With a population of more than 2 million people, Miami-Dade County has numerous treatment centers, support groups and services available for those with substance use disorders.
Unfortunately, substance abuse has an enormous impact on children in Miami. An estimated two-thirds of all children who die in Miami have parents with substance use disorders, and 45 percent of children who are taken away from their parents are removed because of substance abuse. Organizations and rehab centers are available to assist children and families affected by alcohol and drug abuse.
Groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous have hundreds of meetings throughout Miami, Bal Harbour, Coconut Grove, Doral and Coral Gables. Recovery support can be found across the metro area, where individuals who are suffering from substance use disorders can build a solid community and help each other heal.
Miami was once the epicenter for crime and cocaine in the United States. In the 1970s and 1980s, Colombian drug cartels led by notorious kingpins Pablo Escobar and Griselda Blanco took hold of Miami, trafficking massive amounts of cocaine through the city and turning the streets into a battleground.
By 1984, Miami had become the murder capital of the United States. From 1979-1981, nearly 50 percent of Miami murders were drug related and 15 percent were public executions.
“I’ve been through two wars, and no combat zone is as dangerous as Dade County,” Arthur Patten, a former Metropolitan Dade County commissioner, told Time magazine in 1981.
Cocaine use was incredibly high among Miami residents during this era. The drug was even accepted as payment for everyday services such as haircuts and dental work.
In 1980, federal authorities estimated 70 percent of all cocaine and marijuana entering the United States passed through South Florida.
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Miami is no longer as dangerous as it was in the 1970s and 1980s, and drug smuggling is not nearly as prevalent. However, the city is still a popular location for drug trafficking.
Recently, drug traffickers from Venezuela, Haiti and other Caribbean nations have used Miami and South Florida as their entry point for cocaine smuggling operations.
Drug trafficking through the Caribbean increased from 2013 to 2015, according to the DEA’s 2015 National Drug Threat Assessment. Law enforcement has been particularly concerned about cocaine smuggling from Haiti to Miami.
In 2015, crew members on a cargo ship returning to the Miami River from Haiti were caught with 136 kilograms of cocaine. The following year, U.S. Customs and Border Protection seized 1,800 pounds of cocaine from a freight ship on the Miami River.
Cocaine use rates in Miami are the highest out of any region in the country, although cocaine use in the city is not nearly as rampant as it was in the past.
According to a June 2015 report from the Miami Coalition for a Safe and Drug-Free Community, there were approximately 34,419 past-year cocaine users over the age of 12 living in Miami‐Dade and Monroe counties. Miami-Dade County saw 226 cocaine-related deaths in 2013 and 234 in 2014.
Rehab treatment admissions for cocaine are also high in Miami-Dade County. Eighteen percent of all primary treatment admissions to publicly funded rehab facilities in 2014 were for crack or powder cocaine, according to the Florida Department of Children and Families. Of those admissions, 62 percent were males, 59 percent were 35 or older and none were under 18 years old.
“I’ve been through two wars, and no combat zone is as dangerous as Dade County.”
In addition to cocaine, Miami has high rates of use for other drugs. Some illicit substances have been persistent problems for decades, and new substances are emerging as public health threats.
An opioid and heroin epidemic is severely affecting Miami-Dade County in the same manner as rest of the United States, resulting in a rising number of deaths, treatment admissions and crime lab cases.
Pill mills — fraudulent pain clinics that distributed illicit amounts of opioid painkillers — ushered in the initial wave of opioid addiction in Miami and other Florida cities in the early 2000s. These pain clinics were a haven for opioid users who could easily access large amounts of prescription painkillers through a seemingly legal loophole.
In 2010, Florida introduced new laws and regulations to eliminate illicit pain clinics. The crackdown was effective in reducing the number of pill mills in the state; however, thousands of individuals who had become hooked on opioids were suddenly without a supplier. Heroin was a cheap alternative to the opioids they craved, and many turned to the drug when they could no longer get prescription painkillers.
