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Miami Metro Area Addiction Treatment

Miami Metro Area Treatment NumbersMiami is a sprawling metropolis, home to over 430,000 people at the time of the 2014 census.1 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.2 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.3

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.4

Substance abuse and mental illness are thought to co-occur between 30 and 50 percent of the time.5 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.6 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 in a High Intensity Drug Trafficking AreaMiami-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.7 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.8

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.9

In 2011, almost 50 Floridians were dying each week as the result of a prescription drug overdose.10 The Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) was set up in 2009 and activated in 2011. Along with the institution of other laws, regulations, and preventative measures, as well as the enactment of Operation Pill Mill, which was set up in 2010 as a joint operation between Florida’s law enforcement agencies and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Miami and Florida as a whole saw a decrease in prescription drug overdoses deaths and drug diversion.11

The rate of prescription overdose fatalities decreased 17.7 percent between 2010 and 2012. For the first half of 2014, drug-related deaths as a whole were down 3.4 percent in the state of Florida.12,13 This may be the result of stricter regulations, laws, and prevention techniques regarding drug abuse and diversion, particularly in relation to prescription drugs.

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.14

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.15

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:

Specifics of the most commonly abused drugs in Miami:

  • Heroin Miami Metro AreaHeroin: 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 2014.17 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.18 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 25.19
  • Cocaine in the Miami Metro AreaCocaine: Within Miami, cocaine has traditionally been the drug of choice for many drug abusers, and it remains the most commonly seized and analyzed drug by the local crime laboratories in Miami-Dade County.20 Cocaine was involved in 119 deaths in Miami-Dade County in the first half of 2013, the highest number in any of the 24 Medical Examiner’s Districts in Florida. Across the state cocaine-related fatalities declined from 2011 to 2012; however, deaths involving cocaine jumped up 8 percent in Miami-Dade County during that time.21 Another drug was present in each of these deaths, however. Cocaine abuse as the primary drug for admittance into a substance abuse treatment program in Miami-Dade County was cut in half from 2009 to the first part of 2013, down to 14 percent of all admissions.22
  • Miami Metro area marijuana useMarijuana: 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 18.23 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.24 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 2012.25 Current use is measured by use within the 30 days prior to the survey.
  • Alcohol use Miami Metro AreaAlcohol: Alcohol is the most commonly abused substance in Miami-Dade County. An estimated 44 percent of residents in Miami-Dade and Monroe Counties between 2010 and 2012 drank alcohol on average in the month prior to the national survey.26 Another 18.48 percent binge drank during that time.27 Students between grades 6 and 12 in Miami-Dade County abuse alcohol above all other drugs as well, with lifetime rates approaching 47 percent. About 26.7 percent drank alcohol in the month prior to the 2012 survey.28 Five percent of Miami-Dade County residents over the age of 12 were estimated to battle alcohol abuse or dependency between 2010 and 2012.29
  • Prescription drug Abuse in the Miami Metro AreaPrescription 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.30 This number dropped to 70 percent in 2013 presumably after the noticeable changes in state legislature.31 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.32 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.33 Prescription opioids include drugs such as Vicodin (hydrocodone)oxycodone (OxyContin)morphinecodeinemethadone, 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.34

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.35 In 2014, close to 100 people admitted for substance abuse treatment listed benzodiazepines as their primary drug of abuse.36

  • synthetic drugs Miami Metro AreaDesigner drugs: New and designer, or synthetic, drugs are becoming more prevalent around the country and may be particularly common in the Miami drug scene. Synthetic drugs are man-made, typically in illegal laboratories, and usually provide some sort of high or mind-altering effect. These drugs may be difficult to quantify as they are constantly changing. They are also potentially dangerous, as users may never be exactly clear what is in the drug and how it may interact with their bodies or other substances.Toxic chemicals may even be used to cut these drugs or increase the psychoactive properties. For example, one of the newer drugs on the South Florida drug scene is one called Budder, which is essentially marijuana plant parts soaked in a noxious chemical, such as butane, to produce a synthetic cannabinoid wax with high levels of THC, which is the active ingredient in marijuana.37 The remaining wax may then be added to e-cigarettes and smoked. Not only can this drug be toxic for a user, it can also be hazardous to produce as it is highly flammable and unstable, and it can cause explosions.

