Palm Beach, Florida – Local Drug and Alcohol Treatment Guide

Marijuana Use Palms SpringsWithin South Florida’s Palm Beach County, close to 60,000 of the more than 1 million residents are considered current users of marijuana. Almost 34,000 are classified as current illicit drug abusers, which means that they abused these substances in the 30 days before the national survey was conducted.1

Palm Beach County is home to 38 municipalities, including Delray Beach, Boca Raton, and West Palm Beach.2 Palm Beach’s location on the Atlantic Ocean at the southern end of the United States provides drug traffickers from Mexico, the Bahamas, Latin America, and the Caribbean an entry point into Florida by plane, boat, or drug mule, just as its interstate highways give easy access to the rest of the state and country.3

South Florida constitutes the seventh largest metropolitan area in the United States. It is considered one of the largest points of entry for marijuana, cocaine, and heroin as well as a primary region for pharmaceutical drug diversion and domestic marijuana-growing operations.4

West Palm Beach, Florida, has a moderate population, with about 103,588 people living in the metro area. The average age is nearly 40. More people are moving to the area every year, but they could bring an increase in substance abuse problems with them. There is one mental health specialist for every 183 residents, and one primary care specialist for every 79 residents. West Palm Beach, and the county it resides in, needs wider access to substance abuse treatment and palm beach rehabs as the South Florida city experiences changes in drug imports, alcohol abuse, and more.

Substance Abuse in the Palm Beach Metro Area

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) considers Palm Beach County to be part of the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach metropolitan area for survey purposes. Between 2005 and 2010, the NSDUH found these rates of substance abuse among people ages 12 and older:

  • 5 percent abused any illicit drug in the past year
  • 1 abused marijuana at least once in the past year
  • 3 percent abused narcotic painkillers for nonmedical reasons
  • 1 percent reported smoking cigarettes in the past month
  • 3 percent reported at least one instance of binge drinking in the past month
  • 8 percent had a diagnosable substance use disorder

Palm Beach Drug Problems Facing Law Enforcement

Drug Smuggling through Florida

Drug trends tend to wax and wane with the times, as regulations are put into place and law enforcement operations make access for one particular drug more difficult. Prescription drug diversion became a real problem in the early 2000s, as pain clinics sprung up all over Florida, and doctors were prescribing opioid narcotics without much regulation. Prescription overdose deaths in the state skyrocketed 61 percent from 2003-2009.5

Law enforcement and legislators took notice of the issue, put new regulations in place, and created task forces designed to stem the flow of prescription drug diversion and illegal distribution in 2010. All drug overdose deaths dropped 18 percent between 2010 and 2012.6
Heroin Overdoses Palm BeachWhile prescription drug overdoses dropped however, heroin overdoses spiked 67 percent in Palm Beach County from 2011 to 2013.7 Heroin may be a substitute for other opioids, such oxycodone and hydrocodone, which are both prescription narcotics. Even though heroin deaths are rising in Palm Beach, the number of incidents for 2014 was only projected to be 24 in total as compared to a projected 312 in the state overall.8 Most of the prescription opioid abusers (80 percent of those in treatment for opioid abuse treatment) and heroin abusers (90 percent of individuals treated for heroin abuse) in Palm Beach County are injecting the drugs, however, which increases all potential health risks associated with drug abuse.9

South Florida is considered to be the primary entry point for all South American heroin coming into the United States.10

The biggest drug threat in Palm Beach today, according to the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office, is cocaine, as it flows across the Mexican and South American borders into Florida and out into the rest of North America.11 Cocaine overdose deaths in the first six months of 2014 in West Palm Beach, the largest city in Palm Beach County, ranked third in the state of Florida, with 71 overdose fatalities involving the illicit drug.12

Marijuana is also locally grown in the more rural areas of Southeastern Florida, and hydroponic grow operations have expanded in recent years. Florida is now second only to California as a national producer of indoor-grown marijuana.13 More than half of the palm beach rehab treatment admissions in Palm Beach County for primary marijuana abuse and dependency are for individuals under the age of 18.14

Primary Drugs of Substance Abuse Treatment Admission by Type in Palm Beach County

The Mental Health Substance Abuse Commission Report of the States (MHSAC) found that the state of Florida meets only about 19 percent of treatment needs among those struggling with substance abuse or addiction. In Palm Beach County, 2015’s treatment admissions:

Like much of the Sunshine State, Palm Beach County’s focus is on law enforcement rather than treatment. For example, a person can face jail time and have their driver’s license revoked for two years for possession of one joint; however, entering the county’s drug court system for treatment can reduce or eliminate these penalties.

