Addiction in Tallahassee, Florida
Tallahassee, Florida is the state capitol and has an approximate population of 190,895. The north Floridian city additionally houses thousands of students attending Florida State University and Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University. A combination of poverty, student presence, and gang activity has led the city to become a surprising hub of substance abuse. The 4th leading cause of health problems for the Tallahassee population is addiction (alcohol or drug), ranking at 24%.
Unemployment and Substance Abuse
Florida has suffered from some of the highest unemployment rates in the nation during the last several years of the economic recession, which still affects Tallahassee’s population today. Those that are unemployed have a significantly higher tendency to abuse drugs or alcohol to soothe their uncertainties of life and financial burdens. Job loss leads to psychological and social distress that illegal drugs and/or alcohol can seem to calm temporarily. Unemployment also allows for more non-working time that can be used for recreational substance abuse. Although unemployment in the counties surrounding Tallahassee is down 3.6%, the majority of the populations of those counties are still below the poverty line.
19% of Tallahassee’s homeless population are veterans, who also are more likely to turn to alcohol or drugs to ease mental health issues developed during their service. Simultaneous mental health issues and substance use disorders are called co-occurring disorders, which veterans commonly suffer from. Florida, and Tallahassee in particular, has made it a top priority to help homeless veterans and have founded multiple foundations such as Big Bend Homeless Coalition to help ailing veterans; however, it is still a prominent issue.
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Addiction Risk Factors for College Students in Tallahassee
College is often the time when young people begin to engage in substance abuse, and Tallahassee is home to two of the largest universities in Florida: Florida State University and Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University.
It is reported that in 2016, FSUPD made 191 alcohol-related arrests alone. Many students turn to drugs and alcohol as a way to cope with the pressures of college life or fit in with their peers. This can cause students to engage in binge drinking (when a man consumes 5 or more drinks or a woman consumes 4 or more drinks over the course of 2 hours), which has become a normalized part of the “college experience.” This gateway into alcohol may encourage students to abuse other drugs. One of the most commonly abused drugs on Florida college campuses is Adderall, a prescription amphetamine that is falsely believed to boost academic performance and combat the effects of alcohol.
Fraternities and sororities often have new members drink copious amounts as a rite of passage or part of ritualistic hazing, which can lead to alcohol poisoning and even death. One such occasion was the 2017 death of 20-year old FSU Pi Kappa Phi fraternity pledge Andrew Coffey, who fatally suffered from alcohol poisoning during a crowded party on their annual “Big Brother Night.”
Alcohol poisoning symptoms include:
- Shallow breathing
- Clammy, blue-tinged skin
Drug and alcohol use also has a direct link to risky sexual behavior, which may lead to sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancy, and other serious consequences. According to the Leon County Community Health Assessment, the total gonorrhea, chlamydia, and infectious syphilis rate in Leon County (which includes Tallahassee) has dramatically increased since 2005. Forcible sex offenses are also higher in Tallahassee than the Florida average, and one of the main ways in which offenders subdue their victims is with alcohol or benzodiazepines, especially Rohypnol. In 2012 and 2013, there were 55 rape convictions across Florida college campuses with 16 of those convictions being from FSU alone. Not only are these students subject to STD’s, but such a traumatic experience can cause the victim to engage in further substance abuse to cope with the incident.
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Gang Violence and Substance Abuse in Tallahassee
As poverty and crime has increased throughout the city of Tallahassee, so has gang presence and activity. Substance abuse is inextricably linked with gang activity; gang members are more likely than their peers to engage in crime, violence, and substance abuse. According to the Florida Youth Substance Abuse Survey, it is a very common occurrence for Tallahassee students aged 15-17 to witness delinquent activities such as drug sales among gang members at school. Gang youth and young people observing gang activity tend to develop a nonchalant attitude towards illicit drug and alcohol use as it becomes normalized behavior.
I feel like it’s gotten worse… kids today bringing guns and knives to school. They used to fight it out with their fists and be done with it. But now there’s retaliation also. That causes a problem within the community.
Addiction Treatment in Tallahassee
If you are an individual addicted to or abusing alcohol or drugs in the Tallahassee area, don’t worry. You are not alone, and there are resources to help you. Tallahassee is home to over 20 rehab centers and substance abuse treatment facilities, and there are hundreds more throughout the state. If you’re ready to learn more and start your recovery, please contact a rehab provider today.