Orlando Metro Area Addiction Centers

Orlando Metro Area TreatmentHome to big theme parks and a bustling tourism industry, Orlando, Florida, is a prime destination and vacation city for many. With a resident population of 262,372, Orlando is a bustling and busy city.

Almost 20 percent of the city’s population is below the poverty level.1 Located in central Florida, Orlando is in Orange County, and it is in an at-risk area for drug trafficking and smuggling. The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) places Orlando inside the Central Florida High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA), which includes the counties of Orange, Seminole, Osceola, Polk, Volusia, Pinellas, and Hillsborough.2 Orlando may be a shipment hub for cash and drugs, especially marijuana coming from Mexico.3 Controlled prescription drug trafficking, diversion, and abuse, as well as cocaine use, are also concerns in this region of Central Florida.4

With the increased presence of drugs may also come drug abuse. Within Florida, an estimated 8 percent of the population are considered current drug abusers (according to a survey done on past-month drug abuse in 2008).5 While this is similar to the national drug abuse average, the drug overdose rate for Floridians is higher than the rest of the country; Florida ranks 11th in drug overdose mortality rates in the United States.6 More than 4,000 Florida residents had one or more drugs in their system at their time of death in just the first six months of 2014.7 In many of these cases, a drug overdose was the cause of death.

Addiction is another potential side effect to drug abuse, and it often co-occurs with mental illness as well. An estimated 660,000 adults and 181,000 children in Florida suffered from mental illness at the time of the national survey in 2010.8 Mental health and substance abuse both fall into the category of behavioral health, and both conditions are highly treatable with the proper type and level of care.

The Rise and Fall of Pill Mills

pill mills floridaOpioid pain pills like OxyContin (oxycodone) and Vicodin (hydrocodone) effectively block pain sensors in the brain. Perhaps an unintended consequence, they also activate the reward and pleasure centers by increasing dopamine levels. When abused a rush of euphoria, or high, occurs, thereby increasing the abuse potential of these drugs. As the demand for these drugs rose, retail pill mill outlets began springing up all over Florida. Due to its easy access to the rest of the country, Orlando became a hub for the diversion of controlled prescription drugs (CPDs).

In 2009, the Orlando Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation (MBI) reported a big jump of CPD-related investigations since 2007, from 10 percent to 70 percent of their cases.9 In 2011, there were over 850 pain clinics and only seven of the top 100 oxycodone prescribing doctors in the US were not located in Florida in 2010.10

Prescription drug overdose deaths skyrocketed 61 percent as well from 2003 to 2009, as almost 3,000 Floridians died in 2009 from a fatal prescription overdose.11 Many of these deaths were also related to the abuse of prescription benzodiazepines, or sedatives and tranquilizers, such as alprazolam (Xanax) and diazepam (Valium).12

The state government enacted the Florida Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) to better control the epidemic and keep track of these controlled substances. Local law enforcement paired with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to crack down on these pill mills and doctors engaging in CPD diversion.13 Perhaps as a direct result, prescription drug overdose fatalities fell over 17 percent from 2010 to 2012 and the number continues to decline.14

Oxycodone deaths dropped another 20.1 percent and alprazolam-relate deaths fell 13.5 percent from the first six months of 2013 to the first six months of 2014.15 While this is good news, unfortunately, other drugs have stepped in as cheaper and more attractive alternatives. Heroin is another opioid drug that may produce a similar high to opioid narcotics; heroin incidents increased almost 120 percent and overdose fatalities related to heroin rose by close to 103 percent from January to June of 2014 compared to the same time period in 2013 in Florida.16 In Orange County, there were 90 reported drug overdoses related to heroin in 2014, and 36 of them were fatal, representing a 58 percent increase in heroin overdose incidents and a 40 percent increase in heroin-related deaths since 2013.17