Adolescents and Substance Abuse in Palm Beach County

The 2016 Florida Youth Substance Abuse Survey (FYSAS) lists percentages of self-reported substance abuse among teenagers in the state, ages 12-17. Like the Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey, nationally, FYSAS examines middle and high school grade levels. Palm Beach County had 1,847 students in grades 6-12 who participated in the survey.

In Palm Beach County, middle school students ranked Level 3 for past-30-day alcohol consumption, with 9.2 percent of those students reported consuming alcohol in the past month and 3.3 percent reporting at least one episode of binge drinking. High school students in PBC hit Level 4: 27 percent reported consuming alcohol in the month before the survey, with 9.8 percent reporting an episode of binge drinking. Palm Beach County high schoolers were some of the least likely to ride with a driver who had been drinking, with 15 percent of students reporting this activity in the past month. These students were also among the least likely to drive after drinking, with 4 percent across the southern Florida county reporting this activity in the past month.
Adolescents and Substance Abuse in Palm Beach County

Cigarette smoking among adolescents and young adults has been declining nationally, and Palm Beach County is no exception: Middle schoolers were in Level 2, with a reported 1 percent of students smoking cigarettes; high school students were in Level 1, with 3.8 percent reporting smoking in the past month. Vaporizer product use, however, was higher, as e-cigarettes and marijuana vaporizers are very popular. Palm Beach County’s middle and high school students both ranked in Level 3 for vaporizer use, with 5 percent of middle schoolers using these items and 13.2 percent of high schoolers using them in the past month.

One of the few drugs more popular than ever among adolescents in the US is marijuana. The 2016 MTF found a steep decline in marijuana abuse among middle school students in particular, but high school students appear to abuse this drug at high rates. Thirty-six percent of 12thgraders across the US have ever abused marijuana ever, and about one in every 17 senior high school students uses marijuana every day.

Palm Beach County reflects this general trend in the US. The 2014 NSDUH estimates that, of 59,321 people struggling with marijuana use, ages 12 and older, 58 percent are younger than 18 years old. About 2.4 percent of middle school students reported past-month use of marijuana while 15.4 percent of high school students used marijuana in the past month.

Among risky marijuana-related behaviors, though, Palm Beach County high schoolers were more likely to get in a car with a driver who had been abusing marijuana than alcohol: 19.1 percent of students reported this potentially dangerous behavior. In addition, 8.7 percent of high school students reported driving themselves after abusing marijuana.

Palm Beach County’s middle school students had average rates for abusing other illicit drugs, but this still indicates a potential problem among those young adolescents. In that county, 1.2 percent reported prescription painkiller abuse, and 1.2 percent also reported abusing other depressant drugs; and 1.9 percent reported abusing over-the-counter drugs. Those percentages did not change much among high school students, indicating a potential lifetime substance abuse risk among some children: 1.3 percent reported prescription painkiller abuse, and 1.3 percent also reported abusing other depressants. In addition, 1.7 percent reported abusing over-the-counter drugs.

