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Tampa Bay – Drug Use & Treatment Options

Drug smuggling tampa1 With a major international airport, bustling seaport, and several main highways bisecting the city and providing access to the rest of Florida and the country, Tampa is a popular destination and tourist hub.

Its proximity to Central America and South America, as well as its numerous transportation options, make it an ideal location for drug smugglers and traffickers as well. Tampa is within the Central Florida High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA), which indicates that heroin, cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine, and club drugs like MDMA, or ecstasy, are likely commonly smuggled in and out of the Tampa Bay area from Mexico and Columbia. Some drugs, like meth and marijuana, are even possibly manufactured locally for disbursement elsewhere.2 The boon of the Internet may also be a factor in drug smuggling operations in and out of the Tampa metro area.

Illicit drugs are not just being smuggled in and diverted out of Tampa; many are flooding the streets and being used in clubs and by local residents. Additionally, alcohol is the most commonly used psychoactive substance in Hillsborough County, and prescription drug abuse is prevalent as well.3

Snapshot of Substance Abuse in Tampa

The cities of Tampa, St. Petersburg, and Clearwater are often combined into one Metro Statistical Area (MSA) and considered part of the larger Tampa Bay metro geographical area. For this particular MSA in 2010, national surveys indicated that 326,000 adults over the age of 12 in the area used illicit drugs in the past year, which is 13.9 percent of the adult population.4 This is close to the national average of 14.7 percent and the Florida average of 14.3 percent for the same time period.5

Below is a list of commonly abused substances and statistics regarding their usage in the Tampa Bay area:

Alcohol:

  • Hillsborough County had more alcohol-related fatalities and DUI arrests than any other county in Florida in 2011.6
  • Heavy and binge drinking rates were higher in Hillsborough County than Florida averages.7
  • In the Tampa Bay MSA between 2005 and 2010, an average of almost a quarter of the adult population engaged in binge drinking in the month prior to the national surveys.8
  • In 2014, a national survey indicated that nearly a quarter of all middle school students in Hillsborough County and 60 percent of high school students reported drinking alcohol within their lifetimes.9
  • More than 20 percent of high school students who drank, reported drinking more than five drinks in a sitting on the days they consumed alcohol in the 30 days leading up to the 2014 survey.10
  • Close to 3,000 individuals were admitted for alcohol abuse or dependence treatment to a Hillsborough County Substance Abuse Provider during the fiscal year 2010-2011.11
  • Alcohol use and negative outcomes did decrease in Hillsborough County between 2006 and 2012.12

Marijuana:

  • Tampa Alcohol AbuseMarijuana, behind alcohol, is the most common illicit drug used in the Tampa Bay MSA, and around 10 percent of the adult population aged 12 and older reported using during 2010.13
  • Among middle school students in 2014 in Hillsborough County, an estimated 9.2 percent reported lifetime marijuana usage, while 37.1 percent of high school students reported using marijuana in their lives.14
  • The average number of middle and high school students reporting using marijuana in their lifetime in 2014 in Hillsborough County, at 25 percent, was higher than the Florida statewide average of 22.6 percent.15
  • An average of 11.2 percent of youth between ages 10 and 17 admitted to using marijuana during or before school to get high in Hillsborough County in the past year as compared to the average 9.6 percent statewide, according to the 2014 national survey.16
  • In the month before the 2014 survey, 25.6 percent of youths between 10 and 17 in Hillsborough County reported riding in a car with someone under the influence of marijuana, while 11.3 percent reported driving under the influence of the drug.17
  • In the fiscal year 2010-2011, close to 5,000 people were admitted to substance abuse treatment listing marijuana as a primary drug of abuse.18]

Designer drugs:

  • Designer drugs like synthetic marijuana variations, or cannabinoids, include herbal material with high levels of extremely potent THC, often sold as incense under the names of Spice and More recently hash oil, or marijuana wax soaked in butane and called Budder, is becoming more prevalent. In 2014, over 10 percent of school-aged youth reported using a type of synthetic marijuana at some time in their lives.19
  • The Florida Poison Information Center in Tampa reported 375 cases of exposure to synthetic marijuana in just the first six months of 2012.20
  • Another type of man-made, or synthetic drug making its way onto the Tampa drug scene is that of Alpha-PVP called flakka and sometimes called $5 insanity. This drug is a synthetic cathinone crystal, similar to those marketed as bath salts. It causes a range of mind-altering effects, including hallucinations and delusions. It may be commonly mixed with other drugs or added to an e-cigarette, increasing the odds for an unpredictable and negative reaction. Across Florida, cathinones (which include flakka) were the third most seized, tested, and indentified drug by the National Forensic Laboratory System in South Florida in 2014.21
  • There were 72 incidents wherein cathinones were found to be involved in fatal drug overdoses between January and June of 2014 in the state of Florida.22
  • Another drug synthesized in illicit laboratories is the stimulant drug ecstasy, or MDMA, which may be popular in the Tampa area club scene. In Ybor City, a Mecca for Tampa nightlife and college students, police are reporting an upswing in incidents involving the “club drug” dubbed “Molly” which was initially intended as a pure form of MDMA, but is actually likely cut and filled with a variety of other and potentially toxic chemicals.23
  • There was more than a 50 percent jump in treatment admissions for MDMA abuse or dependency to Hillsborough County Substance Abuse Treatment Providers between the fiscal years of 2009-2010 to 2010-2011.24

