As an Informed Families board member and the Director of South Miami Hospital’s Addiction Treatment & Recovery Center (ATRC), I’m grateful to share my experience and observations about drug trends from the “front lines” at Baptist Health South Florida. Boy, we really do see it all. On a regular basis, I see many people at their lowest point, struggling with the disease of addiction. For many who attend our programs, I get to witness a wonderful transformation back into good health. However, I am dedicated to doing whatever I can to prevent children and families from getting into drugs in the first place.
Leading up to the start of each school year, we focus our energy on preparing kids for a success, whether by purchasing the necessary school supplies, meeting with new teachers and mapping out our fall schedule. One thing we hope to never worry about is our kids falling into the wrong crowd and adopting new negative and dangerous behaviors, such as using drugs. But, hoping isn’t enough sometimes. As parents, we need to educate ourselves and take action to protect our children. By staying involved with our children, contributing to their self-esteem, setting healthy boundaries, monitoring behavior, getting to know their teachers, knowing their friends, despite any pushback we might get from them, we are truly making a difference and reducing the likelihood that they will get into trouble.
So what are we seeing in 2016?
- While we still see Alcohol as the primary drug of choice for the majority of our clients. While we only treat adults, the good news is that the latest national youth surveys indicate a reduction in underage drinking and binge drinking for all grade levels. However, we have plenty of work to do in this area. Underage drinking is responsible for the death of 4,300 of our children each year.
- There’s been a sharp increase in Florida deaths from a synthetic narcotic called Fentanyl, which is deliberately being sold as heroin, but is up to 50 times stronger. In 2015, the Drug Enforcement Agency and CDC issued nationwide alerts identifying increases in Fentanyl-related overdose deaths (fentanyl deaths) in multiple states, including Florida.
- And it’s not just Fentanyl. Between Fentanyl, heroin and prescription opioids, it’s estimated that every thirty minutes, someone in Florida dies of a drug overdose.
- Lastly, Marijuana use is steady, which comes as no surprise given that what drives increased use is a reduced perception of harm and high availability. With states choosing to legalize recreational marijuana, people of all ages are hearing the message loud and clear that there’s nothing harmful about marijuana. According to the latest national youth survey, the majority of high school seniors do not think occasional marijuana smoking is harmful, with only 31.9 percent saying that regular use puts the user at great risk compared to 78.6 percent in 1991.
What can we do to prevent our children from getting involved in any of these new trends?
We can educate ourselves, our families and our social networks about these issues and work together on a solution. Each of us have the power to make an impact on the environment we’re living in. But, we are more powerful if we work together.
We at the ATRC are tremendously appreciative of our partnership with a wonderful prevention organization like Informed Families to help kids grow up safe, healthy and drug free in South Florida and beyond. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions. I’d be happy to hear from you.
David Vittoria, MSW, CAP, ICADC, NCAC II
Assistant Vice President
Addiction Treatment & Recovery Center, South Miami Hospital