Drug labs around the world and within the state of Florida have produced massive quantities of the illegal stimulant drugs methamphetamine and MDMA (ecstasy) over the years. Methamphetamine, meth for short, incidents in Palm Beach County have been escalating since 2011; however, numbers are still not as high as in other areas of the country, like in the Atlanta, Georgia, metro area for instance.20

Club Drugs Palm SpringsMDMA has often been considered a club drug, and in recent years, authorities have noticed a surge in a new version of ecstasy dubbed Mollyon the streets. While often marketed as pure MDMA, Molly may actually may contain multiple other substances, and even toxins and fillers, making it particularly dangerous. Two South Florida crime labs tested seized Molly pills in 2012 and found that hundreds of them actually contained the dangerous stimulant methylone, often found in bath salts, instead of just the pure 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) as may have been advertised and expected.21

Another relatively new designer drug hitting the streets of South Florida is called flakka$5 insanity, or gravel, which is actually Alpha-PVP, a synthetic cathinone like those found in bath salts.22 This drug is fairly cheap, at $3-5 a hit and may stay in an individual’s system for up to five days, causing paranoia, hallucinations, fever, and other dangerous psychoactive effects.23

In neighboring Broward County, between September 2014 and June 2015, there were 25 deaths attributed to flakka.24 In just the first four months of 2015, there were 10 exposure calls from residents of Palm Beach County to Florida’s Poison Information Center involving the drug alpha-PVP.25 In 2014, there was a 46 percent increase in crime lab cases involving synthetic cathinones, including alpha-PVP, throughout Southeast Florida from 2013.26] These drugs are often being added to e-cigarettes to be smoked, or vaped.

Another synthetic drug trend that may also involve the use of e-cigarettes is that of synthetic cannabinoids. These drugs usually contain high and potent levels of THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, and in 2014 there was a 57 percent increase in crime lab cases in Southeastern Florida regarding these designer drugs.27 Between 2014 and the first four months of 2015, there have been four calls in Palm Beach County to the Poison Information Center involving synthetic cannabinoids, which may include drugs like Budder, Spice, and K2.28 The website don’ was set up by several local Palm Beach County organizations to help educate youth, families, and parents on the potential dangers of these and more synthetic drugs.29

Heroin and Fentanyl Abuse in Palm Beach, Florida

Opioids in Palm Beach

The county of Palm Beach, which is home to several cities, including West Palm Beach, has been hit especially hard by the heroin abuse and overdose epidemic that is ravaging Florida. In 2015, there were 779 overdose deaths from heroin abuse, 165 of which were in Palm Beach County. Of those, 158 were caused by heroin, although only 16 involved just heroin with no other drugs present. In 2016, West Palm Beach alone experienced 70 overdose deaths, according to the Sun-Sentinel; the county overall experienced one opioid overdose death every 15 hours, which was double the rate of fatal car crashes and murders.

With so many people struggling with heroin abuse, illicit fentanyl abuse has become one of the leading causes of opioid overdose in the country, including in Florida. Fentanyl is often mixed with heroin or sold in place of heroin, so people who struggle with heroin addiction may accidentally purchase this drug. This leads to numerous overdose deaths because fentanyl is more potent than heroin, so people accidentally ingesting fentanyl take too much.

In West Palm Beach in 2015 alone, there were 103 deaths involving fentanyl; 90 of those were caused by fentanyl specifically, nine of which were just fentanyl with no other drugs present. Police reports from 2016 in West Palm Beach show that the same sources illegally importing cocaine and pills in the 1980s and 1990s are now responsible for heroin and fentanyl; Mexico and South America bring in the majority of heroin and fentanyl, often mixing the two up. West Palm Beach officers report that after drugs are seized, they no longer test capsules believed to be opioids; this is because fentanyl residue was inhaled by two field officers who experienced overdoses and were rushed to the hospital.

Younger people tend to struggle with heroin and fentanyl abuse more compared to older adults:

  • 11 deaths occurred among 18-25 year olds
  • 37 deaths occurred in those ages 26-34
  • 33 overdose deaths occurred in 35-50 year olds
  • 9 fentanyl overdose deaths occurred among people over 50 years old

Carfentanil Overdose Rates in Palm Beach County

Carfentanil, a drug commonly used as an elephant tranquilizer, is leading a surge of opioid overdose deaths in PBC in 2017. In one three-month span prior to February 2017, officials reported 87 overdose deaths involving this opioid, which is 10,000 times stronger than morphine and 100 times stronger than fentanyl.

