Thursday, February 21, 2019

Fort Smith

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Fort Smith, Arkansas

About The City

Fort Smith, Arkansas is one of the two county seats of Sebastian County and the second-largest city in Arkansas, behind only Little Rock in area and residency. Estimated population is approximately 95,000. The city’s total area is 64.6 square miles, of which 3.9 square miles is water. Racial makeup is 70% Caucasian, 10% African American, 6% Asian, and 2% Native American. 17% of the population is listed as Hispanic or Latino of any Race.

Fort Smith, Arkansas is notable for its diversity of language. A dozen Asian languages are spoken by Fort Smith’s Asian population. Many of the city’s residents speak Spanish. Some speak Tagalog. The median income for a family is nearly $45,000, which is under the national average of just over $54,000. However, Forbes Magazine identified Fort Smith as the city with the lowest cost of living in the United States. Manufacturing is the city’s strongest industry, and the arts its most popular form of recreation. Music, dance, and theatrical events are common. Museums are also immensely popular as a leisure activity, as are the plethora of independent sports programs as presented by local organizers.

The Fort Smith transportation system is a state hub, sitting as it does on the southwest side of Interstates 40 and 49, the latter which extends southward to Texarkana, Texas’ Interstate 30. Bus links are present from city to city. The Kansas City Southern Railway serves the intra-city transportation needs of Fort Worth, and also Kansas City, New Orleans and Missouri.   

Fort Smith, Arkansas Drug Culture

As with cities in many smaller states, prescription drug abuse is prevalent. Arkansas health and human services-related entities work diligently to curb such abuse, particularly as it regards opioids. Following a trend, an addiction to prescription painkillers frequently brings with it experimentation for more effective drugs. The cycle in Fort Worth, Arkansas is no different than most: Either the prescription drugs are abused, or users turn to synthetic opioids such as heroin to suit their needs.

Recognizing a mounting issue early, in 2010 a new organization called Arkansas TakeBack developed the Monitor, Secure, and Dispose education program. Arkansas TakeBack subsequently initiated the National Prescription Drug Take-Back program, whereby users could voluntarily submit their unused or not-needed prescription drugs. In one five-day period in September of 2010, Arkansas collected over 23.5 tons of medications – approximately 66 million pills – ranking the state as #4 nationally in pounds collected per person. Abuse and treatment center admissions especially among young people dropped substantially.

In the fall of 2012, a new study undertaken by the Arkansas Prevention Needs Assessment concluded that less than 8% of students surveyed under the age of 18 reported taking prescription drugs over their lifetime, as compared to nearly 10.5% prior to the beginning of the TakeBack program. 90% of Arkansas public schools were surveyed.

Emergency room visits for prescription-related overdoses were also surveyed, and had also shown a marked decrease. In Fort Smith, the majority of prescription room visits for overdoses were found to show admittance for multiple substances.

The fight continues, however. One in five deaths in the city are said to be due to substance intoxication as a secondary cause – in car accidents for example – and one in ten as the primary cause.

Methamphetamine, though lessened considerably from its peak usage in the city at the turn of the millennium, is still an ongoing concern. Meth remains readily available due to local production, generally by Caucasian or Mexican producers and dealers. Street gangs also distribute meth at a local level.

2018 treatment center admissions also show a consistent usage, in Fort Smith and surrounding cities, of cocaine and pot. The statistics are, as with meth, not as great as they once were, but smuggling of these substances into the city remains a problem.

The aforementioned decrease in fatalities involving substances such as those listed above are misleading. The state  of Arkansas presently ranks #25 in the country for drug-related fatalities. Again, prescription opioids is the state’s greatest scourge, as they are within the city of Fort Smith, Arkansas. For young people, many overdose deaths occur after a night of partying. For older Fort Smith residents, opioid overdose deaths exceed those from cocaine and heroin combined.

Another issue is that an increasing number of Fort Smith teens steal their parents’ medication to sell on the streets. This is usually done so they have money to purchase pot or alcohol, or to trade for the same. 

Recent headlines in the area show a marked increase in drug-related arrests, which parallels the city’s ongoing efforts to curb its abuses. On June 10, 2013, 23 people were arrested in Fort Smith, Arkansas for drug trafficking. On November 29, 2016, 17 people were taken into custody for offenses ranging from dealing to possession. Two-thirds of those arrests involved meth. In 2017, headlines similar to the above were common.

Another abuse not yet mentioned is that of inhalants – common among pre-high school students – and various party drugs such as Ecstasy. Between the ages of 18-25, pot is the most popular drug, followed closely by alcohol.

Once more, though current statistics show an across-the-board decrease of both offenses and arrests for all substances save for prescription opioids, drug crimes continue to evolve with the changing times. Education is key in the community to helping fight the drug war.

Fort Smith, Arkansas, has many resources to help the addict, or user. We encourage you to review those resources on this page. 

The Multiple Stages of Abuse

The initial stage of substance usage is experimental. If the high or other desired effect is attained, recreational use usually follows. For those who choose to experiment with either alcohol or drugs, and said desired effect is not attained, the majority go no further or perhaps try once more following their first use.

Most, however, do attain their high, which leads to the problem.

Continued use is the second state, and tolerance is the third, as the user will look for bigger fixes as old tolerances no longer apply. Abuse is the fourth stage, followed by addiction. 

Among the steps that must be taken to support the struggles of an addict, while breaking him or her away from their addiction, include: removing the addict from their negative environment (including the company of dealers and fellow abusers) and placing them within a therapeutic community, the necessity of entering a rehab program and participating in psychological and emotional counseling (and sometimes physical rehab), and how to spot triggers so as to hedge against relapsing. 

