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Opioid Deaths Among Florida Teens Rise During COVID

Written by: Melissa Lyon Edited by: Jonathan Strum

Group of Teens experimenting with smoking and drinking

Opioid-related deaths are on the rise in Florida during COVID-19, so teens may be at a higher risk. Educate your teen to help them avoid drug use or recover if necessary.

Adolescents are facing many new struggles during the COVID-19 pandemic. They’ve spent most of the year isolated at home, attending school virtually and missing out on events like birthday parties, graduations and gatherings with friends. In Florida and many other states, teens may be struggling with another problem due to the pandemic: addiction.

A Canadian study found that some teens were using substances more often as a result of social isolation. While the number of teens who used substances decreased, those who used substances began using them more frequently. Additionally, around 50% of teens who reported substance use were doing so while alone, which can be a risk factor for addiction. Florida experts agree that the pandemic’s isolating effects can cause anxiety, depression and stress, which can cause teens to use drugs or alcohol to cope.

Two Epidemics, One State

A Florida survey completed just before social distancing and lockdowns began found:
  • 19.9% of high schoolers reported past-month alcohol use
  • 15.9% of high schoolers reported past-month marijuana use
  • 1% reported past-month prescription pain reliever use, such as opioids
There is still little data regarding the number of teens using substances during the COVID-19 pandemic, but other reports show the pandemic is worsening the state’s decades-long opioid epidemic. According to Governor DeSantis, overdose numbers are up 62% compared to the same six-month period last year. Broward and Miami-Dade counties reported that almost 500 people have died of an overdose, with fentanyl often being the primary cause.

Florida hospitals are also reaching their breaking point due to rising numbers of coronavirus patients. Currently, 78% of beds are in use, and many worry that the upcoming holidays may lead to further coronavirus cases and overwhelm hospital capacities. This means that recovery resources and prevention strategies are more important than ever. They can reduce overdoses and ensure that hospitals can respond to the overdose situations that do occur.

Education Can Lead to Prevention and Support

Though the pandemic’s isolation and uncertainty can impact teens’ mental health, the extra time spent at home can give parents and teachers an opportunity to raise awareness about self-care and the dangers of addiction. Parents should especially make sure to monitor their children for signs of poor mental health and substance use. Having open conversations about mental health and substance use can help your children come to you when they’re struggling with difficult issues.

Generation Z faces many situations that weren’t present for past generations, such as the problems surrounding the internet, social media and culture of interconnectivity. It’s important to understand the nuanced problems that likely arise in your child’s life, such as cyberbullying, online peer pressure and the unrealistic expectations created by social media. Next Generation Village offers a variety of helpful webinars that can help you better understand what your child may be going through. Our Real Talk outreach program also shares life experiences and provides advice aimed toward high school and college students.

Webinars you may be interested in:

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Preparing Your Child

It’s important to be understanding toward teens during this difficult and unprecedented time. With so much time being spent at home, it’s also a perfect time to address mental health needs and foster openness within the family. Doing so can help your child if they ever come into a situation where substances are present or if they begin struggling with mental health and turn to substances to cope.

Your child will eventually find themselves in situations where you aren’t there, so it’s important to do your best to teach them about the risks involved with drugs or alcohol. However, you must also be prepared to help them if they do begin using substances.

If your child is struggling with substance use or a co-occurring mental health condition, Next Generation Village is here to help. Contact us today to learn more about teen-focused programs that can help your child begin a healthier, substance-free life.


Dumas, Tara; et al. “What Does Adolescent Substance Use Look Like During the COVID-19 Pandemic? Examining Changes in Frequency, Social Contexts, and Pandemic-Related Predictors.” Journal of Adolescent Health, September 2020. Accessed December 23, 2020.

Castro, Rosanna. “Risk of teen substance use may increase while social distancing.” Florida International University, June 8, 2020. Accessed December 23, 2020.

Florida Department of Children and Families. “2020 Florida Youth Substance Abuse Survey.” 2020. Accessed December 23, 2020.

Archer, Johnny. “Opioid Crisis Compounded by the Coronavirus Pandemic.” NBC 6 South Florida, December 3, 2020. Accessed December 23, 2020.

Saunders, Forrest. “Florida hospitals filling as coronavirus spread looms amid holiday travel.” WFTS Tampa Bay, December 18, 2020. Accessed December 23, 2020.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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