St. Petersburg Drug Abuse & Treatment Centers

When residents of Pinellas County, Florida, were asked what they deemed to be the biggest concern regarding health related behaviors, more than half of the responders chose alcohol and drug abuse, making it the number one behavioral health concern of those surveyed within the community.[1] St. Petersburg is one of the larger cities in Pinellas County and often considered part of the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater metropolitan statistical area, (MSA) located in the Gulf of Mexico in the Tampa Bay region of the state. Often referred to as the Suncoast Region, this area of Florida is a major tourist attraction due to its tropical feel and beach access.

An estimated 8 percent of residents in this MSA were considered to be battling mental illness on average between 2005 and 2010, which is just below the state average of 8.9 percent and the national average of 9 percent.[2] Suicide rates, however, are higher in Pinellas County, at 17.4 per 100,000 people, when compared to the state average of 13.8 per 100,000 people in 2013.[3] Public and private substance abuse and mental illness treatment programs are available locally in St. Petersburg and the surrounding areas to improve mental and behavioral health within the community.

Commonly Abused Substances

Pinellas County adults considered binge drinkers

Drugs are commonly abused in St. Petersburg and Pinellas County, as they may flow across the waters from Mexico and other parts of South and Central America.[8] Marijuana may be grown locally or imported from Texas and Mexico in planes, boats, or via drug mules and overnight delivery packages.[9]

About 14 percent of individuals in the Tampa-St. Petersburg- Clearwater MSA reported using illicit drugs on average between the years 2005 and 2010, which was similar to the rate in the rest of the state and the country as a whole.[10] While prescription overdose deaths across the state are declining overall with tighter regulations and control over prescriptions and diversion, as well as some of the medications themselves being made tamper-resistant, the nonmedical use of pharmaceuticals is still a health issue in St. Petersburg and across Florida.

Drug overdoses overall dropped 3.4 percent from the first part of 2013 (January through June) to the first part of 2014.[11] There were 172 deaths that were considered accidental and related to drugs in Pinellas County in 2013, and 114 of them involved prescription drugs.[12] Someone dies from a drug overdose every 32 hours in Pinellas County.[13]

Drug overdose fatalities in St. Petersburg for the first six months of 2014 involved the following drugs:

  • Alprazolam or Xanax: 65

In addition, almost 20 percent of the adults in Pinellas County in 2014 were smokers, and the number of people smoking has been increasing since 2007.[15]

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Dangers of Underage Substance Abuse

The hazards of drinking and abusing drugs at a young age, particularly before the brain and body are done developing and growing, have been heavily documented. The part of the brain responsible for regulating emotions, controlling impulses, and managing motivation is underdeveloped in adolescents, and this part of the brain is affected by drugs and alcohol. Regular abuse of illicit substances can change these regions of the brain and may cause long-term damage, resulting in cognitive and behavioral difficulties as well as increased odds for becoming addicted.

Young people in Pinellas County are abusing drugs and alcohol at relatively high rates. As of 2014, approximately 62.9 percent of high school students had engaged in underage drinking or abused an illicit drug at least once.[16] Lifetime alcohol abuse rates for middle and high school students in Pinellas County for the year 2014 are similar to statewide rates as whole, although marijuana and illicit drug abuse by Pinellas County youth is slightly higher than the state rates.[17] Approximately 15.5 percent of middle and high school students in Pinellas County reported using marijuana in the 30 days prior to the 2014 survey, as compared to the 12.4 percent of Floridian youth.[18]

Palm Beach Underage drinking rates

A new and alarming trend is the presence of a drug called flakka, which is the synthetic cathinone alpha-PVP that causes hallucinations, delusions, and temperature spikes. This drug is cheap, around $5 a pop, and seems to be flooding the streets of Florida, particularly southern Florida. Broward County crime labs had identified more than 300 cases of flakka already for the first three months of 2015, as compared to the 200 they saw in all of 2014.[22] Broward County reports seeing as many as 20 drug-induced delirium cases due to synthetic drugs, including alpha-PVP, in their emergency rooms daily. At least 10 deaths in the first part of 2015 are thought to be related to abuse of flakka.[23]

