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Substance Abuse and Recovery In Fort Lauderdale

Sunny southeastern Florida is home to beauty and beaches. Its proximity to the southern border of the United States, many major seaports, and transportation hubs makes the state a haven for drug trafficking and, therefore, drug abuse and addiction. Located just north of Miami, Fort Lauderdale is the county seat of Broward County.

To determine which drugs are commonly abused in a region, admissions into treatment programs are factored in to determine the primary drugs of abuse.

Alcohol is the No.1 substance of abuse in Broward County based on admission into addiction treatment programs. In 2015, close to a third of all people admitted into an addiction treatment program cited alcohol as the primary drug of abuse.

For adolescents and teenagers under age 18, marijuana was the most commonly cited drug, as more than 90 percent cited it as the primary drug of abuse. Synthetic cathinones (often called bath salts), illicitly made fentanyl, heroin, prescription opioids, and cocaine are also drugs of concern in Broward County. In addition, benzodiazepines like alprazolam (Xanax) are also commonly misused and combined with other drugs when abused.

Just like in many other parts of the country Fort Lauderdale and Broward County are in the midst of a public health crisis surrounding opioid abuse, addiction, and fatal overdoses. There are many measures being taken on a statewide and local level to provide residents with resources for prevention, intervention, treatment, and recovery.


Overdose deaths related to opioids are higher in Florida than the national averages. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) publishes that about 14.4 people per 100,000 residents died from an opioid-related overdose in Florida in 2016 compared to the national average of 13.3 per 100,000 people. There were close to 3,000 drug overdose deaths involving an opioid in Florida in 2016, around half of which involved a synthetic opioid.

Addictive pills spilling over a model of the U.S.

Synthetic drugs are man-made, which means they are often made in illegal laboratories. These drugs are unregulated, and many of them, like the opioid drug fentanyl, are extremely potent and highly dangerous. The death toll from synthetic opioids has spiked in recent years, and Sun Sentinel reports that fentanyl is likely one of the main culprits to the dramatic rise in overdose deaths in Broward County.

Heroin overdoses are an issue in the county. Of the 1,642 opioid overdoses that were treated in emergency rooms in Broward County in 2017, about 85 percent involved heroin.

In May 2017, Gov. Rick Scott of Florida issued a state of emergency executive order in regard to the opioid crisis, and in February 2018, this order was extended. This order aims to address the public health concern and reduce the number of opioid-related overdose deaths. Florida has several important pieces of legislature that serve this purpose.


The Electronic-Florida Online Reporting of Controlled Substances Evaluation Program (E-FORCSE) tracks prescriptions of potentially diverted substances to reduce misuse and possible dangerous prescription patterns.


This helps to crack down on overprescription of opioid drugs by targeting pill mills and holding health care providers more accountable, which, in turn, regulates the dispensing of narcotics and controlled substances.


This law provides immunity for individuals who report an overdose or attempt to help someone suffering from an overdose by administering aid. House Bill 249 also requires that overdoses involving controlled substances be reported.


This law expands requirements for reporting prescription drug dispensing via E-FORCSE, sets up limits on opioid prescriptions, and establishes requirements for prescribers to undergo continuing education for the prescribing of controlled substances.


This allows pharmacies in Florida to dispense the opioid-overdose reversal drug naloxone (Narcan) to anyone who may need it without a prescription. First responders and laypeople are allowed to administer the drug in an attempt to save a life.


The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) publishes that Florida has been granted federal funding to better track opioid overdoses to get a handle on the crisis.


This allows family members and loved ones to obtain help for a person who is in danger due to substance abuse and/or addiction via involuntary commitment.

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Florida’s Opioid State Targeted Response Project aims to increase access to treatment for all residents across the state, including evidence-based prevention models, medication-assisted treatment (MAT) methods, and recovery support services in its offering. Florida is a state that uses a local approach to treatment. Each county has its own managing entity that oversees the public health care in the region.