New Drugs Appear on the Scene

Synthetic drugs are rising in popularity. This category includes both synthetic, or man-made, cannabinoids and cathinones. Synthetic cannabinoids have extremely high and potent levels of THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, the active ingredient in marijuana. Often marketed in smoke shops as incense, these synthetic drugs include SpiceK2, and a hash oil or wax called Budder. These drugs are highly dangerous. Individuals may never be exactly sure how their bodies will react to even one dose of the drug. Florida Poison Information Centers received 537 calls related to synthetic cannabinoids in 2012.18

Other synthetic drugs that are usually made in illegal laboratories around the state include methamphetamine, MDMA (ecstasy), and an equivalent called Molly. Molly may be heralded and marketed underground as pure MDMA, a stimulant, but it is usually cut with a variety of other agents and may have many different fillers in the tablets. In Central Florida, Molly may be imported and shipped from China, and it is popular in the local club scene.19 Molly can increase body temperature and heart rate to dangerous levels as well as cause confusion and an altered state of mind.

Incidents involving the stimulant drug methamphetamine, or meth for short, increased in the first half of 2014 over the first half of 2013 almost 35 percent, although overall meth cases only represented a small percentage of the abused drugs in Florida.20

A relatively new drug Alpha-PVP also called flakka or gravel, is also making its way onto the streets of Florida. The popularity of this mind-altering drug seems to be increasing within the Sunshine State. A designer drug that comes in crystal form and can be smoked, snorted, swallowed, injected, or vaped in an e-cigarette, flakka is similar in context to other stimulant drugs labeled bath salts, which are synthetic cathinones. This particular designer drug can cause drastic hallucinations, delusions, mood swings, and high temperature spikes when taken. There were 670 reported cases around the country in 2014, with many of those reports coming from Florida.21

Dangerous Drugs Commonly Abused in Orange County

In 2013, approximately 50,025 people were admitted to a substance abuse treatment program in the state of Florida.22 According to national data, close to 89 percent of individuals needing treatment for a drug or alcohol abuse or dependency problem in 2013 did not receive care a specialized treatment facility.23 This means that there are a large number of people who may benefit from treatment, but are not actively receiving it.

Within Florida, substance abuse treatment admissions listing the primary substance of abuse and the number of individuals for each substance during 2013 were as follows:

  • Opioids (not including heroin and primarily referring to prescription pain relievers): 12,787
  • Alcohol (on its own): 12,552
  • Marijuana9,824
  • Alcohol including a secondary drug: 4,361
  • Heroin2,597
  • Cocaine (smoked, generally “crack”): 2,044
  • Unknown and other drugs not listed: 1,796
  • Cocaine (any other route of administration): 1,233
  • Amphetamines: 1,377
  • Tranquilizers: 925
  • Sedatives: 368
  • Hallucinogens99
  • Stimulants (not already listed): 30
  • Inhalants: 30
  • PCP: 224

Marijuana surpassed alcohol in treatment admissions for the year 2013 in Florida, as it is fairly easily accessible and available within the state, trafficked in across the border from Mexico, and also grown locally.25 According to a 2012 survey, almost 18 percent of high school students in Florida’s Orange County had used marijuana in the past month.26
Alcohol is cheap, legal to those over the age of 21, and easy to find. Alcohol dependency and abuse issues may be compounded by mental health disorders, history of addiction, and the use of other drugs as well. Across the entire country, alcohol is the most frequently used addictive substance, and one in every 12 adults may be battling alcohol dependence or abuse.27

Cocaine has long been a scourge in Central Florida, and in 2011, out of the 30 law enforcement regions in the area, 11 of them listed cocaine as the number one drug threat in their jurisdiction.28 Interstate-4, which runs through Orlando, may be frequently used for trafficking illicit drugs in private and commercial vehicles through the state and beyond into the rest of the country.

