Drug Addiction in Florida: A Serious Problem

In the United States, 10% of adults develop a drug use disorder at some point in their lives, meaning more than 23 million people have struggled with some type of drug abuse. Of these 23 million adults, 75% never receive any form of treatment, leading to serious physical and psychological consequences.

For many years, addiction was considered a moral failing caused by a lack of self-control. We now know addiction is a medical disease requiring comprehensive treatment. It's also important for treatment professionals and loved ones alike to have compassion for people with drug and alcohol addictions.

Before seeking addiction treatment, it's essential to understand what addiction is, what signs and symptoms it can cause, what factors increase the risk for addiction and what treatment options are available.

 

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Florida Drug Abuse Statistics

Addiction is a problem in every state, and Florida is no exception. Although addiction can occur in any city or town, it tends to receive more attention in large cities. In Florida, these are the 10 largest cities by population:

  • Jacksonville
  • Miami
  • Tampa
  • Orlando
  • St. Petersburg
  • Hialeah
  • Port St. Lucie
  • Cape Coral
  • Tallahassee
  • Fort Lauderdale

 

Preventing addiction relapse

Every year, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration directs the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) to identify trends related to the use of alcohol, illicit drugs and tobacco. According to the 2017 survey, more than 1.7 million Florida adults reported that they had used illicit substances within the previous month. Additionally, 126,000 adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 reported that they had engaged in illicit substance use within 30 days of completing the survey.

Florida hasn't legalized recreational cannabis use, so marijuana was the most common illicit substance among both adults and adolescents. Approximately 2.34 million adults reported using marijuana within the previous 12 months, while 191,000 adolescents revealed that they had used marijuana within the past year. Cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin use were much less common, but they're still a concern for public health officials. For example, the 2017 NSDUH showed that 340,000 Florida adults had engaged in past-year cocaine use.

Drug-Related Deaths On the Rise

Drug-related deaths are also on the rise in Florida, especially for those who misuse opioids. In 2018, Florida recorded 4,698 drug-related deaths, with nearly 68% of those deaths attributed to opioid overdose. Opioids are powerful pain relievers typically prescribed to control postoperative pain or relieve pain in people who have advanced cancer and other terminal illnesses. One possible reason for the increase of drug overdose deaths involving opioids is the high number of opioid prescriptions provided by Florida doctors. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, medical professionals in Florida wrote 53.7 opioid prescriptions for every 100 people in 2018, which is higher than the national average.

An Overview of Substance Abuse and Drug Addiction

Just because someone uses drugs doesn't mean they have a full-blown addiction, just like having a few drinks at a party doesn't mean someone has a problem with alcohol abuse. Substance abuse is defined as a pattern of substance use that causes significant distress. People who engage in substance abuse may display the following behaviors:

  • Missing work or school because they used drugs the night before
  • Moodiness or irritability when socializing with others
  • Difficulty fulfilling work or social obligations
  • Engaging in secretive behavior
  • Giving up hobbies to engage in drug abuse
  • Isolating themselves from loved ones

Over time, substance abuse can cause changes within the brain that increase the risk of developing a drug addiction. Addiction is a chronic disease that causes someone to crave drugs or alcohol, resulting in continuing drug abuse even in the face of harmful consequences. For example, someone who develops a heart condition due to cocaine abuse may continue using cocaine even when they know they're putting themselves at risk for additional heart damage. Someone who struggles with alcohol abuse may even continue drinking after receiving a cirrhosis diagnosis, increasing the risk of liver failure and other medical complications.

 

GET HELP TODAY

Don’t go through the process of recovery alone. There are people who can help you with the struggle you’re facing. Get in touch with one today.

CHECK INSURANCE

If you have coverage of any kind from a major insurance provider, your treatment is likely covered. We promise to keep your information confidential.

Risk Factors for Substance Abuse

Anyone can develop an addiction, but several risk factors increase the risk of drug and alcohol addiction in Florida residents.