The Live Free! Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition of Pinellas County and the Narcotics Overdose Prevention and Education (N.O.P.E.) Pinellas chapter taskforce work to educate young people and their parents on the dangers of underage substance abuse.[24] [25]

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Homeless Rates and Behavioral Health Impact

Homeless Rates and Behavioral Health Impact

A stable home is important in the growth and development of children, and their emotional states, as well as in helping to ensure that children understand the dangers of turning to drugs or alcohol. In 2011, an estimated 2,110 children in the Pinellas County School System were determined to be homeless, and St. Petersburg had the highest population of homeless children in the county, with 42.6 percent of them inside the city limits.[26] More than half of the homeless and unsheltered population in Pinellas County is in St. Petersburg.[27]

While loss of a job and financial troubles are the most common reasons reported for being homeless in Pinellas County, drug and alcohol abuse was cited as a contributing factor almost 30 percent of the time. Depression was reported to be a factor 32.8 percent of the time, and 23.1 percent of time mental illness kept individuals from maintaining permanent housing arrangements.[28]

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Getting Help

The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, in partnership with other agencies, instituted Operation Medicine Cabinet in an effort to help get prescription drugs off the street. Residents in the county and surrounding areas can go to secure drop-off locations to dispose of unwanted prescription medications in order to prevent them from being used recreationally or falling into the wrong hands.[29]

Prescription drug overdose is the number one cause of injury death in Pinellas County, and according to a 2013 national study, it was estimated that close to 70 percent of prescription drugs used for nonmedical purposes were obtained from a friend or relative, most likely straight out of the family medicine cabinet, either with or without permission.[30] [31] Law enforcement agencies and local community groups work together on prevention methods to help keep families in St. Petersburg safe.

Substance abuse, however, is still a factor in the Sunshine City of St. Petersburg, Florida. There are many state, county, and private behavioral health programs dedicated to improving quality of life and mental health overall. There are various types of programs that may be funded by the state or county, be covered by private insurance or through personal funding.

The Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) Suncoast Region is the primary state resource for public behavioral health services and provides information regarding services on their website.[32] The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office also provides links to resources for local substance abuse treatment and crisis intervention on their website.[33] The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) of Pinellas County keeps an updated list of resources and telephone reference numbers for local and community mental health services on their website as well.[34]

In order to treat substance abuse or mental health issues in the state of Florida, practitioners are required to be licensed through the state. There are various medical and mental health professions dedicated to improving behavioral health, ranging from psychiatrists with doctoral degrees to certified addiction specialists with many hours of specialized training.[35]

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Comprehensive Treatment

Comprehensive Treatment

In 2010, residents of Pinellas County were surveyed about their mental health status, and 32.7 percent of the adult responders reported that they did not get the emotional or social support they felt they needed.[36] For the fiscal year 2010-2011, there were about 68,000 adults in Pinellas County battling substance abuse or dependence, and only 7,666 received necessary treatment.[37]

Generally speaking, fully-funded public substance abuse treatment programs may not be as comprehensive or able to dedicate the full amount of time needed to create strong enough foundations in clients to remain drug- or alcohol-free and avoid relapse. Often, private facilities can offer more intensive programs with potentially longer treatment timelines and recovery resources to promote sustained abstinence. Insurance policies often cover at least a portion of substance abuse or mental health treatment, and most facilities have flexible funding options as well.

Substance abuse and mental health treatment can save lives, improve mental and physical health, save money in the long run, reduce crime, and help to restore and preserve families.

