Revised November 2013
Drug Abuse Trends in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties, South Florida: June 2013
James N. Hall
Summary of Key Findings for the 2012 Reporting Period:
- Deaths related to nonmedical use of prescription opioids declined 17 percent across Florida in the first half of 2012 compared with the previous 6 months.
- There was an increase in injection drug use among a new, young adult cohort of prescription opioid injectors, heroin initiates, and methamphetamine users in South Florida.
Significant shifts in drug abuse patterns were underway in 2012. Cocaine consequences stabilized or increased following several years of steady declines.
Heroin indicators were rising, while deaths related to nonmedical prescription drug abuse declined sharply in the first half of 2012.
The number of synthetic cannabinoids (e.g., “K2,” “Spice,” and “Mr. Nice Guy”) and substitute cathinones (e.g., “bath salt” stimulants) detected by South Florida crime laboratories increased tenfold between 2011 and 2012. While local retail sales of these now mostly illegal drugs have diminished, new venues of illicit distribution were appearing, ranging from online orders to courier delivery services, as street and club sales also continued.
Consequences of marijuana use and addiction continued at high levels, particularly among adolescents and young adults. Miniature vaporizers disguised as pens were widely available and used for heating glycerin cannabinoid cartridges whose smokeless vapor is inhaled.
Numerous anecdotal sources reported increasing methamphetamine use, particularly among men who have sex with other men (MSM) and heterosexual heavy club drug users. Emergency department (ED) reports for “ecstasy” pills of unknown composition increased in the South Florida area, as reports of methylone sold as “Mollys” also increased.
Deaths related to nonmedical use of prescription opioids declined 17 percent across Florida in the first half of 2012 compared with the previous 6 months. That is when numerous diversion control strategies were launched, including the State’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program. The decline translates to eight fewer deaths per week across the State attributable to prescription drug overdoses. Opioid-related deaths declined in the two South Florida counties as well. Overdose fatalities linked to other prescription medications also decreased locally and statewide.
Drug use prevalence and consequence trends do not always rise or fall together. Between 2008 and 2010 Broward County experienced the highest rates among all other counties in the Nation of prescription opioid diversion, “pill mill” retail sales, high-level opioid dispensing practitioners, prescription drug deaths, and medical emergencies; it also reported the lowest prevalence rate in the Nation for nonmedical use of prescription pain relievers. The Broward County rate of 3 percent for residents reporting any past-year use of a prescription pain reliever was the lowest percentage for any of the 362 substate regions within the 50 States and the District of Columbia, as reported by the 2008–2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health Substate Estimates of Substance Use and Mental Disorders, released in 2012.
Injection Drug Use
In 2012, there was an increase in injection drug use among a new, young adult cohort of prescription opioid injectors, heroin initiates, and methamphetamine users. Most of these new injection drug users (IDUs) were born after 1990 and were only toddlers when the public learned about the high risk of infected syringes, as well as how to clean them.
A public health threat of increased human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and hepatitis C transmission is already occurring.