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Drug Trafficking and Addiction in Florida

Florida has been known for decades as one of the centers of the drug trade. Because of its location and 8,000 miles of coastline, Florida is appealing for drug traffickers to smuggle drugs into the United States. This creates the perfect backdrop for more substance abuse problems than many other places in the United States.

Most Heavily Abused Substances in Florida

Florida sees increased addiction rates due to all the drug trafficking in the state. Some of the most abused drugs here include alcohol and marijuana, followed closely by opioids and cocaine. Because these drugs are so readily available, users in Florida are highly addicted. The rate of drug-induced death is higher than the national average. Specifically, cocaine-related fatalities rose for four years in a row by 2016.

According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the opioids that caused the most deaths in Florida in 2016 include fentanyl, morphine, fentanyl analogs (such as carfentanil), oxycodone, and heroin.

Florida has also been hit hard by the opioid addiction crisis much like the rest of the country, and the state has seen a resurgence of methamphetamine use.

Unique Factors That Contribute to Florida’s Drug Use Statistics

1. Beach Destinations

Florida is known for its spring break destinations where college kids come to party and let off some steam. Oftentimes, this includes drug and alcohol use. Plus, local college kids find themselves living this lifestyle year-round and many Florida colleges are known as party schools. Although these factors don’t necessarily equate to inflated Florida drug trafficking statistics, fatalities from alcohol poisoning are higher in Florida than anywhere else.

2. Drug Trafficking

Drug trafficking in Florida has been an ongoing challenge for Florida since the 1980s when it was the center of the cocaine boom. Florida is the major entry point for cartels from Colombia, Venezuela and Mexico, which means the drug trade has found its way into Florida’s economy.

3. Crime

Florida suffers from a high crime rate because of the drug trade. Street gangs handle the retail operations of the trade and then find themselves in violent turf wars as each tries to expands its operations.

4. Meth Comeback

Meth is seeing a resurgence in Florida over recent years. It is no longer made in kitchens, but in major labs in Mexico and then smuggled in to the state where it is readily available. After the government restricted the sale of over-the-counter medications used in the production of meth, it’s popularity waned until recently with the emergence of giant labs run by the cartels.

5. Pill Mills

In the 2010s, unethical doctors flocked to Florida to supply the many people addicted to painkillers. They set up clinics (called pill mills) and sold opioids to anyone who paid.

Drug Trafficking Issues for Residents of Florida

Florida faces unique issues in the battle against substance abuse because of its location and the drug trade. This high level of addiction has created even more problems that are specific to only Florida.

  • Many employers are finding it hard to hire drug-free workers.
  • Opioid and heroin overdoses are so common that naloxone is available over-the-counter.
  • Florida offers many needle exchanges for intravenous drug users. This means users can shoot up in a safe environment and helps to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS and hepatitis.
  • They are expanding drug courts, which allows users to avoid the regular criminal justice system if they meet their treatment goals and stay on track.

The State the Opioid Epidemic in Florida

As reported by NBC 6 South Florida, Florida’s newly elected governor Ron DeSantis and Attorney General Ashley Moody are reviving Florida’s Office on Drug Control. This office was originally established by former governor Jeb Bush to help provide resources to substance abuse programs throughout the state. Former governor Rick Scott shut down the program amidst the surge in opioid abuse, as part of cost-cutting measures.

Under DeSantis and Moody, and with additional funding from the federal government, the office will help align Florida’s strategy in assisting those battling addiction and provide additional resources and guidance in targeting those responsible for distributing drugs in our communities.

This stance from leadership underscores just how serious Florida’s opioid crisis currently is, but it may signal a turning point in the battle to keep our citizens safe.

How Bad Is the Opioid Crisis in Florida?

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Floridians have higher rates of overdose deaths related to opioids than the national average. While painkiller prescription rates are on the decline, Florida providers are still prescribing more than the national average, which may be contributing to the issue.

However, the most alarming surge in overdose-related deaths in the past few years is due to synthetic opioids like fentanyl. Heroin is also playing a significant role in the opioid crisis, because painkillers often serve as a gateway to heroin use.

How Illegal Drugs Enter Florida

Our nation’s border with Mexico has been a hot-button topic for some time. President Trump’s border wall could potentially reduce the amount of drugs flowing in from our neighbors to the south.

However, a recent report from the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) shows that large quantities of illegal drugs often come concealed in large transport vehicles including tractor-trailers, boats and planes.

South Florida is a popular entry point for drug traffickers approaching by air or sea given the thousands of miles of coastline. Some drugs are smuggled in via couriers taking commercial flights. American pilots, stewardesses and other airline personnel are occasionally involved.

The Colombian Cocaine Connection in Florida

The DEA has observed increased production of cocaine in Colombia. Southern Florida is feeling the effects of the surge. Some estimates show a threefold increase of the drug pouring into our area. The surplus has reduced the cost of cocaine on the street which makes it even more accessible to more users. As a result, cocaine overdose deaths have been climbing in recent years.

Get Help at our Florida Rehab Center

With the increasing accessibility of a variety of illicit drugs, addiction is impacting people of all ages and economic standing. It’s a chronic disease that can be complicated by issues like unresolved trauma, but you can recover. With treatment, it’s possible to heal yourself and your family.

Find Life-Saving Drug Rehab at Footprints Beachside Recovery

If you or your loved one has been affected by the drug trade in Florida and has a substance abuse addiction of any kind, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Contact us today to get started.


Cocaine death surge with the rise of drug smuggling in South Florida. (November 17, 2017).

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