Heroin-related deaths spiked dramatically in Miami-Dade County after the crackdown on pill mills. From 2011 to 2013, heroin-related deaths in Miami-Dade County increased 167 percent – from 15 deaths in 2011 to 40 deaths in 2013.
Miami-Dade County had 246 nonfatal opioid overdoses in 2013. Nearly 90 percent of those who overdosed had never received treatment for opioid abuse.
In 2014, publicly funded treatment facilities in Miami-Dade County admitted 231 people for nonheroin opioid treatment — an increase of more than 27 percent since 2013.
Of those admissions:
South Florida crime lab reports showed an 87 percent increase in opioid-related cases and a 44 percent increase in heroin-related cases from 2013 to 2014.
Some drugs in the Miami area are not as widely used as others, but key substances are becoming more prevalent and have become a concern for law enforcement.
Methamphetamine use is on the rise in South Florida. According to the Miami Coalition for a Safe and Drug-Free Community, crime lab reports involving methamphetamine increased 83 percent from 2013 to 2014 in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties. Private treatment centers in Miami-Dade County reported increased methamphetamine treatment admissions in 2014 and 2015. Private treatment counselors reported a resurgence of methamphetamine abuse among gay men starting in 2012. Of the 27 people admitted to publicly funded treatment programs in Miami-Dade County for methamphetamine use in 2014, 64 percent were male and 67 percent were 18 to 34 years old. Injection was the method of use for 36 percent of those admissions.
Synthetic cannabinoids are man-made substances that mimic the effects of marijuana. Also known as Spice or K2, these substances are unregulated and highly dangerous for human consumption. In 2014, more than 14 percent of Florida poison control calls for synthetic cannabinoids originated in Miami-Dade County.
It is important for those new to recovery to find hobbies and interests that can replace the time they previously spent abusing drugs or alcohol. Miami is an epicenter of entertainment, recreation and unique culture where those in recovery can have a rich and fulfilling life free from substances.
Miami is home to multiple professional sports teams. The Heat has been one of the most successful NBA teams in the history of the league and has won three league championships. The two-time Super Bowl champions the Dolphins is the only team in NFL history to go undefeated through an entire season, and the two-time World Series champions the Marlins provide a spectacular experience at the ball park.
Miami also offers world-renowned entertainment options. The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County is the premier venue for live performances, ballets and orchestras. The Olympia Theater, another gem of Miami, provides a stellar experience for all types of music and performances. Miami also hosts spectacular annual events such as Art Basel — a city-wide art festival that featured nearly 270 galleries from around the world in 2016 — and Ultra, one of the biggest electronic dance music festivals in the world.
The outdoor recreation opportunities in Miami are beyond plentiful. Biscayne Bay is a perfect place to go boating with the family. Anglers can stalk bonefish and permit on crystal clear white-sand ocean flats, and water lovers can kayak, canoe or snorkel. Everglades National Park, Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, and the Barnacle Historic State Park offer a glimpse into the natural side of Florida and provide incredible wildlife viewing opportunities.
Miami and the surrounding area feature some of the nicest shopping districts in the world. In downtown Miami, Bayside Marketplace and Mary Brickell Village provide shopping complete with bayside views and fabulous restaurants. Just south of Miami, CocoWalk in Coconut Grove features big retailers and local boutiques with items for all price ranges and styles. Indoor malls in Bal Harbour and Doral provide traditional shopping experiences for Miami residents and visitors alike.
Miami is the epitome of an international city with dozens of unique cultures. According to the 2015 United States census, 66.8 percent of Miami-Dade County residents are Hispanic or Latino, 18.7 percent are black or African-American and 14.4 percent were white alone. Foreign-born people represented 51.5 percent of the Miami-Dade County population from 2011 to 2015. According to Miami-Dade County Public Schools, district students speak 56 different languages and represent 160 countries.
