Tallahassee, Florida, is the county seat for Leon County. It is the Sunshine State’s capital and near the Panhandle, although not quite touching the Gulf Coast. Although it is the capital city, Tallahassee has only 187,000 residents. Unfortunately, like many places across Florida, the city has numerous residents who need treatment for substance abuse difficulties.
Tallahassee’s Struggles with Substance Abuse
The Florida Youth Substance Abuse Survey (FYSAS) found, in Leon County in 2008, that 41 percent of the county’s middle school students reported trying alcohol or illicit drugs. By high school, those numbers increased to 60 percent. Adults typically maintain patterns of substance abuse developed in adolescence. A 2010 survey by Leon County found that 34 percent of adults in the area abused alcohol, illicit drugs, or both.
Alcohol: The Leading Problem in Tallahassee
Residents of Leon County struggle with problem drinking, including alcohol use disorder. The Florida Department of Health’s (DOH) 2013 statistics found that 19.7 percent of adults in Leon County, including Tallahassee, either binge drink or drink heavily. A reported 22.1 percent of the population in Leon County drinks excessively, and 33.1 percent of deaths on the roads involve a drunk driver. The Florida Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) reports that, in 2010, there were 2,222 convictions in Duval County for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
In 2014, the FYSAS found that 20 percent of middle school students, and 49.2 percent of high school students, had tried alcohol. Among high school students, 18.4 percent reported blacking out from drinking or drug abuse.
In Leon County in 2010, about 17.4 percent of adults binge drink, according to statistics from a county survey.
Benzodiazepines Mark a Prescription Drug Problem
To keep track of Florida’s changing illicit and prescription drug addiction problem, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) released statistics of drugs involved in overdose deaths in 2014 and compared some of the information to previous years. Benzodiazepines are a substance of abuse all over Florida, including in Tallahassee. Xanax (alprazolam) and Valium (diazepam) are two of the most popular and potent benzodiazepines, and they are often the focus of prescription drug abuse.
The city of Tallahassee saw 21 alprazolam-related overdose deaths in 2014. In eight cases, Xanax was the cause of death, although it was never the sole drug present in the overdose. Diazepam was involved in six overdose deaths in Tallahassee, but it was never the cause, and it was never the only drug present, suggesting that people struggling with polydrug abuse in Tallahassee are more likely to abuse Xanax than Valium.
Struggles with Opioids
FDLE reported on opioid overdose deaths in Tallahassee, based on medical examiner findings.
- Oxycodone-based medications were present in eight overdose deaths, and they were the cause of death in two instances. Oxycodone was never the sole drug of abuse in the overdose.
- Hydrocodone drugs were found in 17 overdose deaths, although the substance was the cause of death in only four cases. It was the sole drug involved in three deaths.
- Methadone is increasingly a substance of abuse, especially for those who struggle with polydrug abuse. The long-acting opioid agonist was involved in 12 overdose deaths in Tallahassee in 2014, and it caused eight of those deaths. However, it was never the sole substance found in the decedent’s body.
- Morphine, one of the first opioids to be used in pain treatment and subsequently abused, is still frequently prescribed and abused. The substance was involved in six overdose deaths, causing death in one instance, and it was the only substance found in the body in one instance.
- Heroin, one of the first derivatives from morphine, is a highly addictive opioid drug. Although many places in the US are experiencing a spike in heroin addiction, overdose, and death, Tallahassee saw only two people die from heroin overdose in 2014. It was not the only drug involved in the overdose in either case, although it was ultimately the cause of death. While there are very few heroin overdoses in Tallahassee, there had not been a heroin overdose in over a decade until 2011.
- Fentanyl, a substance between 50 and 100 times more potent than morphine, is increasingly causing rapid overdose deaths across the country. In Tallahassee, the drug was involved in seven overdose deaths in 2014. It caused four of those deaths, and it was the only drug abused in one overdose death.
The FYSAS for 2014 found that adolescents were not likely to try opioids in Leon County, indicating that these substance abuse patterns occur later in life: zero middle schoolers, and 0.5 percent of high schoolers, had tried heroin while 3 percent of middle schoolers and 7.8 percent of high schoolers had tried prescription painkillers.
Cocaine Abuse in Tallahassee
This powerful stimulant drug is a serious problem for many residents of Florida, although Tallahassee has a less severe problem with cocaine abuse and overdose compared to other areas of the state. In 2014, there were 20 overdose deaths in which cocaine was found in the body, although the stimulant caused death in only five cases and was never the only drug present.
Following the trend of other cities and counties in Florida, Tallahassee’s problem with cocaine is getting better. Overdoses involving the substance have been steadily decreasing since their peak in 2005, when 58 people died from an overdose involving cocaine.
The 2014 FYSAS found that 0.4 percent of middle schoolers and 1.7 percent of high schoolers had tried cocaine.
Other Drugs Abused by Adolescents in Leon County
Adolescents in Leon County are most likely to drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes. However, according to the survey, 7.3 percent of middle schoolers and 30.8 percent of high schoolers used marijuana; 5.6 percent of high schoolers used synthetic marijuana. Middle school students were more likely to abuse inhalants compared to high school students: 6.7 percent compared to 4.4 percent. Both groups were equally likely to try meth – 0.5 percent – while high schoolers were slightly more likely to try PCP, LSD, or shrooms (1.4 compared to 4.9 percent).
The Need for High-Quality Treatment in Tallahassee
Like the rest of Florida, many in Leon County, and Tallahassee, need treatment for mental health or substance abuse issues. Unfortunately, according to a 2010 county assessment, substance abuse treatment is one of the most difficult services to access, with only 21.7 percent of residents able to get that treatment.
Women and girls who have experienced trauma, such as domestic abuse, are at greater risk for developing a substance use disorder due to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). According to Leon County’s website, 27.9 percent of women in the US who struggle with PTSD develop a substance use disorder. In Leon County in 2011 and 2012, 36 percent of those who sought treatment for substance abuse problems were women, and 6 percent of those women were pregnant when they were admitted for treatment. An estimated 1,289 children in Leon County have been negatively impacted by the substance abuse of at least one of their primary caregivers.
Tallahassee and Leon County Agencies
The Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) is responsible for maintaining certification of mental health and substance abuse treatment professionals, as well as facilities, through the Florida Association of Recovery Residences (FARR). Both websites maintain lists of available treatment options, including in Tallahassee.
- The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has a location in Tallahassee to help veterans residing there seek mental health and substance abuse treatment using their veterans’ benefits.
- SAMHSA offers a toll-free helpline and an online search engine. While they are a federal organization, the search tool sorts by geographic area and the kind of substance abuse or mental health treatment one needs.
- Psychology Today lists dozens of treatment options for substance abuse and mental health in Tallahassee and nearby suburbs.
Help through Nonprofits and Hospitals
- The Florida Alcohol and Drug Abuse Association (FADAA) hosts an online treatment finder, so people in Florida can use various search tools to get the help they need.
- The Leon County Responsible Decision Making Coalition (RDMC) lists dozens of resources to help people who are struggling with substance abuse or who have a loved one suffering from drug addiction.
- DISC Village offers a wide range of treatment, from prevention to intervention, to help people struggling with substance abuse and addiction as well as their loved ones.
- Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare (TMH) is the largest hospital in the Leon County region, and it offers behavioral health services, including substance abuse treatment. They are likely to take insurance, and they can help with sliding scale payments for those who need to self-pay.