Prescription Painkiller Deaths in Palm Beach County

Four out of five people in the state who struggle with heroin addiction began by abusing prescription painkillers, like oxycodone, hydrocodone, or morphine. Overdose deaths from these drugs are high in West Palm Beach. In 2015, medical examiners found:

  • 80 deaths involving oxycodone
  • 9 overdose deaths from just oxycodone
  • 26 deaths involved hydrocodone
  • 3 overdose deaths involved hydrocodone with no other drugs

Many prescription painkiller deaths involve older adults. Of the 47 overdose deaths in West Palm Beach caused by oxycodone, none were under 18 years old while 16 were between ages 35 and 50, and 17 were people over the age of 50. The same was true of hydrocodone: Of the 16 deaths caused by a hydrocodone overdose, none occurred in people younger than 35; four people were between the ages of 25 and 50; and the other 12 were in individuals over 50 years old.

Morphine-Related Overdose Rates in West Palm Beach

West Palm Beach also experienced shockingly high rates of morphine-related overdose deaths:

  • 64 deaths involved morphine
  • 48 were caused directly by morphine
  • 6 were caused by morphine alone, with no other drugs

Of the 48 morphine overdose deaths, 21 were people 50 years old or older, and 18 were between the ages of 35 and 50.

West Palm Beach Methadone Abuse Statistics

Methadone is also abused in West Palm Beach, and it led to 15 overdose deaths in 2015; 13 of those were caused by methadone, and one involved just methadone with no other drugs present. This suggests that people who struggle with methadone abuse are likely to be polydrug abusers. Because methadone is being prescribed to low-income individuals to ease pain, many people who overdosed on methadone were older adults; five of the 15 who died were over the age of 50, and six were between 35 and 50 years old.

Benzodiazepines Increase Overdose Death Risk in West Palm Beach

Benzodiazepine abuse and addiction have been called a shadow epidemic. These drugs are widely misused for non-medical reasons, but more often in combination with other drugs than alone. Still, reports from medical examiners on overdose deaths in West Palm Beach have found that benzodiazepines play a large role in overdoses and poisoning deaths by themselves too. Between January and December 2015, deaths in West Palm Beach involving benzodiazepines included:

  • 89 with alprazolam present in the body, one of which was due to only alprazolam
  • 43 involving diazepam, four of which involved just that drug

Alcohol Struggles in Palm Beach County

A September 2012 community health assessment for Palm Beach County found that one-fifth of adults in Palm Beach County engaged in binge drinking or heavy drinking. Florida’s rates as a whole were 19.8 percent while PBC had slightly higher rates at 20.1 percent. About 9.8 percent of those individuals were female.

Although alcohol consumption patterns are a problem in the county, alcohol-related traffic accidents are decreasing. Between 2008 and 2009, according to a different community health survey, Florida saw a statewide decrease of 23.8 percent in roadway traffic crashes caused by alcohol; Palm Beach County was found to have a lower traffic death rate compared to the state overall. Current PBC measures suggest that 17.6 percent of the population drinks excessively, and 30.3 percent of driving deaths involve alcohol.

West Palm Beach’s Cocaine Problem

Cocaine is a surprisingly large problem in southern Florida, especially compared to the rest of the country. NSDUH data estimates that there were about 19,507 people over the age of 12 struggling with some kind of cocaine abuse in PBC. While the state as a whole experienced a 10 percent increase in cocaine-related overdose deaths between 2012 and 2014, Palm Beach County experienced an astonishing 53 percent increase.West Palm Beach’s Cocaine Problem

Medical examiners found, in 2015, that there were 173 overdose deaths involving cocaine, with 109 of those deaths being caused by cocaine. However, 157 of the overdoses involved other drugs, indicating that cocaine is one drug common in polydrug abuse. Most people who died from a cocaine overdose were between 35 and 50, although several were also 26-34 as well as over the age of 50.

Overdoses involving cocaine have gone up in the past several years, though between 2001 and 2015, the peak years of cocaine overdose occurred in 2004 and 2005. Still, after dropping to a low of 87 in 2012, more people in West Palm Beach have been overdosing on cocaine or a combination of several drugs.

