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Palm Beach – Drug Rehab

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

Palm Beach Drug Problems

Drug Smuggling through FloridaDrug 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 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 in 2014

Middle and high school students in Palm Beach County in 2014 had abused alcohol, marijuana, and illicit drugs in their lifetimes at rates slightly higher than the rates of students in the state of Florida in total: alcohol 45 percent as opposed to 42.6 percent, marijuana 25.3 percent compared to 22.6 percent, and 31 percent admitted to abusing illicit drugs in Palm Beach County compared to the statewide rate of 30 percent.16

Alcohol treatment admission Palm BeachStudents abused cocaine and club drugs at higher rates in Palm Beach County than in the state as a whole: 2.3 percent as compared to 1.9 percent, and 4.4 percent over 3 percent respectively.17 Adolescents in Palm Beach County abused prescription pain relievers less frequently than the youths in state of Florida overall, at rates of 4.2 percent as opposed to 5.5 percent.18

Alcohol may be the biggest health concern for minors in Palm Beach County, as underage drinking may result in negative health consequences and the potential for future issues with alcohol dependency. In addition, underage drinking is estimated to cost the state of Florida around $3 billion each year in related costs.19

Recent Alarming Drug Trends in South Florida

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’tbeaguinneapig.com 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

 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.

Palm Beach Behavioral Health Resources

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.