If you are a Florida resident, you have access to many treatment options if you struggle with alcohol or drug abuse. The Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) maintains a list of treatment providers across the state, which can be found on their website and is searchable by city. DCF also has more substance abuse help information on their website. The state health department provides treatment and referral services, which can also be narrowed down through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) online treatment finder.
Florida was one of the first Spanish colonies in the New World, named in 1513 by Ponce de Leon because he landed there during the Easter Celebration, Pascua Florida, a festival of flowers. Now nicknamed the Sunshine State, Florida is known for its many miles of coastline along both the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, its proximity to Cuba, its numerous multicultural cities, and its popularity with retirees.
It was purchased by the United States in 1845 and provides about 80 percent of the citrus in the U.S. The state is also known for Disney World, which opened in 1971, along with several other theme parks like Universal Studios, SeaWorld, and Epcot Center. Florida is also known for Cape Canaveral, where NASA has launched several missions into space.
Although Florida is famous for natural beauty, human innovation, cultural interest, and relaxing and fun vacation spots, the Sunshine State is also known for more difficult issues: high rates of substance abuse, poverty, and mental health issues. Alcohol, prescription drugs, and illicit drugs are all abused at high rates across the state. There are many treatment programs that have sprung up to help those in need.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is clear that addiction can be treated successfully; however, it is equally important to know what treatment is and what a successful trajectory looks like. Addiction is a chronic illness, meaning that it is with you for the rest of your life. This diagnosis may sound frightening, but other chronic illnesses that receive successful lifelong treatment include diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), and asthma.
It is also important to know that relapse occurs with all chronic illnesses. Relapse simply means that symptoms return or change, and require a new approach to treatment. For people struggling with addiction, between 40 and 60 percent will suffer a relapse. This rate of relapse is similar to hypertension and asthma, which both have symptom relapse rates of between 50 and 70 percent. None of these conditions can be cured, but all of them can be managed successfully, so you can live a healthy, productive life. Getting evidence-based treatment that uses scientific research and medical supervision is the best approach to treating substance use disorders.
Evidence-based treatment is growing in popularity and accessibility across the United States, including in Florida, where more people are able to access help to overcome alcohol or drug abuse. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA) provides Behavioral Health Barometers (BHBs) for various states. Florida’s most recent BHB covers survey years 2011 through 2015, and it indicates how rates of drug abuse are changing in the state among both adolescents and adults. This can help highlight when treatment works as well as where more treatment options are needed.
Both in Florida and around the nation, adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 report abusing drugs differently than adults.
SAMHSA’s BHB for Florida reported that 34.2 percent of adolescents in the state sought treatment for their MDEs between 2011 and 2015, and 65.8 percent did not receive help. While tens of thousands more adolescents in the state need to get help, about 47,000 did get the help they needed. This reduces the risk of ongoing mental health problems among adult residents in Florida, and it reduces the likelihood that this group will self-medicate with drugs or alcohol in the future.
Among the adolescents who got help in Florida, 84 percent reported functioning better in their daily lives compared to 71.6 percent nationally.
Compared to adolescents, similar rates of adults in Florida seek treatment for their mental health. About 36.1 percent of adults got help between 2011 and 2015 for any mental health struggle, which represented about 906,000 adults per year; however, 63.9 percent of Florida’s adult residents did not get the help they needed for their mental health.
Many of the adults who seek treatment in Florida also struggle with employment. According to SAMHSA’s BHB, only 18.2 percent of adults who sought help in Florida’s public mental health system were employed; 47.8 percent were unemployed; and 34 percent were not in the workforce at all. Fortunately, seeking treatment in the state’s mental healthcare system appears to work for most consumers; 86 percent of adults in the state, compared to 71.8 percent nationally, got help and reported that their functioning was improved after treatment.
There are more people in Florida seeking treatment for addiction than ever before. About 45 percent of people enrolled in treatment in Florida reported a problem with drug abuse, including prescription and illicit substances; 14.5 percent reported a problem with alcohol; and 40.6 percent reported a problem with both alcohol and drugs. Single-day counts of people entering a substance abuse treatment program from 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2015 found that significantly more people were seeking help in 2015 than previous survey years.
With 10,000 more people in Florida seeking help, this suggests that a combination of greater availability through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) — which expanded several Medicaid programs in 2014 and required insurance companies to cover some form of addiction treatment ¬— and better prevention, education, and access to treatment promoted by the state of Florida has helped to improve more Floridians’ lives than ever before.
Importantly, evidence-based treatment, including medication-assisted treatment (MAT), appears to have become more popular in the years between 2011 and 2015. More people in Florida received treatment with methadone and buprenorphine than ever before, which may be part of why Florida’s reports of heroin abuse declined compared to the national average.
Florida’s health department is working with a block grant to create the publicly mandated
Florida Preventive Health & Health Services Block Grant Advisory Committee (PHHSBG), which oversees the creation, implementation, and expansion of treatment programs in the state using federal funds. Since its founding in 2015, the committee has helped to expand treatment in the state, although expansion of Medicaid through the ACA may also contribute to improved rates of addiction treatment admissions as seen in the data above.
There is a prescription drug database to help doctors monitor how many prescriptions a patient has and how often these are refilled, which has been especially important in reducing the number of opioid addiction cases and related deaths across the state. There is also an Office of Medical Marijuana Use, which monitors the production and distribution of this substance, the amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in the plants, and who receives these products, which may reduce the risk of underage people acquiring marijuana. It may also reduce rates of marijuana abuse by lowering THC amounts in medicinal plants.
Since Florida has become notorious as one of the major areas in the country where people abuse prescription and illicit substances at high rates, the state has done a lot to expand drug programs, from prevention education to access to long-term treatment. This has helped many people in the state find the treatment they need, as evidenced above, and it will help to reduce rates of abuse and addiction in the future.
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Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction: Treatment and Recovery. (July 2018). National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
Behavioral Health Barometer, Florida Volume 4. (2016). Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
Community Health and Wellness: #2 Substance Use Trends Data Report Update. (June 30, 2017). Florida Alcohol & Drug Abuse Association (FADAA).
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