In 2014, Palm Beach County treatment facilities found that 184 people entered programs to overcome addictions to crack cocaine while 111 entered due to problems with powdered cocaine. These admissions represented about 5 percent of the overall treatment admissions that year.

Substance Abuse Treatment: Not Just for the Young

There is an increasing trend of older individuals needing treatment for substance abuse, dependency, and addiction. The baby boomer generation, those born between 1946 and 1964, includes 76 million people now reaching late middle age.30 This generation may have abused mind-altering drugs at exponential rates during their youth, and they are now continuing or rediscovering these habits in their older age.
Baby Boomer Drug AbuseIn 2013, accidental drug overdoses killed 12,000 baby boomers, and for the first time ever, overdose rates were higher among the older demographic than those in the 25-44 age bracket.31 If current trends continue, by the year 2020, over 5.5 million individuals over age 50 will need substance abuse treatment.32

These trends hold true in Florida and Palm Beach County as well. Almost 5,000 adults between the ages 51 and 60 in Florida were admitted to publicly funded treatment programs in 2011, which was indicates a 37 percent jump in just 10 years.33 Baby boomers in Florida represented 14 percent of the total treatment admissions, and these numbers may continue to grow in coming years.34 Fortunately, many treatment facilities are realizing this trend, and programs are being catered to this demographic specifically.

Mental Health in Palm Beach County

Mental Health in Palm BeachIn 2010, close to 6,000 people in Palm Beach were discharged from the emergency room with a primary diagnosis of mental health issues, while just over 4,000 were discharged following a drug or alcohol diagnosis.35 Mental illness and substance abuse regularly co-occur, and both are considered to be behavioral health issues.

Around 10 percent of Palm Beach County residents in 2010 did not consider themselves to be in “good mental health.”36 Over 65 percent of those battling mental illness in the state of Florida may go untreated.37

The suicide rate in Palm Beach County is similar to the rate in the state of Florida at around 13 per 100,000 residents.38 Both substance abuse and mental illness may be contributors to suicidal thoughts and behaviors, which may be preventable with mental health and/or substance abuse treatment.

Local Palm Beach Rehab, Behavioral Health & Substance Abuse Services

Many of the services offered for mental health and substance abuse treatment in Florida and within Palm Beach County are at least partially funded by the State of Florida or the county.39 Individuals may cover additional costs with health insurance coverage, private pay, or self-pay options and fundraising.

Some of the resources for behavioral health services in Palm Beach County include:

Treatment for mental health and substance abuse may include prevention methods, crisis management, inpatient and outpatient treatment, and recovery and aftercare services. Therapy, counseling, education, life skills training, parenting classes, medications, medical detox, transitional housing, and support groups may all be part of a comprehensive behavioral health program. These programs may be either private or public in nature, and can be funded in a variety of ways. Different facilities may have varying levels of care and available programs, and some may be more comprehensive than others.

To find a treatment provider meeting federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services (SAMHSA) qualifications in the state of Florida and within Palm Beach County, individuals can use the Behavioral Services Locator tool on the SAMHSA website.45 The Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) also operates the Substance Abuse and Mental Health (SAMH) program, which is the state authority on public mental health and substance abuse treatment in Florida.46 There are many private organizations and programs serving Palm Beach County residents as well.


