As a behavioral healthcare provider, we’ve been studying substance use and mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic. As South Florida was particularly hard-hit by the pandemic, we wanted to better understand the impact on this area.

We surveyed 500 South Florida residents about their substance use and mental health. Note: Some questions asked respondents to select each option that applied, so in a few instances, the total percentage will be greater than one hundred.

South Florida Cities with the Highest Reported Rates of Drug and Alcohol Use

We asked participants about their alcohol and drug use. Respondents in the following cities reported the highest rates of substance use overall:

  1. Dania Beach (62%)
  2. West Palm Beach (35%)
  3. Lake Worth (33%)

In fact, Dania Beach residents reported the highest rates of all drug types, including benzodiazepines, cocaine, heroin/fentanyl, marijuana, meth and prescription opioids. The cities with the lowest rates of substance use were Pompano Beach, Hollywood and Miami.

When looking at rates of reported alcohol use, respondents in the following cities reported the highest rates of drinking:

  1. Lake Worth (92%)
  2. West Palm Beach (89%)
  3. Hollywood (88%)

Respondents in Pompano Beach, Jupiter and Ft. Pierce/Stuart reported the lowest rates of alcohol use in the survey.

When asked about the reasons for substance use, 57% said to cope with stress and another 37% admitted using a substance to cope with mental health symptoms like depression or anxiety. Close to half said their substance use was recreational/social and over a quarter reported it was to treat pain.

When asked to identify the primary reason for substance use, 28% said to cope with stress and 17% selected coping with mental health symptoms, indicating a need for positive mental health  and other healthy coping strategies in the community.

Mental Health Challenges in the Community

We also asked participants about their mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • 76% said their mental health had been impacted, with 35% reporting a significant impact
  • 73% reported feelings of anxiety/nervousness
  • 67% reported feelings of depression/loneliness
  • 41% reported feelings of anger/agitation
  • 45% reported sleep issues

When asked if there were considering therapy for these symptoms:

  • 11.45% reported being in therapy prior to the COVID-19 pandemic
  • 9.84% are currently in therapy for these symptoms
  • 34.74% are now considering therapy for these symptoms
  • 32.33% are not considering it
  • 11.65% reported that therapy is not an option at this time

While these results were encouraging and demonstrate that part of the community is seeking mental health care, they still highlight an important need for even more mental health awareness and resources.

Resources Are Available to Help Those Struggling with Substance Abuse and Mental Health Concerns

From the onset of the pandemic, substance use increased. Using substances as a way to regulate mental health can start a path to developing an addiction. COVID-19 also increased stress and boredom which are both common drivers of substance use and significant relapse triggers. It’s a critical moment for ensuring those who need support, whether they’re already in recovery or not, are getting it where and when they need it.

While the coronavirus pandemic disrupted access to mental health care in some areas, it also accelerated the availability and growth of teletherapy and telehealth apps. Teletherapy can expand access to care. It’s also a safe, comfortable and convenient option for those who are continuing to limit in-person contact.

To help support South Florida residents facing addiction or mental health concerns, The Recovery Village operates drug and alcohol rehab centers in Lake Worth, Atlantis and Miami, in partnership with Baptist Health South Florida. We offer a full continuum of care, including teletherapy for substance use and mental health conditions. Contact us to learn more about a treatment program that can meet your unique needs.

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