Orange County Behavioral Health Services

The homeless population in Florida is high, as an estimated 41,335 people on any given day in January of 2014 were considered to be homeless.29 Central Florida may be a nexus for individuals that are chronically homeless. On any chosen day in January of 2014, approximately 1,701 people were homeless in Orange County.30 The number of homeless students is also high, and Orange County has the biggest population in the state of Florida with an estimated 6,700 homeless public school students in 2014.31

These individuals, adults and children alike, may not generally have access to the same levels of care as others and may suffer from substance abuse and mental illnesses without the proper treatment. The Health Care Center for the Homeless (HCCH) seeks to change that and operates both a clinic and a mobile care unit offering medical and mental health services to the homeless population of the greater Orlando metro area, serving those in need in Orange, Seminole, and Osceola Counties.32

Suicide may be a real risk factor for those battling mental illness. In the state of Florida suicide is the ninth leading cause of death, which is higher than the national level, as almost 3,000 people committed suicide in Florida in 2013.33

Untreated mental illness and substance abuse or dependency issues may not only carry substantial health risks, but also may be linked to the potential to commit crimes. About 30 percent of the inmates in Orange County, for example, may suffer from mental illness.34 Florida is second to last in the country when it comes to state funding for the most basic mental health services.35 Public mental health services in Florida serve only a fraction more than a quarter of the population battling serious mental illness within the state. Often, individuals may need to seek out other options such as private facilities in order to obtain the level of care required.36

Military veterans have the option of utilizing a Veterans Affairs (VA) hospital. The Orlando VA Medical Centerprovides a host of medical and mental health services, including those involving substance abuse, for military veterans.37 Florida residents may use the search tool on the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) website to locate local providers of behavioral health services as well as those who meet the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service’s (SAMHSA’s) qualifications.3839

Most private mental health and substance abuse facilities have professionals on staff who can help identify methods of funding for treatment and help to determine what insurance companies may pay to aid in offsetting costs. Private facilities have the benefit of providing high levels of individualized and comprehensive care suited to each unique person. Both private and public behavioral health programs may offer a wide range of services, from inpatient care, medical detox, and crisis management to outpatient care, prevention efforts, ongoing support, family education, and recovery care.

Getting Drug and Alcohol Addiction Treatment in Orlando

Central Florida in general, and Orlando in particular, struggles with being a center for illegal drug importing, which means there is also rampant substance abuse. Fortunately, there are options from city, state, and nonprofit agencies to address the issue.

Florida Health, the state’s health and human services department, provides a list of online resources for mental and behavioral issues, including substance abuse. Florida’s Department of Children and Families (DCF) also keeps a lengthy list, with the help of the Florida Association of Recovery Residencies (FARR), of high-quality, certified treatment programs across the state, by county. Search Orange County, and there are dozens of results for drug and alcohol treatment programs available.

The Sunshine State is home to many military bases and veterans who resettled there after tours of duty. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers benefits to veterans, including mental and behavioral treatment programs to overcome substance abuse. Some of these programs are conveniently located for Orlando residents.
Getting Drug and Alcohol Addiction Treatment in OrlandoThe Florida Alcohol & Drug Abuse Association (FADAA) maintains a list of resources for those struggling with substance abuse and their families. Another nonprofit, the Florida Safety Council, also has a list of treatment providers across Orange County who offer mental and behavioral health counseling.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is a federal organization that maintains a high-quality database of mental and behavioral services. These can be searched by location through their online treatment locator; people in crisis can also call their hotline and receive referrals for help immediately. The Psychology Today website also maintains a lengthy, easy-to-search list of treatment providers. In Orlando, search options can be narrowed down by detox and rehab, type of drug rehabilitation, length of stay, and more.

Finally, for those in Orlando who need low cost or free treatment, the Salvation Army has an adult rehabilitation program.