Controlled prescription drugs (CPDs):

  • Medical examiners in Hillsborough County listed prescription drugs as the leading cause of overdose death.25
  • An estimated seven Florida residents die from abusing prescription drugs every day around the state.26
  • Annual averages from 2005 to 2010 indicate that 4.6 percent of Tampa Bay MSA residents abused prescription pain relievers in the year before the survey, while the Florida state average was 4.7 percent, and the national average was 4.9 percent for the same time period studied.27
  • In 2011, prescription drugs caused 364 deaths in Hillsborough County – 114 deaths were caused by the opioid narcotic oxycodone (OxyContin) and 108 by the benzodiazepine drug alprazolam (Xanax).28
  • Florida legislation regulating pill mills and prescribing methods, combined with increased law enforcement efforts to stop prescription drug abuse over the past several years, may be proving effective, as prescription pill overdose deaths have been declining. In 2012, there were 187 prescription medication overdose fatalities in Hillsborough County, which was 25 percent lower than the number of deaths three years prior.29

Cocaine:

  • Substance Abuse in TampaOver 900 people were admitted to a Hillsborough Substance Abuse Treatment Provider for abuse or dependence on cocaine in any form, including crack, for the fiscal year 2010-2011.30
  • The Tampa Police Department reports that cocaine availability and accessibility may change regularly due differences in law enforcement efforts, although 27 out of 30 of the Central Florida HIDTA law enforcement jurisdictions report a high availability of powder cocaine, and 29 out of 30 report the same for crack cocaine.31
  • Fatal overdoses involving cocaine increased more than 16 percent in Florida from the first six months of 2013 to the first six months of 2014.32
  • There were 37 deaths in the first half of 2014 involving cocaine abuse in Tampa.33
Heroin:
  • Heroin may enter Florida in container ships, via packages swallowed by drug mules coming from the Dominican Republic or Columbia, or even in packages through the mail ordered from underground or black-market websites.34
  • As prescription drugs become harder to get and more tightly regulated, individuals addicted to opioids may be turning to heroin as an alternative source. As prescription opioid overdoses declined from 2012to 2013, lethal heroin overdoses surged from two to at least 12 in Hillsborough County.35
  • There were nine reported fatal overdoses involving heroin in Tampa in the first six months of 2014 alone.36
  • Heroin deaths increased more than 102 percent from January to June of 2013 to January to June of 2014 in the state of Florida.37

Getting Help for Addiction in Tampa

There are numerous resources for substance abuse and addiction help in the Tampa Bay area. The Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) has a tool on their website allowing individuals to select their local county from a drop-down menu for information on local aid.38 Individuals can also find a list of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) licensed providers in the Tampa area by clicking on the “find treatment” tab on the SAMHSA website and entering a local address, city, or zip code.39

Finding treatment in Tampa

When it comes to substance abuse treatment programs, there may be a wide range of options to choose from. Take the time to look closely at what a particular program may have to offer in order to ensure it will provide the right level of comprehensive care. For instance, an individual may benefit from medical detox in order to safely and securely remove dangerous drugs or alcohol from the body without suffering potentially life-threatening withdrawal symptoms. Medical withdrawal can be closely monitored by medical and mental health professionals and withdrawal can be managed safely. Other services may include therapy sessions, educational opportunities, support groups, counseling, and life skills training to name a few. These services may be offered in an outpatient or inpatient program, depending on the specific needs of the individual seeking treatment. Both publicly funded and private-pay options are available in the Tampa area.

The Hillsborough County Anti Drug Alliance (HCADA) works with communities, law enforcement agencies, and individuals in an effort to lower drug abuse with prevention strategies and substance abuse support services, helping families and loved ones in the Tampa Bay area who may be affected by substance abuse or addiction.40 The Narcotics Overdose Prevention and Education Task Force(N.O.P.E.) helps to educate students on the dangers of prescription medication abuse by providing prevention presentations. They also has counselors on hand to guide individuals toward treatment when necessary.41

Mental Health Treatment Options

Mental Health Treatment Options Tampa

An estimated 8 percent of the population aged 12 and older in the Tampa Bay MSA, or 188,000 people on average between 2005 and 2010, were classified with a substance use disorder.42 Over 7 percent of adults in the Tampa Bay MSA had suffered a major depressive episode in the past year on average between years 2005 and 2010 as well.43 The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) of Hillsborough operates a thorough website with information and links on where to go and call for mental health services and crisis centers in the local area.44 In 2010, NAMI estimated that almost 850,000 Floridian adults and children combined suffered from a serious mental illness or mental health condition.45

Substance abuse, dependence, addiction, and mental illness all fall under the treatment umbrella of behavioral health. With the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, both substance abuse treatment and mental health are now considered essential health benefits, and even preventative care is often covered.46 Most substance abuse and mental health treatment programs are willing to work with individuals regarding insurance coverage and how it applies to behavioral health services in the Tampa Bay area.