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.38 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.39 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.40 Instances of drug reports involving actual MDMA were almost cut in half between January and June of 2013 from that same time in 2012.41

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.42 It may be smoked or “vaped” with e-cigarettes, and most recently a version of flakka may be produced to resemble candy.43 These drugs are highly unpredictable and have potentially deadly consequences.

Miami Music Festival a Hotspot for Designer Drugs

Drug use at Miami Metro Area music festivalsEvery year for the past 16 years, the Ultra Music Festival is held in downtown Miami’s Bayfront Park. It is notoriously a scene for not only electronic dance music, but also for psychotropic drugs.44 A federal study was undertaken to find out exactly what types of drugs the attendees were actually taking, and 145 festival goers agreed to the voluntary screening. Over 70 percent said they had taken marijuana, Molly, ecstasy, or cocaine in the past week. Of the 100 who also submitted to a urine sample, 80 percent tested positive for a synthetic drug like Molly or alpha-PVP, known more commonly as flakka or gravel.45 The festival has a drug-free policy, and the results of the study may not show the whole picture as it only represents a small percentage of the thousands of people attending Ultra overall.

Drugs, Mental Health, and Incarceration

Felony drug related charges Miami Metro areaAddiction is considered a disease of the brain that can be chronic and relapsing. There are many programs and facilities throughout the Miami metro area and around the state of Florida dedicated to helping families and individuals battling substance abuse and addiction. Mental health is just as vital as physical health, and an individual’s emotional well being greatly contributes to quality of life.

An estimated 40 percent of people who battle mental illness in their lives will have some form of contact with the criminal justice system, which is in much greater proportions to that of the general population.46 Nationally, around 800,000 people with mental illnesses are incarcerated annually, and 72 percent of them also battle a co-occurring substance use disorder.47 Locally, 70,000 Floridians with a serious mental illness are booked into jails after being arrested each year.48

Crime and drugs also often go hand in hand. The change to civil charges for marijuana-related offenses may be overall decreasing the number of adolescents in treatment for marijuana dependency or abuse in Southern Florida.49 In the fiscal year 2013-2014, a reported 4,798 felonies were filed for drug-related crimes in Miami-Dade County.50 This is not even taking into account how many offenders may have had drugs or alcohol in their system when they committed a non-drug-related crime.

Instead of criminal action, much of the time, behavioral health services may instead be more effective long-term. Hence, the institution of drug courts, of which Miami-Dade was one of the pioneers with the fourth largest drug court in the country and biggest in the state of Florida.51 Drug courts strive to help get individuals the treatment they need and provide incentive for staying drug-free and completing a substance abuse program.

Regardless of the reason for entering into a drug or alcohol treatment program, whether court-mandated or voluntarily, substance abuse and mental health services can help individuals and their loved ones obtain the necessary tools for healthy, happy and productive lives.

