Lessons to Learn From 2019 Drug Trends in Florida

Drug trends in Florida appear to be similar to those seen in other states. There are several state agencies and task forces that not only collect data about substance misuse in the Sunshine State but also make policy recommendations to lawmakers to expand treatment resources and stem the flow of illicit substances. According to several recent reports, there are several lessons to be learned from the information gathered over the past year.

Trends from the past few years illustrate Florida’s effort to manage the opioid crisis.

2018 Florida Drug Trends Overview

The Florida Alcohol & Drug Abuse Association (FADAA) released an annual report on statewide drug trends that highlighted patterns of substance use across the state’s regions. The association obtains data from a variety of sources and breaks it down geographically when possible.

Among Florida’s middle and high school students, there were statewide declines in cigarette smoking, alcohol use and binge drinking. However, rates of “vaping” have gone up in these age groups. Other areas of concern in the state include marijuana use, opioid misuse, cocaine use and the use of synthetic drugs.

Alcohol and Tobacco in Florida

When it comes to alcohol use, underage drinking and adult drinking are two specific areas of concern. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, there was a drop in alcohol use among all Floridians, but the decrease was greater among those ages 12–17. Specifically, use among this age group dropped from 10.72 percent to 9.15 percent between 2015 and 2016.

This trend does not mean that issues with underage drinking vanished. One 2017 report revealed that 1 in 5 high school students in Florida reported binge drinking at least twice monthly, and 1 in 8 reported drinking to the point of blacking out.

Among Florida adults, over half (52.7 percent) reported consuming one or more alcoholic drinks in the previous month. There is also an estimate that as many as 22.5 percent of Floridians ages 21 and older binge drank. Binge drinking is drinking five or more drinks in one sitting within 30 days.

There has been a decline overall in tobacco use across the state and particularly among the state’s youth. Among high school students, tobacco use declined from 14.1 percent in 2006 to 3.7 percent in 2017. Among adults in Florida, tobacco use declined from 19.3 percent in 2011 to 15.5 percent in 2016. However, about 1 in 8 middle school students and 1 in 3 high school students report past use of electronic vaporizers.

Prescription Drug Misuse in Florida

According to a recent report issued by the Statewide Drug Policy Advisory Council, the number of prescriptions written in Florida has plummeted in recent years. At its peak in 2010, there were roughly 87 opioid prescriptions written for every 100 state residents. By 2016, that figure had dropped to about 66.

Even so, across the state people are still dying from prescription drug-related deaths. In 2017, state medical examiners identified 6,932 people who died with one or more prescription drugs in their system. This was a 4 percent increase from the prior year.

Other Substances of Misuse

Marijuana use in Florida remains relatively the same as it has been in the past, with some reduction in use among the state’s youth view regular use of the drug as being harmful. Among high school students, marijuana use peaked in 2014, with 18.6 percent, but the use rate is now at a low of 16.1 percent. Marijuana use among adults, however, has soared, with 7.65 percent of Floridians reporting past month use in 2016, compared to 5.54 percent in 2008.

Behind marijuana, opioids are the second-most popular drug of misuse in the state. This statistic includes prescription medications such as OxyContin and Vicodin as well as illicit drugs like heroin and fentanyl. Because Florida is a southern state, illicit drugs such as heroin can be more readily accessible since they come from other countries through the state’s ports.

Of particular concern are the synthetic drugs that are ripe for misuse and incredibly dangerous. Among these are illicit fentanyl, cathinones like MDMA and a drug called flakka. The FADAA issued an alert in 2018 about synthetic marijuana sold as K2 and spice.

Other drugs that see high rates of use in Florida include methamphetamine and cocaine. Deaths related to methamphetamine use have soared 540 percent from 2011 to 2016. Cocaine-related deaths in Florida steadily declined from 2007 to 2010 and then began to spike in 2016. Now, there are more than 2,800 deaths each year that are linked to cocaine use.

Recommendations by Officials

The Statewide Drug Policy Advisory Council referenced earlier made several recommendations to lawmakers in its December 2018 annual report. Among these are:

  • Reduce the supply of drugs in Florida by continuing to promote the use of Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs) and encouraging all pharmacies in the state to establish and promote convenient and secure drug disposal boxes.
  • Reduce the demand for drugs in Florida by requiring that all prescribers complete a continuing education course on managing pain with controlled substances, establishing standards for this, and using a PDMP when prescribing controlled substances.
  • Reduce the harmful consequences of addiction by increasing programs for prevention and awareness and creating more access to evidence-based addiction treatment programs.

Access to Addiction Treatment Services

If you or a loved one struggle with a substance use disorder, help is available in Florida. Orlando Recovery Center provides personalized addiction treatment services that can help you break free from addiction and find a new way to live. You will have access to medical and therapeutic specialists who will ensure that you have a safe experience while getting the tools you need to live a life free from harmful substances.

Contact Orlando Recovery Center to get more information about your admissions options or receive answers to any questions related to addiction treatment.