Family History

Addiction appears to have a genetic component, so people with a family history of addiction are more likely to develop an addiction themselves. If you have a parent, sibling or other close family member with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, your risk of addiction also increases.

Lack of Support

Some people engage in drug abuse or alcohol abuse because they're looking for a way to cope with stressful circumstances. If you have a strong support network, you may lean on your family members and friends any time you have a high level of stress in your life. People who lack these bonds may not have the support they need to overcome life's challenges without drinking or engaging in substance abuse.

cigna rehab coverage concept image of a family enjoying the life together

Difficult Relationships

Drug abuse and alcohol abuse are even more likely if you have difficult relationships with your family members. Your parents and siblings are supposed to support you and cheer you on, but many people have family members who add stress to their lives by starting arguments or hurling insults at them when they should be encouraging them.

Mental Health Conditions

The risk of addiction is higher in people who have depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health conditions. This is because many people with mental health conditions use drugs and alcohol to cope with their symptoms.

Early Drug Use

The brain continues to develop during your teen years and in early adulthood. Therefore, engaging in early drug use increases your risk of developing a drug addiction later in life. This is because early drug abuse may cause permanent changes in the brain, resulting in strong cravings for drugs or alcohol when you're older.

Common Drugs of Abuse

Several drugs are commonly involved in drug abuse and drug addiction: prescription opioids, cocaine, marijuana, heroin, valium and methamphetamine.

Prescription Opioids

Although prescription medications are prescribed by medical professionals, that doesn't mean they're risk-free. Medications can cause serious side effects, especially when you don't use them as directed. In Florida and throughout the United States, the misuse of prescription opioids is on the rise, resulting in an increased number of drug overdose deaths each year. These overdose deaths often occur when people mix prescription opioids with alcohol or illicit substances, enhancing their side effects.

Fentanyl, oxycodone, tramadol and hydrocodone are all examples of prescription opioids. They may be used to relieve pain during surgical procedures, treat severe pain in people with chronic illnesses or ease pain during the first few weeks following major surgery. The most common side effects of these drugs include constipation, nausea, drowsiness and confusion.

What makes prescription opioids so dangerous is that they can cause respiratory depression, which allows carbon dioxide to build up in the body, reducing the amount of oxygen flowing through the bloodstream. Someone who overdoses on prescription opioids may take slow, shallow breaths instead of breathing at a normal rate.

Another concern associated with opioid misuse is that some cartels have been manufacturing fake pills and distributing them in Florida. These fake pills look like the real thing, which helps the cartels avoid detection by law enforcement, but they may contain much more of the active ingredient than is safe. The use of fake opioid pills has been associated with multiple overdose deaths, making counterfeit drugs a serious concern.

Wealth and Addiction

Cocaine

Cocaine is a stimulant, so it increases the user's heart rate and provides a burst of energy within a short amount of time. Cocaine use can also cause the following:

  • Euphoria
  • Excessive talking
  • Hypersensitivity to light or sound
  • Appetite suppression
  • Reduced need for sleep
  • Dilated pupils
  • Narrowing of the blood vessels
  • Increased temperature
  • Higher blood pressure

When someone becomes addicted to cocaine, they typically start taking higher doses at more frequent intervals, increasing the likelihood of panic attacks, paranoia, restlessness and irritability. Some people even develop psychosis, a condition that occurs when a person loses touch with reality.
Some of the side effects of cocaine depend on the route of administration. Snorting cocaine can cause nosebleeds, swallowing difficulties, nasal inflammation and loss of smell, while smoking crack cocaine worsens asthma symptoms and may cause permanent lung damage. People who inject cocaine into their veins also have an increased risk of contracting HIV and hepatitis.

Stressful Jobs Encourage Substance Abuse

Marijuana

Marijuana affects the body within just a few minutes of smoking it, producing a sense of euphoria and an overall feeling of relaxation. In some cases, people consume marijuana that has been added to foods and beverages. Because the marijuana has to pass through the digestive system before it's absorbed, it takes up to one hour for the drug to take effect when it's consumed rather than smoked. Marijuana use may result in increased appetite, laughter and a heightened sense of perception.