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Citations

[1] (2012). “Pinellas County Community Health Assessment Report 2012.” Florida Department of Health. Accessed September 21, 2015.
[2] (n.d.). “Substance Abuse and Mental Disorders in the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater MSA.” Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) NSDUH Report. Accessed September 21, 2015.
[3] (n.d.) “Pinellas County, Florida County Health Status Summary.” Florida CHARTS. Accessed September 21, 2015.
[4] (2012). “Pinellas County Community Health Assessment Report 2012.” Florida Department of Health. Accessed September 21, 2015.
[5] Ibid.
[6] (May 2015). “Pinellas County Substance Abuse Profile 2015.” Florida Health Pinellas County. Accessed September 22, 2015.
[7] Ibid.
[8] (n.d.) “Central Florida HIDTA.” High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). Accessed September 21, 2015.
[9] Ibid.
[10] (n.d.). “Substance Abuse and Mental Disorders in the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater MSA.” Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) NSDUH Report. Accessed September 21, 2015.
[11] (April 2015). “Drugs Identified in Deceased Persons by Florida Medical Examiners Interim Report 2014.” Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Accessed September 22, 2015.
[12] (May 2015). “Pinellas County Substance Abuse Profile 2015.” Florida Health Pinellas County. Accessed September 22, 2015.
[13] (Sept. 2015). “Fighting Back Against Prescription Drug Abuse.” Pinellas County, Florida Justice and Consumer Services. Accessed September 22, 2015.
[14] (April 2015). “Drugs Identified in Deceased Persons by Florida Medical Examiners Interim Report 2014.” Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Accessed September 22, 2015.
[15] (May 2015). “Pinellas County Substance Abuse Profile 2015.” Florida Health Pinellas County. Accessed September 22, 2015.
[16] (May 2015). “Pinellas County Substance Abuse Profile 2015.” Florida Health Pinellas County. Accessed September 22, 2015.
[17] (2014). “2014 Florida Youth Substance Abuse Survey, Pinellas County Data Tables.” Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF). Accessed September 22, 2015.
[18] Ibid.

[19] Griffin, J. MS., Hilko, L. MPA., Vargo, M. Ph.D. (April 2012). “Profile of Alcohol and Other Drug Indicators For Pinellas, County Florida.” Live! Free Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition of Pinellas County. Accessed September 22, 2015.
[20] Ibid.
[21] Ibid.
[22] (April 2015). “New Synthetic Drug ‘Flakka’ Triggers Crazed Behavior.” Bayfront Health St. Petersburg. Accessed September 22, 2015.
[23] Ibid.
[24] (2012). “Live! Free.” Substance Abuse Coalition of Pinellas County. Accessed September 22, 2015.
[25] (2015). “N.O.P.E. Pinellas Chapter.” Pinellas County Sherriff’s Office. Accessed September 22, 2015.
[26] (2012). “Pinellas County Community Health Assessment Report 2012.” Florida Department of Health. Accessed September 21, 2015.
[27] Ibid.
[28] Ibid.
[29] (2015). “Pinellas County Operation Medicine Cabinet (OMC) History.” Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office. Accessed September 22, 2015.
[30] Ibid.
[31] (Sept. 2014). “Results from the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of National Findings.” Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Accessed September 22, 2015.
[32] (2014). “Suncoast Region.” Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF). Accessed September 22, 2015.
[33] (2015). “Drug Abuse.” Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office. Accessed September 22, 2015.
[34] (2015). “Resources.” National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Pinellas County. Accessed September 22, 2015.
[35] (2015). “Substance Abuse Counseling Certification in Florida.” HumanServicesEdu.org. Accessed September 22, 2015.
[36] (2012). “Pinellas County Community Health Assessment Report 2012.” Florida Department of Health. Accessed September 22, 2015.
[37] Griffin, J. MS., Hilko, L. MPA., Vargo, M. Ph.D. (April 2012). “Profile of Alcohol and Other Drug Indicators For Pinellas, County Florida.” Live! Free Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition of Pinellas County. Accessed September 22, 2015.

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