (hydrocodone), oxycodone (OxyContin), morphine, codeine, methadone, and fentanyl. Substance abuse treatment admissions noting opioid prescription drugs as the primary drug of abuse dropped 40 percent in Miami-Dade County from 2011 to 2013 to a total of 181 admissions.
Another class of prescription drugs causing death from overdoses in Florida in large numbers are benzodiazepines, which include drugs like Xanax (alprazolam), Valium (diazepam), Ativan (lorazepam), and Klonopin (clonazepam). Aside from alcohol, benzodiazepines were one of the most discovered drugs in drug-related overdoses in the first half of 2014 in the state of Florida, with almost 2,000 fatalities – over 500 of which were from alprazolam alone. In 2014, close to 100 people admitted for substance abuse treatment listed benzodiazepines as their primary drug of abuse.
For the first half of 2013, the National Forensic Laboratory Information System (NFLIS) identified 37 new psychoactive drugs in the drug seizures made in South Florida. These drugs included new formulations of synthetic cathinones (bath salts) and synthetic cannabinoids (fake weed).
The third most seized drug during the first six months of 2013 was another synthetic and designer drug called Molly. Many people may believe that Molly pills are actually pure ecstasy, or MDMA; however, this is actually not the case, as 611 of the Molly drugs seized and analyzed in the first half of 2013 also contained methylone, or 3,4-methylenedioxymethcathinone. Instances of drug reports involving actual MDMA were almost cut in half between January and June of 2013 from that same time in 2012.
Another new synthetic cathinone-type drug resembling bath salts, bursting onto the South Florida streets, is one called flakka, or alpha-PVP. This drug may cause drastic hallucinations, bizarre behavior, and be highly addictive. It may have been a contributor in around 29 deaths in neighboring Broward County in the past year. It may be smoked or “vaped” with e-cigarettes, and most recently a version of flakka may be produced to resemble candy. These drugs are highly unpredictable and have potentially deadly consequences.