Florida Drug Addiction
Each year, more than 75 million people visit Florida for its sandy beaches, resorts and dozens of amusement parks and other entertainment features. More than 350,000 people pour into the state each year as permanent residents. This kind of constant movement through airports, cruise lines and interstates is just what drug traffickers need to cover their movements.
With millions of people from every ethnic group in the world traveling through Florida’s airports, bus stations, railways and highways, drug traffickers can easily conceal themselves and their deadly cargo with little fear of detection. Travelers on cruise ships also bring drugs into the state, and, as in every other state, the U.S. Postal Service and package delivery services are unwitting couriers for drug traffickers.
In ports in Miami, Tampa and Jacksonville, the constant movement of containers carrying cargo makes it very difficult to detect contraband. In Miami alone, more than 9 million tons of cargo pass through that seaport. In February 2009, customs officials selected a container that had just been shipped from Jamaica to Miami for a random inspection. That inspection found more than 3,400 pounds of marijuana hidden inside.
Three High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas
Three regions of Florida present the most challenging situations with regard to the movement and sales of drugs:
- the South Florida metro area,
- Central Florida from the Tampa/St. Petersburg area northeast through Orlando to Volusia County,
- and North Florida from Gainesville through Jacksonville.
The Central Florida region was just recently added to the roster of high intensity drug trafficking regions.
In many parts of the U.S., Mexican drug trafficking organizations predominate. But because of its proximity to the Caribbean, Florida attracts Cubans, Dominicans, Jamaicans, Bahamians, Puerto Ricans and Venezuelans to the drug trafficking game. Once these groups arrive in Florida with their shipments, retail sales are usually carried out in open air markets, clubs, bars, motels, apartment buildings, on beaches or at prearranged spots such as parking lots. As in most other regions, gang members are frequently used for the final leg of distribution, protecting the trafficking organizations from detection and arrest.
Florida’s Biggest Threats
As with most eastern and southern states, cocaine is the biggest threat, along with marijuana. While demand for methamphetamine seems to be rising, levels are low compared to other states. Heroin levels across the state are relatively low except in Boca Raton and Miami-Dade.
More Floridians turn to drug rehabilitation treatment to recover from an addiction to marijuana than any other drug. More than 13,000 people in Florida entered treatment facilities for addiction to marijuana in 2007. Sadly, nearly 47% of these people seeking this drug rehabilitation treatment were between 12 and 17 years old. The same year, nearly 10,000 people sought treatment for addiction to cocaine. In 2007, an estimated 388,000 people needed help for an addiction to an illicit drug but did not get help, and more than a million people failed to get help for a problem with alcohol dependence.
Florida: Trends in Addiction
The patterns of addiction in Florida have been shifting in recent years. Now, people are more often seeking treatment just for illicit drug addiction by itself rather than alcohol addiction or alcohol/drug addiction, possibly related to the increase in prescription drug abuse and addiction.
Controlled prescription drugs cause the highest numbers of deaths from drug overdoses. In 2006, more than 1,400 people died from overdoses to benzodiazepines such as Xanax or a narcotic such as OxyContin. In comparison, 633 people died from cocaine overdoses the same year.
Florida has an unfortunate reputation as a place where it is easy to get prescription drugs to abuse, either through Internet pharmacies located in the state or through one of the many pain management clinics throughout the state. Law enforcement officials in the Appalachian Region reported that some drug dealers were traveling to Florida to obtain illegal prescriptions which were then transported back to Appalachia to be sold on the street for a profit.
One of the latest trends in Florida – as in many other parts of the U.S. – is the proliferation of indoor ‘grows’ of marijuana. In Florida, it’s Cuban drug trafficking organizations who buy real estate cheaply and assign illegal immigrants to care for the plants. The recent real estate decline has enabled these groups to purchase more houses at very low prices so they can expand their operations. Indoor grows are now found in all three high intensity drug trafficking regions in Florida. Between 2006 and 2008, the number of marijuana plants eradicated from indoor grows more than doubled, rising from 36,000 to more than 78,000.
Law enforcement officers in the state expect that the future will bring more indoor grow sites and higher levels of abused prescription drugs. New federal laws have been enacted to help bring te prescription drug abuse problem under control across the country.
Alleviating the Burden of Addiction
In the meantime, too many are becoming trapped in their addictions, risking losing families, jobs, businesses and everything they own to this curse. Then need a way to recover drug-free lives.
And that is what the Narconons of Florida offer. While many drug or alcohol rehabilitation programs offer more drugs to alleviate withdrawal pains or to lift one’s mood – still keeping the addict chained to another substance, no matter how legal – Florida’s Narconon drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers teach addicts how to build a new, entirely drug-free life. By the time they graduate, those who have gone through the Narconon programs in Florida know how to overcome their pasts as addicts.
That’s why seven out of ten Narconon graduates go on to live stably drug-free, ethical, and productive lives.
Department of Drug Education, Prevention, and Information