Miami’s world-class culinary scene offers one-of-a-kind restaurants, cafes and eateries that are sure to satisfy any food craving. Neighborhoods such as Wynwood, South Beach and Brickell feature cuisines from all over the world. For those interested in Miami’s famous food spots, Joe’s Stone Crab has been serving succulent seafood for more than 100 years and remains a Miami favorite today. Versailles Restaurant is possibly the most famous Cuban Restaurant in the world and offers an authentic taste of Miami’s Cuban culture. Michael’s Genuine Food and Drink, a new favorite in Miami, is a neighborhood bistro offering progressive twists on classic dishes.
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Miami-Dade County has historically been one of the most progressive counties in the country when it comes to local substance abuse policies. Recognizing the lasting damage possession charges can cause nonviolent drug offenders later in life, the county was the first in the United States to implement drug courts to divert drug offenders to rehab treatment instead of jail. The county has also pushed for statewide policy change to assist individuals with substance use disorders and to improve how those individuals are treated by the criminal justice system.
Miami-Dade County government has made it a priority to ensure sober living homes are providing legitimate services. In 2014, Miami-Dade County passed a resolution to assess new regulations needed for Miami sober living homes. Since that time, elected officials have worked to ensure those regulations are implemented.
The Miami community is dedicated to preventing substance abuse and helping those with substance use disorders reach sobriety. Organizations and government entities work to keep drugs off the streets, and the Miami-Dade school district focuses on educating youth on the dangers of substance abuse.
This program provides housing for homeless people with substance use disorders. The Specialized Transitional Opportunity Program provides a variety of treatments for people with drug addictions, co-occurring disorders and no safe place to live. The goal of the program is to provide the support program participants need to eventually become self-sufficient and substance free.
The Miami Coalition for a Safe and Drug-Free Community analyzes the most recent information on local drug use trends and creates action plans to reduce the scope of substance abuse in the community. The coalition also focuses on increasing the number of youth who are drug free. The main goal is to collaborate with the proper organizations and individuals to develop drug-free youth, strong families, safe communities and sustainable environments.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration designated South Florida as a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) in 1990. Federal, state and local task forces participate in 23 HIDTA initiatives in South Florida work to prevent drug abuse and addiction by preventing illegal drugs from entering the area from north Broward County to the Florida Keys.
The Miami-Dade County school district employs a number of programs to divert local students from the path that leads to substance abuse and addiction.
The Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program teaches youth about the dangers of substance abuse. Miami police first implemented the program in 1988. It primarily targets elementary-aged children and uses research-based practices for substance abuse and violence deterrence. The program often uses police officers as special speakers at schools to teach kids about the dangers and effects of different drugs.
The Miami-Dade County school district partners with Safe and Drug-Free Schools to implement the To Reach Ultimate Success Together (TRUST) program. The program targets families and students suffering from substance abuse and includes crisis prevention and intervention services. The program also offers services for mental health issues, behavior issues and self-esteem building. TRUST specialists focus on fostering personal relationships with students to help them maneuver through various issues they face.
The Youth Crime Watch of Miami-Dade County and the Miami Division of the DEA work together to promote Red Ribbon Week, a national drug awareness week in October. Communities in Hollywood, Weston, Hialeah, Miami Gardens and Miramar host drug-prevention activities, and the Miami Division of the DEA travels to schools such as Brentwood Elementary, Apollo Middle and South Broward High to provide drug awareness programs.
Miami-Dade County offers several services help individuals with substance use issues reach sobriety and a state of well-being.
The Community Services Division works with the Department of Children and Families Southern Region to provide direct services to county residents affected by substance abuse, co-occurring disorders and homelessness.
Each year, the Central Intake Unit assesses 3,200 indigent Miami residents in need of substance abuse treatment and provides referrals to appropriate services.
Assessment services include:
Individuals can participate with a recommendation from family members, local police, the Department of Corrections and community-based organizations in Miami-Dade County. Walk-ins are accepted as well. Central Intake provides assessments and services for the Eleventh Circuit Court, including the State Attorney and Public Defender’s Offices.