Citations

  1. (Sept. 2015). “Statistics- Miami-Dade County.” United States Census Bureau. Accessed September 16, 2015.
  2. Hall, J. (June 2013). “Drug Abuse Trends in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties, South Florida; June 2013.” UWBC Commission. Accessed September 16, 2015.
  3. (2015). “Behavioral Health Barometer, Florida 2014.” Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Accessed September 16, 2015.
  4. (Aug. 2015). “National Drug Early Warning System (NDEWS) Sentinel Community Site Profile 2015: Southeastern Florida (Miami Area).” NDEWS National Drug Early Warning System. Accessed September 16, 2015.
  5. (Jan. 2013). “Mental Illnesses.” National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Accessed September 16, 2015.
  6. (Jan. 2007). “Miami-Dade County Mayor’s Mental Health Task Force.” Office of the Mayor, Miami-Dade County Florida. Accessed September 16, 2015.
  7. (Sept. 2011). “Drug Market Analysis 2011.” U.S. Department of Justice National Drug Intelligence Center. Accessed September 16, 2015.
  8. Ibid.
  9. (June 2014). “Decline in Drug Overdose Deaths After State Policy Changes.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Accessed September 16, 2015.
  10. Hall, J. (June 2013). “Drug Abuse Trends in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties, South Florida; June 2013.” UWBC Commission. Accessed September 16, 2015.
  11. (June 2014). “Decline in Drug Overdose Deaths After State Policy Changes.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Accessed September 16, 2015.
  12. Ibid.
  13. (April 2015). “Drugs Identified in Deceased Persons by Florida Medical Examiners Interim Report 2014.” Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Accessed September 15, 2015.
  14. (2014). “Get Help.” Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF). Accessed September 16, 2015.
  15. (2015). “South Florida Behavioral Health Network, Inc.” SFBHN. Accessed September 16, 2015.
  16. (Aug. 2015). “National Drug Early Warning System (NDEWS) Sentinel Community Site Profile 2015: Southeastern Florida (Miami Area).” NDEWS National Drug Early Warning System. Accessed September 16, 2015.
  17. Ibid.
  18. Ibid.
  19. Ibid.
  20. Hall, J. (June 2014). “Drug Abuse Trends in Miami-Dade County Florida: June 2014.” Miami Coalition Solutions for a Safe, Healthy and Drug Free Community. Accessed September 16, 2015.
  21. (Feb. 2014). “Miami-Dade and Broward Counties, South Florida.” National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Accessed September 16, 2015.
  22. Ibid.
  23. (Aug. 2015). “National Drug Early Warning System (NDEWS) Sentinel Community Site Profile 2015: Southeastern Florida (Miami Area).” NDEWS National Drug Early Warning System. Accessed September 16, 2015
  24. Ibid.
  25. Ibid.
  26. Ibid.
  27. Ibid.
  28. (2012). “2012 Florida Youth Substance Abuse Survey.” Miami-Dade County. Accessed September 16, 2015.
  29. (Aug. 2015). “National Drug Early Warning System (NDEWS) Sentinel Community Site Profile 2015: Southeastern Florida (Miami Area).” NDEWS National Drug Early Warning System. Accessed September 16, 2015.
  30. (2013). “National Drug Threat Assessment Summary 2013.” U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration. Accessed September 16, 2015.
  31. Ibid.
  32. (April 2015). “Drugs Identified in Deceased Persons by Florida Medical Examiners Interim Report 2014.” Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Accessed September 15, 2015.
  33. (Dec. 2014). “It’s in the Numbers- Winter 2014.” TMC (The Miami Coalition). Accessed September 16, 2015.
  34. Ibid.
  35. (April 2015). “Drugs Identified in Deceased Persons by Florida Medical Examiners Interim Report 2014.” Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Accessed September 15, 2015.
  36. (Aug. 2015). “National Drug Early Warning System (NDEWS) Sentinel Community Site Profile 2015: Southeastern Florida (Miami Area).” NDEWS National Drug Early Warning System. Accessed September 16, 2015.
  37. (May 2014). “Dade DEN Data.” Miami Coalition for a Safe and Drug-Free Community.” Accessed September 16, 2015.
  38. (Feb. 2014). “Miami-Dade and Broward Counties, South Florida.” National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Accessed September 16, 2015.
  39. Ibid.
  40. Ibid.
  41. Ibid.
  42. Rice, G., Rizzo, T. (Aug. 2015). “‘Flakka’ the New Killer Drug is Spreading Across the Country.” Miami Herald. Accessed September 16, 2015.
  43. (July 2015). “Miami-Dade Police Warn of ‘Candy-Like’ Synthetic Drugs, Flakka.” NBC Miami. Accessed September 16, 2016.
  44. Smiley, D. (Feb. 2015). “Researchers Document Drug Use Among Ultra Music Festival Attendees.” Miami Herald. Accessed September 16, 2015.
  45. Ibid.
  46. (Jan. 2007). “Miami-Dade County Mayor’s Mental Health Task Force.” Office of the Mayor, Miami-Dade County Florida. Accessed September 16, 2015.
  47. Ibid.
  48. Ibid.
  49. Hall, J. (June 2014). “Drug Abuse Trends in Miami-Dade County Florida: June 2014.” Miami Coalition Solutions for a Safe, Healthy and Drug Free Community. Accessed September 16, 2015.
  50. (June 2015). “Miami-Dade County.” Florida Legislature Office of Economic and Demographic Research (EDR). Accessed September 16, 2015.
  51. (2010). “About the Court.” Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida. Accessed September 16, 2015.