Although marijuana is typically associated with pleasant side effects, some people experience panic attacks, heightened levels of fear or increased anxiety after smoking marijuana or consuming edibles. In large enough quantities, marijuana may even cause acute psychosis, causing the user to experience delusions and/or hallucinations.

methamphetamine withdrawal

Heroin

Heroin is an opioid, but unlike fentanyl and other prescription pain relievers, it's illegal to use. When someone takes heroin, the drug is converted into morphine in the brain, producing a rush that relaxes the user and causes pleasant sensations. The larger the dose of heroin, the bigger the resulting rush. Heroin use is also associated with dry mouth, flushing of the skin and a sense of heaviness in the limbs. These side effects may be accompanied by nausea, itching and/or vomiting in some users.

Like other opioids, heroin may cause respiratory depression, especially when combined with other substances. The user's breathing may slow down considerably, leading to permanent brain damage or coma. Heroin also slows down the heart and makes it difficult for the user to make decisions, increasing the risk of serious injuries.

Over time, heroin use changes the structure of the brain, making it difficult for users to control their behavior, make complex decisions or respond appropriately to stressful circumstances. The longer a person uses heroin, the more likely they are to become tolerant to its effects, which may cause them to take higher and higher doses to get the same euphoric effects. Larger doses of heroin increase the risk of overdose and death.

Psychologist does not allow bearded man to drink alcohol at therapy session

Methamphetamine

Like cocaine, methamphetamine is a powerful stimulant. Even small doses suppress the appetite, give the user more energy and reduce the need for sleep. Additional effects of methamphetamine use include increased activity, a sense of euphoria, rapid heartbeat, increased temperature and increased breathing rate. 

Because methamphetamine causes changes in the brain, it can also affect the way people behave. Long-term use of methamphetamine has been associated with violent behavior, moodiness, confusion, insomnia and significant anxiety. In severe cases, long-term methamphetamine use can lead to psychotic behavior, resulting in visual and auditory hallucinations — seeing and hearing things that aren't there.

Brain changes caused by methamphetamine use may have lasting consequences. For example, people with a history of chronic methamphetamine use may have difficulty learning or remembering new things. Methamphetamine use has also been linked to an inability to regulate behavior.

benzodiazepine withdrawal

Signs of Drug Addiction

Many signs of drug addiction are behavioral in nature. If you're addicted to prescription drugs, you may keep taking a drug long after you need it to treat a health problem. You may also develop a tolerance to drugs, meaning you need to take larger amounts or more frequent doses to get the same effect you used to get with a smaller dose. People with drug addictions may also experience withdrawal symptoms when they try to stop using. Common withdrawal symptoms include loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, upset stomach, headaches, shakiness and excessive sweating.

Ongoing Drug Use

If you continue using drugs, you may become consumed with getting your next dose. This may cause you to spend most of your time thinking about where to get drugs, how to come up with the money you need to buy drugs or what it will feel like when you can use drugs again. You may also feel compelled to keep using drugs even when they're causing serious problems in your life. For example, you may continue using drugs even if your spouse threatens to leave you or your doctor tells you your health is at risk. You may also have difficulty setting limits related to your drug use. If you tell yourself you'll use just a small amount, for example, you may end up taking two or three times as much as you planned.

Relationship Difficulties

The behavioral changes caused by drug use can make it difficult to maintain positive relationships with your friends and family members. You may find yourself getting into frequent arguments or lying to your loved ones about your drug habit. If you have an addiction, you may also ask your family members to loan you money or even steal from them so you can buy drugs. 

Life Changes

When you're focused on using drugs, it's difficult to manage your day-to-day responsibilities. You may miss more work than usual or show up to work late when you're usually on time. When you're at work, you may find it difficult to complete projects on time or communicate effectively with your colleagues. If you're in school, you may miss classes or have trouble completing assignments. Many people struggling with drug addiction also have difficulty keeping up with household chores, preparing regular meals or enjoying their hobbies.