Citations

  1. (2015). “About the City of Tampa.” City of Tampa. Accessed September 18, 2015.
  2. (n.d.). “Central Florida HIDTA.” High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). Accessed September 17, 2015.
  3. (Jan. 2013). “Profile of Alcohol and Drug Indicators.” Hillsborough County Anti-Drug Alliance (HCADA). Accessed September 18, 2015.
  4. (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 18, 2015.
  5. Ibid.
  6. (Jan. 2013). “Profile of Alcohol and Drug Indicators.” Hillsborough County Anti-Drug Alliance (HCADA). Accessed September 18, 2015.
  7. Ibid.
  8. (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 18, 2015.
  9. (2014). “2014 Florida Youth Substance Abuse Survey, Hillsborough County Data Tables.” Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF). Accessed September 18, 2015.
  10. Ibid.
  11. (Jan. 2013). “Profile of Alcohol and Drug Indicators.” Hillsborough County Anti-Drug Alliance (HCADA). Accessed September 18, 2015.
  12. Ibid.
  13. (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 18, 2015.
  14. (2014). “2014 Florida Youth Substance Abuse Survey, Hillsborough County Data Tables.” Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF). Accessed September 18, 2015.
  15. Ibid.
  16. Ibid.
  17. Ibid.
  18. (Jan. 2013). “Profile of Alcohol and Drug Indicators.” Hillsborough County Anti-Drug Alliance (HCADA). Accessed September 18, 2015.
  19. Ibid.
  20. (2015). “Substances of Abuse.” Florida Poison Information Center-Tampa. Accessed September 18, 2015.
  21. Behrman, E. (June 2015). “Synthetic Designer Drug Flakka Creeping into Tampa Bay Area.” Tampa Bay Tribune (TBO). Accessed September 18, 2015.
  22. (April 2015). “Drugs Identified in Deceased Persons by Florida Medical Examiners Interim Report 2014.” Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Accessed September 18, 2015.
  23. Roldan, R. (Oct. 2013). “Molly Use Increases ‘Across the Board.’” The Oracle. Accessed September 18, 2015.
  24. (Jan. 2013). “Profile of Alcohol and Drug Indicators.” Hillsborough County Anti-Drug Alliance (HCADA). Accessed September 18, 2015.
  25. Ibid.
  26. (2015). “Substances of Abuse.” Florida Poison Information Center-Tampa. Accessed September 18, 2015.
  27. (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 18, 2015.
  28. (Jan. 2013). “Profile of Alcohol and Drug Indicators.” Hillsborough County Anti-Drug Alliance (HCADA). Accessed September 18, 2015.
  29. Stanley, K. (May 2013). “Prescription Drug Deaths Continue to Fall in Tampa Bay Area.” Tampa Bay Times. Accessed September 18, 2015.
  30. (Jan. 2013). “Profile of Alcohol and Drug Indicators.” Hillsborough County Anti-Drug Alliance (HCADA). Accessed September 18, 2015.
  31. (Sep. 2011). “Central Florida High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Drug Market Analysis 2011.” U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). Accessed September 18, 2015.
  32. (April 2015). “Drugs Identified in Deceased Persons by Florida Medical Examiners Interim Report 2014.” Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Accessed September 18, 2015.
  33. Ibid.
  34. Morel, L. (Nov. 2014). “Heroin Gaining Ground Among Addicts in Tampa Bay.” Tampa Bay Times. Accessed September 18, 2015.
  35. Ibid.
  36. (April 2015). “Drugs Identified in Deceased Persons by Florida Medical Examiners Interim Report 2014.” Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Accessed September 18, 2015.
  37. Ibid.
  38. (2014). “Get Help.” Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF). Accessed September 18, 2015.
  39. (n.d.). “Behavioral Health Services Treatment Locator.” Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services (SAMHSA). Accessed September 18, 2015.
  40. (n.d.) “About Us.” Hillsborough County Anti Drug Alliance (HCADA). Accessed September 18, 2015.
  41. (2012). “Welcome to NOPE of Hillsborough County.” Narcotics Overdose Prevention and Education Task Force (NOPE). Accessed September 18, 2015.
  42. (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 18, 2015.
  43. Ibid.
  44. (2013). “NAMI Hillsborough.” National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Accessed September 18, 2015.
  45. (2010). “State Statistics: Florida.” National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Accessed September 17, 2015.
  46. (n.d.) “Mental Health and Substance Abuse Coverage.” HealthCare.gov. Accessed September 18, 2015.