  1. (July 2015). “Drug Abuse Trends in Palm Beach County Florida : July 2015.” Palm Beach County Substance Awareness Coalition. Accessed September 21, 2015.
  2. (2015). “Palm Beach County Municipalities.” Palm Beach County. Accessed September 21, 2015.
  3. (n.d.) “Narcotics/Drug Trafficking.” South Florida High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (SFIHIDTA).Accessed September 21, 2015.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Thompson, D. (July 2014). “The States with the Worst Prescription Painkiller Problem.” CBS News. Accessed September 21, 2015.
  6. Ibid.
  7. (July 2015). “Drug Abuse Trends in Palm Beach County Florida : July 2015.” Palm Beach County Substance Awareness Coalition. Accessed September 21, 2015.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Ibid.
  10. (2009). “Drug Trends.” Palm Beach County Sherriff’s Office. Accessed September 21, 2015.
  11. Ibid.
  12. (April 2015). “Drugs Identified in Deceased Persons by Florida Medical Examiners Interim Report 2014.” Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Accessed September 21, 2015.
  13. (2009). “Drug Trends.” Palm Beach County Sherriff’s Office. Accessed September 21, 2015
  14. (July 2015). “Drug Abuse Trends in Palm Beach County Florida : July 2015.” Palm Beach County Substance Awareness Coalition. Accessed September 21, 2015.
  15. Ibid.
  16. (2014). “2014 Florida Youth Substance Abuse Survey, Palm Beach County Data Tables.” Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF). Accessed September 21, 2015.
  17. Ibid.
  18. Ibid.
  19. (n.d.). “Underage Drinking.” South Florida Coalition Alliance (SFCA). Accessed September 21, 2015.
  20. (July 2015). “Drug Abuse Trends in Palm Beach County Florida : July 2015.” Palm Beach County Substance Awareness Coalition. Accessed September 21, 2015.
  21. (Aug. 2015).” Emerging Trends.” National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Accessed September 21, 2015.
  22. Winston, H. (July 2015). “Expert: Flakka Now Entrenched on Local Drug Scene.” Palm Beach Post. Accessed September 21, 2015.
  23. Ibid.
  24. (July 2015). “Drug Abuse Trends in Palm Beach County Florida : July 2015.” Palm Beach County Substance Awareness Coalition. Accessed September 21, 2015.
  25. Ibid.
  26. Ibid.
  27. Ibid.
  28. Ibid.
  29. (n.d.) “Don’t Be a Guinea Pig.” Don’t be a Guinea Palm Beach County. Accessed September 21, 2015.
  30. Elinson, Z. (Mar. 2015). “Aging Baby Boomers Bring Drug Habits into Middle Age.” Wall Street Journal (WSJ). Accessed September 21, 2015.
  31. Ibid.
  32. Ibid.
  33. Isger, S. (July 2012). “Rates of Drug Use, Addiction Soar for Baby Boomers.” Palm Beach Post.Accessed September 21, 2015.
  34. Ibid.
  35. (Sept. 2012). “Palm Beach County Community Health Assessment.” Health Council of Southeast Florida (HCSF). Accessed September 21, 2015.
  36. Ibid.
  37. Kam, D. (Jan. 2013). “Experts: Two-Thirds of Mentally Ill in Florida Go Untreated.” Palm Beach Post. Accessed September 21, 2015.
  38. (Sept. 2012). “Palm Beach County Community Health Assessment.” Health Council of Southeast Florida (HCSF). Accessed September 21, 2015.
  39. (2010). “A Report of Health and Human Services in Palm Beach County- Based on Key Community Indicators 2010.” PBC Counts. Accessed September 21, 2015.
  40. (n.d) “Palm Beach County Substance Awareness Coalition.” Palm Beach County Substance Awareness Coalition. Accessed September 21, 2015.
  41. (2015). “PBC Counts.” Palm Beach County Counts. Accessed September 21, 2015.
  42. (2015). “NAMI of Palm Beach County.”National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) of Palm Beach County. Accessed September 21, 2015.
  43. (2015). “MHA of Palm Beach County.” Mental Health Association (MHA) of Palm Beach County.Accessed September 21, 2015.
  44. (n.d.) “Welcome to South Florida Coalition Alliance (SFCA).” South Florida Coalition Alliance (SFCA). Accessed September 21, 2015.
  45. (n.d.). “Behavioral Health Services Treatment Locator.” Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services (SAMHSA). Accessed September 21, 2015
  46. (n.d.). “Substance Abuse.” Florida Department of Health. Accessed September 21, 2015.
About The Contributor
Editorial Staff
Editorial Staff, American Addiction Centers
The editorial staff of Recovery First is comprised of addiction content experts from American Addiction Centers. Our editors and medical reviewers have over a decade of cumulative experience in medical content editing and have reviewed thousands... Read More