  1. (Sep. 2015). “Orlando (city), Florida.” United States Census Bureau. Accessed September 17, 2015.
  2. (Sep. 2011). “Central Florida High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Drug Market Analysis 2011.” U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). Accessed September 17, 2015.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid.
  5. (n.d.) “Florida Drug Control Update.” Executive Office of the President of the United States. Accessed September 17, 2015.
  6. (Oct. 2013). “Drug Abuse 2013 Data for Florida.” Trust for America’s Health (TFAH). Accessed September 17, 2015.
  7. (April 2015). “Drugs Identified in Deceased Persons by Florida Medical Examiners Interim Report 2014.” Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Accessed September 17, 2015.
  8. (2010). “State Statistics: Florida.” National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Accessed September 17, 2015.
  9. (Sep. 2011). “Central Florida High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Drug Market Analysis 2011.” U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). Accessed September 17, 2015.
  10. Silvestrini, E. (Aug. 2014). “Florida Heals from Pill Mill Epidemic.” The Tampa Tribune (TBO). Accessed September 17, 2015.
  11. (June 2014). “Decline in Drug Overdose Deaths After State Policy Changes.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Accessed September 17, 2015.
  12. Ibid.
  13. Ibid.
  14. Ibid.
  15. (April 2015). “Drugs Identified in Deceased Persons by Florida Medical Examiners Interim Report 2014.” Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Accessed September 17, 2015.
  16. Ibid.
  17. Dostis, M. (Dec. 2014). “Heroin Overdose Deaths Spike in Orange.” Orlando Sentinel. Accessed September 17, 2015.
  18. Hall, J. (June 2013). “Drug Abuse Trends in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties, South Florida; June 2013.” UWBC Commission. Accessed September 17, 2015.
  19. Pavuk, A. (Sept. 2013). “Club Drug Molly Emerges as Threat in Orlando.” Orlando Sentinel. Accessed September 17, 2015.
  20. (April 2015). “Drugs Identified in Deceased Persons by Florida Medical Examiners Interim Report 2014.” Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Accessed September 17, 2015.
  21. Glatter, R. MD. (Apr. 2015). “Flakka: the New Designer Drug You Need to Know About.” Forbes. Accessed September 17, 2015.
  22. (July 2015). “Substance Abuse Treatment by Primary Substance of Abuse, According to Sex, Age, Group, Race and Ethnicity.” Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS).Accessed September 17, 2015.
  23. (Sept. 2014). “Results from the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of National Findings.” Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Accessed September 17, 2015.
  24. (July 2015). “Substance Abuse Treatment by Primary Substance of Abuse, According to Sex, Age, Group, Race and Ethnicity.” Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS).Accessed September 17, 2015.
  25. Ibid.
  26. (n.d.). “Facts About Marijuana Abuse.” Orange County, Florida Families, Health and Social Services. Accessed September 17, 2015.
  27. (n.d.) “Alcohol and Drug Information.” National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. (NCAAD). Accessed September 17, 2015.
  28. (Sep. 2011). “Central Florida High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Drug Market Analysis 2011.” U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). Accessed September 17, 2015.
  29. (June 2014). “Council on Homeless 2014 Report.” Department of Children and Families (DCF). Accessed September 17, 2015.
  30. Ibid.
  31. Santich, K. (Mar. 2015). “Soaring Number of Homeless Students Concentrated in Central Florida.” Orlando Sentinel. Accessed September 17, 2015.
  32. (2014). “Health Care Center for the Homeless, Inc.” National Healthcare for the Homeless Council. Accessed September 17, 2015.
  33. (n.d.). “The FACTS/Statistics.” The Florida Suicide Prevention Coalition. Accessed September 17, 2015.
  34. Santich, K. (Mar. 2014). “Florida’s Mental Health Spending Lags Most of Nation’s.” Orlando Sentinel. Accessed September 17, 2015.
  35. Ibid.
  36. (2010). “State Statistics: Florida.” National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Accessed September 17, 2015.
  37. (June 2015). “Orlando VA Medical Center.” U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.Accessed September 17, 2015.
  38. (2014). “Get Help.” Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF). Accessed September 17, 2015.
  39. (n.d.) “Behavioral Health Services Treatment Locator.” Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Accessed September 17, 2015.
The Price of Not Getting Help
When contemplating the costs of addiction treatment for yourself, child, or loved one, consider the costs, or consequences, of “things as they are now.” What would happen if the substance abuse or addiction continued? Contact Recovery First, and we will help you or your loved one get the treatment needed to stop the dangerous, progressive effects of addiction.