Individuals referred to Central Intake who require residential substance abuse treatment program are referred to level 2 or level 4 inpatient treatment services. Treatment services are offered 24/7 and include individual, group and family therapy, psychological services, educational and vocational skill development, and other supportive services.
The Treatment Alternative to Street Crime Division of Miami-Dade County provides intake and treatment services to those referred by the Miami-Dade Drug Court. The program has three outpatient units located throughout the county. The diversion programs offer nonviolent drug offenders an opportunity to avoid jail time and work toward sobriety at the same time.
This program offers DUI offenders treatment services such as individual and group counseling, substance abuse educational sessions, self-help groups and other supportive services. The program can treat up to 32 offenders at one time. Participants are provided with referrals for aftercare services once they are released from the program.
Miami-Dade County offers vocational services to assist locals with job seeking, skill development and personal growth. Programs feature computer training, farm work training and projects that promote employment skill improvement.
CareerSource South Florida offers assistance in job placement and skills training to adults and youth in the Miami community. Adults can receive assistance with job searching, training for various occupations, job placement and information on the labor market. Events such as workshops and seminars also can be helpful for an individual’s career path. Youth programs are offered to help teens gain an understanding about the workplace and desirable employment skills, all while receiving compensation. Various programs such as in-school and out-of-school youth assistance programs offer assistance to Miami teens at risk for substance abuse.
Miami-Dade County offers a number of skills training services to increase residents’ ability to gain employment. The Computer Training program includes public classes that teach residents how to use personal computers and develop basic office skills. The Farmworkers Training Program offers training and job placement for work in farming, a major industry in South Florida.
Alcohol and marijuana abuse continue to be major problems for college-age adults in Miami, but “harder” drugs result in the highest rates of treatment admissions for students. Colleges in the Miami area offer services for students, faculty and staff that can assist with substance abuse issues and eating disorders.
The University of Miami at Coral Gables takes several steps to prevent substance abuse among students and staff. The Prevention, Intervention, Education and Referral (PIER 21) program provides educational activities that promote awareness of the dangers of substance abuse on campus. UM also requires students seeking prescription medications for ADHD, anxiety or pain relief, or sleep disorders to attend workshops on time management and medication safety.
Florida International University has several initiatives for reducing substance abuse on campus and in the community. The FIU Health Promotion Services at the Student Health Center provides workshops and individual consultations on topics including substance abuse and healthy decisions. Through the FIU Wellness Center, students can participate in educational activities regarding substance abuse at the Modesto Maidique and Biscayne Bay campuses. FIU students can also take advantage of the Body Acceptance Program, which provides counseling, nutritional, medical and psychiatric services to students with body image concerns.
Barry University in Miami Shores gives students multiple resources to prevent and treat substance abuse issues. Student Health Services provides primary health care and can refer people with substance use disorders to reputable treatment providers. Barry’s Counseling Center offers individual and small group counseling sessions for students, and the center provides educational programs for students and staff on topics including substance abuse and addiction.
Support groups in Miami aim to assist residents affected by substance abuse, including the homeless and those most vulnerable to addiction. For those struggling to attain basic needs such as food, clothing and shelter, there are organizations that can help you get back on your feet. Additionally, many organizations work with community members who have struggled with substance abuse to create a healthy living environment that fosters success and well-being.
The Camillus House provides resources to members of the homeless and impoverished population with substance abuse problems in Miami. With 128 beds, the organization expects to be able to help 120 people get jobs and housing every year. Camillus House provides substance abuse and mental health treatment, housing and food.
Concept House also serves men and women with alcohol or drug use problems in Miami. The organization provides housing to the homeless in addition to services on a sliding fee scale, including therapy, education, relapse prevention, life skills, anger management and parenting classes.
The Miami Beach Community Center Healthy Steps program targets parents of children 3 years and younger. The goal is to help parents with histories of substance abuse, depression or domestic stress foster healthy development of their children. Services include health check ups, physical exams, home visits and resources on child development.