Legal Problems

People with drug addiction often engage in risky behavior, increasing the risk of legal problems that can have lifelong consequences. If you drive drunk, for example, you may be arrested for driving under the influence or cause a serious accident that results in other criminal charges. You may also face charges if you're caught shoplifting or stealing from loved ones to support your drug habit.

Drug Addiction Treatment Options

The best way to recover from a drug addiction is to seek professional addiction treatment. With the help of experienced therapists, counselors and medical professionals, you can eliminate drugs from your body and participate in several types of therapy to prevent relapse in the future. Therapy, medications and treatment for co-occurring disorders are the most common addiction treatment options.

Individual Therapy

Addiction has many root causes, so it's important to discuss your situation with a professional therapist. During individual therapy sessions, you'll have the opportunity to talk about your life experiences and learn how they might have contributed to the development of a drug addiction. Your therapist can also help you identify harmful thought patterns and learn how to replace them with positive ones. With ongoing therapy, you'll learn to build lasting relationships and overcome challenging circumstances without relying on drugs as a coping mechanism.

Group Therapy

Once you understand the underlying causes of your addiction, it's important to speak with other people at different stages of the addiction recovery journey. Early on, you may benefit from connecting with people who've been in recovery for several months. Their successes are likely to inspire you and motivate you to continue with your treatment plan. Participating in group therapy sessions can also help you improve your listening skills, which may help you overcome some of the relationship problems caused by your addiction.

Holistic Therapy

It's important to nurture your body and soul while you're undergoing behavioral therapy and other treatments. Holistic therapies improve the mind-body connection and ensure you have a strong foundation for your addiction recovery. Acupuncture, massage therapy and Reiki are just a few of the holistic therapies that can help. It's also important to eat nutritious foods and avoid caffeine and other substances that can have unpleasant physical or psychological effects during your recovery.

Family Therapy

Because addiction can interfere with your ability to maintain good relationships with friends and family members, family therapy is an important component of the recovery process. When you participate in family therapy, an experienced therapist leads each session, ensuring you stay on track and don't lose sight of your goals. The therapist can help you communicate with your family members without making unfounded accusations or bringing up conflicts that were resolved years ago. If your addiction is linked to a history of child abuse or domestic violence, your therapist can also help you address these issues during a family therapy session.

Medication

In some cases, medications are helpful for managing withdrawal symptoms or treating certain types of drug addiction. If you experience nausea, vomiting and other symptoms while you're detoxing from drugs, a doctor may recommend over-the-counter or prescription medications to make you more comfortable and ensure you make it safely through the withdrawal process.

Methadone, naltrexone and buprenorphine have all been approved to treat opioid addiction. Methadone and buprenorphine reduce cravings by making the brain think you've been taking opioids. Even though your brain thinks you've been taking opioid medications, you don't feel high, so you're able to function normally. Naltrexone reduces the risk of relapse by blocking the effects of opioids. Since you won't experience euphoria if you take an opioid medication, you're less likely to use drugs.

Treatment for Co-Occurring Disorders

Co-occurring disorders are mental illnesses that exist alongside addiction and can make addiction more difficult to treat. Examples include post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder and depression. Getting treatment for co-occurring disorders is important because it can help you improve your mental health, eliminating some of the stress that triggers your drug use. For example, if you've been using drugs to deal with untreated anxiety, treating your anxiety disorder can reduce your cravings and make you less likely to use drugs to cope with your symptoms.

Addiction Recovery

Addiction Treatment in Florida

Behavioral Health Centers, a state-of-the-art treatment center located in Port St. Lucie, Florida, offers comprehensive drug addiction treatment that's completely customized to meet your physical and emotional needs. Licensed staff members are available to help you detox from prescription drugs and illicit substances, discover the root causes of your addiction and learn how to manage stress without relapsing. Call 772-774-3872 today to find out how our Florida addiction treatment center  can help you regain control of your life.