Drugs Remain a Large Problem in Florida

In November 1981, the words “Paradise Lost? South Florida” were printed on the cover of Time magazine. The cover story detailed the violent crime surrounding the drug trade that plagued the Sunshine State in the early ‘80s.

Much of the violence was perpetrated by warring drug cartels smuggling cocaine into the U.S., using Florida as their port of entry. In 1981, there were 1,523 reported murders in Florida, compared to 1,285 in 2020. If you account for state population, which has more than doubled in those 30 years, the picture of how violent that time was becomes abundantly clear.

While Florida may not be as violent as it was back then, drug use and trade remain significant problems, even if it looks much different than it did decades ago.

Cocaine Trafficking and Use in Florida

Cocaine is still shipped to Florida in large amounts from Colombia, Boliva, and Peru. In fact, earlier this year the U.S. Coast Guard reported their “largest offload in history,” after seizing an estimated $1.4 billion in cocaine and marijuana. And while certainly not common, there are still instances of jettisoned cocaine or marijuana packages floating to shore in Florida, and even becoming tangled in wildlife.

According to recent data, cocaine is the second-most used illicit drug in the Sunshine State, trailing only marijuana. Cocaine is a very dangerous and addictive substance associated with many devastating health and social consequences. In recent years, cocaine use has become even more dangerous, with the prevalence of deadly fentanyl being cut into the product in an attempt to make it appear more potent.

Opioids in Florida

Opioids are considered the deadliest class of drugs both in Florida and the United States as a whole. In 2018, 3,189 of the 4,698 overdose deaths in Florida involved opioids.

In addition to heroin, a powerful illicit opioid that can easily cause an overdose, prescription drugs also pose a huge threat. Florida played a major part in what is now understood as the “opioid crisis” or “opioid epidemic,” when it became notorious for hosting “pill mills”—physicians, clinics, or pharmacies that inappropriately prescribe or dispense opioids to patients—until initiatives were put into place to combat the practice in 2010. Now the prescription rate of opioids in Florida is down 53.7 per 100 people (just above the national average of 51.4).

Fentanyl—an extremely powerful prescription opioid that is often manufactured illegally—is also the driver of many overdoses, with synthetic opioids (other than methadone) appearing in 72.9% of opioid-involved overdoses nationwide as of 2019.

Meth in Florida

Meth use and trafficking are also huge problems in Florida. In fact, 2021 saw the largest seizure of meth by police in Miami-Dade history, with 1,200 pounds of crystal meth—valued at approximately $12 million—being confiscated by police.

While policy initiatives appear to have had some positive effects in curbing opioid overdoses (though 2020 and 2021 data may prove otherwise), meth-related harms have seen a resurgence in recent years. In 2016, meth was detected in 621 people that died in Florida.

As is the case with the majority of overdoses no matter the primary substance of use, synthetic adulterants like fentanyl are often involved in these fatalities.

Meth trafficking is also associated with many instances of horrific violence in Florida, the rest of the United States, and Mexico, where the bulk of meth sold in America is now manufactured.

Treatment for Addiction in Florida

Addiction is a complex disease, but it is treatable. Treatment facilities like River Oaks provide medical detox and utilize evidence-based and alternative therapies to help patients get sober and remain in long-term recovery.

Since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was enacted, most insurance plans must cover addiction treatment. Find out whether your policy covers addiction treatment at River Oaks within minutes by using the verification of benefits tool or by calling an admissions navigator at .

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