The county seat of Hillsborough County, Tampa is the largest city in the Tampa Bay, Florida area. Within Hillsborough County, the Profile of Alcohol and Drug Indicators for Hillsborough County, Florida publishes that alcohol is the number one substance of abuse. In 2011, more people died from alcohol-related causes in Hillsborough than in any other county in Florida.
Rates of heavy drinking, binge drinking, past-month alcohol consumption, and cigarette smoking were higher for residents of Hillsborough County in 2010 than Florida state averages suggest. Approximately 5.6 percent of Hillsborough residents engaged in heavy drinking versus a 5.2 percent statewide average; 15.5 percent of Hillsborough residents binge drank as opposed to a 13.7 percent Florida state average; 59.3 percent of Hillsborough residents drank any alcohol in the month leading up to the survey compared to a state average of 55.3 percent; and 20.3 percent of Hillsborough residents considered themselves current tobacco smokers (and had smoked 100 cigarettes in their lifetime previously) versus a state average of 17.1 percent.
Over 4,000 people were arrested for a DUI (driving under the influence) infraction in 2011 in Hillsborough County, and close to 9,000 people were arrested for drug or narcotic offenses, rates that were higher than similar arrest rates in both Pinellas and Orange counties. Hillsborough (Circuit 13) also had higher incidences of illicit drug use, including use of marijuana and cocaine, and the nonmedical use of painkillers, than Circuit 6 (Pinellas and Pasco counties). For fiscal year (FY) 2010-2011, marijuana, alcohol, and oxycodone were the top three substances of abuse reported by people seeking substance abuse treatment in Hillsborough County, Florida.
In general, across the state of Florida, residents struggle with drug and alcohol abuse and addiction at rates that are lower than national averages, the Behavioral Health Barometer: Florida, 2015 reports. Approximately 2.4 percent of Florida residents battled drug use or addiction per year between 2013 and 2014 as opposed to a 2.6 percent national average while 6 percent of Florida residents struggled with alcohol abuse or addiction compared to a national average of 6.5 percent.
Residents of Florida also suffered from serious mental illness (SMI) less often than national averages indicate, as 3.7 percent of the Florida population battled SMI per year between 2010 and 2014 versus a national average of 4.2 percent. Treatment for any mental illness (AMI) in Florida was lower than national averages, however, as only 37.3 percent of those needing specialty services received them per year between 2010 and 2014 compared to a national treatment average of 42.7 percent.
The Florida Department of Health partners with the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) to host the Substance Abuse and Mental Health (SAMH) Program as the single state authority on mental health and substance abuse in the state. Floridians and residents of Tampa have a multitude of behavioral health services at their fingertips.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Concerns in Tampa, Florida
Alcohol, marijuana, and prescription painkillers remain top drug threats in the state of Florida and the city of Tampa. Recreational use of marijuana is still illegal within the state, and it remains a top drug of abuse.
In 2017, Amendment 2, or the “medical marijuana law” as it is often called, was passed in Florida after an overwhelming majority voted it in. The Sun-Sentinel publishes that under Amendment 2, the Florida Board of Health determines who is deemed medically able to legally obtain and use marijuana for medicinal purposes. Marijuana laws remain strict in Florida; however, since 2016, instead of being charged with a misdemeanor for possessing less than 20 ounces of the drug, individuals will only receive a citation in the city of Tampa, WFLA reports.
Florida also operates 95 drug courts throughout the state. These courts divert people charged with nonviolent and drug-related crimes into treatment, often in exchange for a lesser charge upon completion of the treatment program.
Within the United States, Florida has the 11th highest overdose mortality rate in the country. The number of drug overdose deaths, many of which involved prescription drugs, in the state doubled between 1999 and 2013, Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) publishes. In 2016, UPI reported that drug overdose deaths spiked more than 20 percent across the nation, with Florida recording the highest number of deaths, as 5,167 people died as the result of a drug overdose in Florida that year.
The highly potent synthetic opioid drug fentanyl is thought to play a role in the rise in drug overdose deaths. Fentanyl may be manufactured in an illicit lab and then passed off as heroin or laced into heroin and other opioids without the knowledge of the person taking it.
New synthetic drugs are making their way into Southern Florida and the Tampa Bay region as well. Abuse of drugs like flakka, a synthetic cathinone sometimes called “gravel,” which is made up of alpha-PVP, are on the rise, the Tampa Bay Times warns. Flakka can cause hallucinations, hypertension, a dangerous rise in body temperature, delirium, seizures, and even death.
To control prescription drug diversion, doctor shopping, and overall misuse of medications that are potentially addictive, Florida has a prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP) called E-FORCSE (Electronic-Florida Online Reporting of Controlled Substances Evaluation) in operation that requires providers to track when, and to whom, these medications are dispensed.
Local and National Resources for Behavioral Health Treatment
In Florida, substance abuse treatment is offered by community-based providers, which are overseen and managed by DCF. To provide state-regulated services, providers must be licensed through the state. Services include prevention, crisis services, detoxification, assessment, counseling, case management, residential and outpatient treatment, and recovery support services, which may include transitional housing, counseling, and life and parenting skills training.
Florida’s Opioid State Targeted Response Project aims to prevent opioid abuse, reduce overdose deaths, enhance access to medication-assisted treatment, and increase the amount of people trained to provide medication-assisted training and recovery support services. In Florida, a loved one can file to have a person involuntarily committed into treatment if they are significantly impaired by substance use under the Marchman Act. The community mental health system in Florida is privatized, and public mental health services are offered through local mental health offices and nonprofit community mental health centers, which are regulated by the Florida DFC Mental Health Office.
Behavioral health services are typically broken down into three main areas: prevention (and crisis services), treatment, and recovery support services.
Below are local and national resources within each area of service:
Prevention and Crisis Services
- Tobacco-Free Florida provides information and education regarding the dangers of tobacco, working to prevent and curtail tobacco use.
- The Statewide Office for Suicide Prevention and the Suicide Prevention Coordinating Council increase public awareness on the risks of suicide.
- DCF provides several hotlines to call for suicide prevention and crisis support information.
- The state hosts a list of anti-drug coalitions in Florida.
- The Florida Partnership for Success (FPS) is a grant program that will build on the prevention infrastructure to reduce the onset and progression of substance abuse in several counties, including Hillsborough.
- Hillsborough County Anti-Drug Alliance (HCADA) offers resources for prevention and advocates for a drug-free community in Tampa Bay.
- Central Florida Behavioral Health Network is Hillsborough County’s local provider of mental health and substance abuse services.
- The Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator hosted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) lists treatment facilities by type and location for people to easily find local services.
- DCF provides a list of certified recovery residences.
- The 12-Step program Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) has a local Tri-County Central Office that hosts meetings and offers services within Hillsborough (and East Pasco) County.
- The Tampa Funcoast Area Narcotics Anonymous (NA) hosts 70 self-help recovery support groups and around 120 meetings a week in Tampa and the surrounding areas.