Delray Beach, Florida is a small city located in Palm Beach County. Found in the southeastern portion of the Sunshine State on the Atlantic Coast, Delray Beach is home to almost 68,000 people, whose median age is between 42 and 47 years old. Almost 86 percent of residents have graduated from high school, and around 35 percent are college graduates.
Although Delray Beach has beautiful ocean views and a bucolic location just outside several major tourist attractions, residents of the town struggle with drug and alcohol abuse. Palm Beach County has been considered the epicenter in Florida for the opioid epidemic, and Delray Beach has suffered from high rates of opioid addiction and overdose death. Other drugs have caused problems in the city and county for several years as well.
Drug and alcohol abuse are major problems across the United States, including in Florida, but Palm Beach County has a unique population that struggles in specific ways with drugs. Although alcohol is still the most abused drug in Delray Beach, which is true of the U.S. as a whole, and the opioid addiction epidemic is ravaging residents of Palm Beach County, the area of Delray Beach is more exposed to cocaine, meth, and synthetic drugs like Spice or flakka than most other parts of the country.
Although alcohol is legal for people ages 21 and older to buy and drink in the U.S., it is one of the most widely abused intoxicants in the country, and Delray Beach is no exception. In 2014, there were a reported 1,926 admissions to Palm Beach County programs who reported that alcohol was their primary substance of abuse.
Between 2012 and 2014, binge alcohol abuse among Palm Beach County residents, ages 12 and older, was similar to other counties in Florida: 230,847 people reported binge drinking, or about 20 percent of Palm Beach County residents, compared to 19 percent in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties and 20 percent in Broward County. About 63 percent of public high-school students in Palm Beach County reported abusing alcohol at least once in their lives in 2015.
Like many other parts of the country, between 2000 and 2010, Palm Beach County experienced an increase in the prescription and diversion of pharmaceutical opioid drugs, which are typically prescribed to manage pain. Because of increased abuse of these substances, there was an increase in overdose deaths involving narcotics. Since 2010, when the state of Florida and many other parts of the United States cracked down on prescription opioids, there has been an increase in heroin abuse, which has led to a corresponding increase in overdoses from this more potent and usually more adulterated narcotic. There was a decline in opioid-related deaths in Florida in 2011, but the following year, overdose deaths picked back up again. They have remained high in Florida not just because of heroin addiction, but also due to the addition of potent narcotics like fentanyl.
There also was a corresponding increase in admissions to detox and rehabilitation programs around Florida, including in Palm Beach County. In 2014, there were 1,225 admissions to Palm Beach County treatment programs involving opioids other than heroin, making up 21.5 percent of the overall admissions for addiction treatment.
Palm Beach County as a whole has continued to suffer high rates of heroin, fentanyl, and other opioid addiction, overdose, and death; however, Delray Beach specifically saw a drop in overdoses and deaths in 2017. There were 65 fewer overdoses and eight fewer fatalities than in 2016, according to Delray Beach police data. In November 2017, there were 17 overdoses in the small city; this was a dramatic drop from November 2016, which reported 77 overdoses. In October 2017, there were 25 overdoses, but the previous October, there were 96 overdoses, a record high for Delray Beach.
This is also a widely abused drug, which can be addictive for many people. In Palm Beach County, reported rates of marijuana abuse among residents age 12 and older were similar to other southeastern Florida counties: 6 percent, or 70,777 residents, in Palm Beach County, compared to 5 percent in Miami-Dade/Monroe and 7 percent in Broward County. About 42 percent of Palm Beach County high-schoolers reported abusing marijuana at least once by 2015.
In 2014, there were 1,105 admissions to treatment programs in Palm Beach listing marijuana as their primary substance of addiction. This was the second most-seized drug in 2014 after cocaine. Admissions to treatment involving marijuana made up 19 percent of all Palm Beach County drug treatment admissions in 2014.
Although marijuana is rarely deadly, it is very addictive, and it is often abused alongside other substances. Because of this form of polydrug abuse, marijuana was detected in 492 deaths across the state of Florida in the first six months of 2014. This was a 23 percent increase from the 401 reports in the same period in 2013. In one occurrence in 2014, marijuana was reported as the cause of death.
There were 295 people entering addiction treatment in Palm Beach County in 2014 who listed cocaine and/or crack cocaine as their primary drug of abuse. Cocaine-related deaths in Palm Beach County increased between 2012 and 2014 by 53 percent compared to the lower 10 percent increase across Florida in general. Most people seeking treatment for cocaine abuse and addiction were 35 or older, and they typically abused other drugs along with cocaine, especially alcohol and benzodiazepines. In Palm Beach County in 2014, there were 184 primary treatment admissions for smoking crack cocaine and 111 for snorting powdered cocaine.
About 7 percent of Palm Beach County’s high-school students reported abusing cocaine at least once by the time they were surveyed in 2015.
Synthetic cannabinoids and cathinones ravaged South Florida for several years, between 2012 and 2016. In 2014, alpha-PVP, typically called flakka, caused a series of overdoses and hospitalizations. In the first months of 2014, there were 10 calls to Florida poison control centers in Palm Beach County involving flakka; however, by the first quarter of 2015, there was only one such call in Palm Beach County. In the first half of 2014, there were two deaths involving synthetic cannabinoids, with one of those noting that the drug was the cause of death; in the same period in 2013, there were 26 overdose deaths involving synthetic cannabinoids, with 13 being caused by the drug.
Since then, cathinones like bath salts have largely disappeared from the area, and synthetic pot (fake weed) like Spice is difficult to find. This has to do with rapidly changing laws in Florida restricting the import and empowering law enforcement to seize those drugs.
Other synthetic substances, like ecstasy or Molly, also cause problems, but not on a large scale. MDMA was listed by eight people in 2014 as their primary drug of abuse when they entered treatment. In 2014, there were only 86 reported cases of Molly in the entirety of southeastern Florida compared to 299 in 2011.
In 2014, 12 people listed meth as their main drug of abuse when entering treatment in Palm Beach County. While there are few instances of meth abuse in Florida overall, the state experiences higher rates than most of the U.S., especially among men who have sex with other men. It is believed that meth is being produced illicitly in Mexico and brought across the border into the U.S. Florida is one of the hubs for import, exposing more Florida residents to the drug.
In Palm Beach County in 2014, there were 143 people who listed benzodiazepines as their primary drug of abuse; of these, 56 percent were women. Benzodiazepines ranked fifth among all substances seized and analyzed by law enforcement in three counties: Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade.
Across Florida, there were 1,954 total reports of benzodiazepines present in people who died from drug overdoses in the first half of 2014, which represented a 15 percent decline in such reports since 2013 and a 25 percent decrease since that time frame in 2012. Alprazolam (Xanax) was the most commonly reported benzodiazepine followed by nordiazepam, diazepam, and temazepam.
Since southeastern Florida cities like Delray Beach are close to where illicit drugs are imported from all over the world, especially China, Mexico, and South American countries, law enforcement is the primary method for preventing and stopping drug abuse. However, residents of Delray Beach also have access to many great addiction treatment programs, starting with detox, moving through behavioral treatment at rehabilitation programs, and finishing with a custom aftercare plan. This care can help Delray Beach’s citizens stay sober and healthy.
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(November 2017). Southeastern Florida (Miami Area) Sentinel Community Site (SCS) Drug Use Patterns and Trends, 2017. National Drug Early Warning System (NDEWS). Retrieved October 2018 from https://ndews.umd.edu/sites/ndews.umd.edu/files/florida-scs-drug-use-patterns-and-trends-2017-final.pdf
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