For residents of Fort Lauderdale, which is located in Broward County, services are provided or managed through the Broward Behavioral Health Coalition (BBHC), which oversees a network of community-based providers as designated by the Florida State Department of Children and Families (DCF). DCF offers detox, treatment, and recovery services to residents of Florida through these community-based providers for the care of substance abuse and addiction.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health (SAMH) Program oversees treatment, recovery, and prevention resources as the state authority for both mental health and substance abuse services in Florida. Public health services are funded through state and federal funds, and they are provided to residents who are in one of the targeted or priority populations, who qualify for a service that Medicaid doesn’t cover, who have no other source to pay for treatment, or who fall below the federal poverty standards.

If finances are an issue but the person is not under the federal poverty line, services can still be provided for a charge and payment can be arranged on a sliding scale.

Services offered and covered by state and community-based public providers:

  • Prevention services, such as educational programs, outreach, and community-based approaches
  • Assessment services to determine the type and level of care needed
  • Intervention and crisis services for referrals as well as immediate and short-term aid
  • Rehabilitation services and programs, including group and individual therapy, medication management, case management, and medical treatment offered through outpatient or residential programs
  • Ancillary services, which can include transitional housing, recovery support, and aftercare programs

Public treatment options for substance abuse and addiction services in Fort Lauderdale are provided in priority order to children at risk, parents battling addiction who may put children at risk, individuals batting addiction with a history of intravenous (IV) drug use, those who have co-occurring disorders, people of specifically designated priority populations, and those who are court-ordered into treatment. Private substance abuse and addiction treatment services can be offered to anyone seeking help, and providers often accept insurance to help pay for care.


The Florida DCF provides resources and information on substance abuse, treatment services, and how to find local help. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) hosts the Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator, an online tool to help people find local resources based on their zip code anywhere in the United States.
For immediate help at any time of day or night, residents can contact 2-1-1 Broward for crisis support to talk to a counselor who can provide information and referrals to services. The Broward Connections Guidebook also hosts resources for substance abuse services in the local community.

The Florida Department of Health in Broward County can offer information and education for residents on a variety of health-related topics. Finally, the United Way of Broward County strives to enhance the well-being of the entire community by offering support to families and individuals affected by substance abuse and addiction.

Residents of Fort Lauderdale have many resources when it comes to finding help for drug abuse or addiction. Resources range from crisis intervention to comprehensive treatment and recovery services.


(June 2016). Drug Abuse Trends in Broward County, Florida Annual Report: June 2016. United Way of Broward County Commission on Substance Abuse. from

(February 2018). Opioid-Related Overdose Deaths. National Institute on Drug Abuse. from

(October 2017). Fentanyl Fuels Rise in Drug Deaths in South Florida. Sun Sentinel. from

(August 2018). Heroin Overdoses in Broward County Remain at Record Levels. WLRN. from

(February 2018). State of Florida Office of the Governor Executive Order Number 18-47. Department of State. from

(August 2018). E-FORCSE Homepage. Florida Health. from

(2017). CS/CS House Bill 249. Florida House of Representatives. from

(2018). Florida Take Control. Florida Health. from

Law Enforcement Naloxone Training. Florida Department of Children and Families Office of Substance Abuse and Mental Health. from

(October 2017). Enhanced State Opioid Overdose Surveillance. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. from

(2003). Marchman Act Handbook 2003. State of Florida Department of Children and Families Substance Abuse Program. from

(2014). Florida's Opioid State Targeted Response Project. Florida Department of Children and Families. from

(2014). Treatment for Substance Abuse. Florida Department of Children and Families. from

(2014). Substance Abuse. Florida Department of Children and Families. from

(August 2017). Florida Uniform Application FY 2018/2019- State Behavioral Health Assessment and Plan Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment and Community Health Services Block Grant. Center for Substance Abuse Prevention Division of State Programs. from

(2014). Get Help. Florida Department of Children and Families. from

Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. from

(2018). 2-1-1 Broward. 2-1-1 Broward. from

Broward Connections Guidebook- A Guide to Behavioral Health Services. Broward Connections. from

(2018). United Way Broward. United Way of Broward County. from

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