PRE-INTAKE RESOURCES

We list a number of tried and true resources on this page. We hope you take advantage of our resources, as we list them here to help.

Pre-intake is the process whereby a concerned user believes they may have a problem, and they begin the process of seeking help. Ask yourself the following questions:

      “How long have I been using?”

      “Do I believe I have a problem?”

      “Do I think others who know me believe I have a substance-related problem?”

      “Does it matter to me?”

      “Have others confronted me with questions related to substance abuse?”

      “Do I use alone, or in hiding?”

      “Have I ever substituted one drug for another, thinking one particular drug was the problem?”

      “Do I find the thought of running out of drugs scary?”

      “Have I ever been in a jail, a hospital, or a drug rehabilitation center because of any using in the past?”

      “Is this what I want with my life?”

 

If you find your answers to the following questions alarming, we suggest that you follow up with other, more positive questions:

      “What are my life’s goals?”

      “Where do I want to be in my life one year from now?”

      “Where do I want to be in my life five years from now?”

      “Where do I want to be in my life ten years from now?”

 

If like many users you cannot answer such goal-related questions, try this: “Where do I want to be tomorrow?” If your answer to this question is dark, or bleak, and related to depression, it’s time to seek treatment. Similarly, if your answer is something positive, the very fact that you have come to this point and have begun researching options also means it’s time to seek treatment.

If you do, your tomorrow may be exactly what you want it to be.

A brief disclaimer: As with any other self-diagnostic tool, questions such as these are exploratory only. You must speak to a trained and licensed professional for any true diagnosis. Still, answering these questions can be extremely useful, and insightful. Remember, if you are under the influence as you answer, you may not be the best arbiter of your responses. If, however, you can be truthful with your responses, the results of your subsequent efforts can be invaluable. 

INTAKE SERVICES

During the intake application process, you will be required to list your prescription medications and days and times taken (if “none,” you check “none”), an authorization of medical care, a list of allergies or other medical issues, and a waiver of responsibility. Some applications ask more. A physician or treatment center representative will then review your application for the proper steps, and treatment.

If you have come this far, kudos to you. You have taken a major step towards reclaiming your life, and your potential.

One of the more difficult aspects of the intake process is one of trust. We all know that a user does not always trust easily. If you fall into this category, we need to reinforce to you that your treatment team is there for you. They will spend the time working with you and for you. In as much as you can, speak to them openly. If you believe a given treatment as administered by a professional is disagreeable to you, you need to make that known to them.

We’ve spoken about the power of commitment on these pages before. There will be an element in your treatment of letting go of any defiance and trusting others. Trust usually comes in time.

Intake is but a step in a larger process. Commitment and patience win out almost every time. 

DETOX SERVICES

Detox addresses the physical hold of an addiction. The length of a detox program will vary based on several factors, including the nature of the addiction, and of the addict’s personality. Regarding the former, chemical dependency frequently occurs that must be medically handled, as your brain has become fully dependent on further use of the substance in order to function. This is a medical issue that will frequently require medication to handle.

During the early phases on detoxification, withdrawal will occur which can be a painful process. Your system will be cleaned of the drug, and your brain will learn to operate as it once did. Certain withdrawal symptoms can be life-threatening, which punctuates the importance of full and systemic treatment. 

Factors that can influence the longevity of the detox aspect of your treatment program include:

  1. Multi-drug abuse;
  2. Pre-existing medical or mental health conditions;
  3. Your level of dependence;
  4. Genetics
  5. Previous trauma;
  6. Environment (both that of your home life and the environment of your support system)

The concept and practice of detox is typically broken down into three distinct phases: Evaluation, Stabilization, and Transition to Inpatient Drug Rehab.

Evaluation: As overseen by a doctor, who will determine what drugs are presently being used, how long has the patient been using, and how much and how frequently the patient uses.

Stabilization: As expounded on the site, stabilization differs patient to patient, based on specific substance being abused. This is the end result of the withdrawal phase.

Transition to Inpatient Drug Rehab: Many addicts believe that once they complete withdrawal, they are finished with their treatment. That is a dangerous belief, as withdrawal only releases the immediate physical hold of the substance. Again, only the trained professional can make the determination of to your further treatment needs. 

INPATIENT TREATMENT SERVICES

Post-withdrawal, the process of your ongoing recovery can be either inpatient, or outpatient. Inpatient treatment is appropriate for more severe cases, and the generally more flexible outpatient treatment is geared towards those with a more moderate addiction (though addiction is still addiction) and a stronger support system in their home environment.

Inpatient treatment can either be a PHP (a partial hospitalization providing a highly-structured environment, with typically active treatment of 30 hours per week), the less-intensive IOP (intensive outpatient treatment plan, which requires up to three hours daily over 3-5 days, for a total of nine hours weekly; therapy is usually included, but the patient can live either at their own home or a halfway house during the process), or an RTC (residential).

Most inpatient therapies, regardless of option will last 5-10 days. They can last longer based on the severity of the problem, and the patient’s physical and mental fitness.

Among its services, a PHP will most frequently incorporate intensive one on one therapy in its treatment program. The reason for this is most PHP admissions are due to disturbances in behavior from the drug being abused, or for those who experience otherwise increased symptomatology. In a PHP, the patient is often isolated and of no risk to other patients. 

PHPs and RTCs are highly-structured treatment options. PHPs are the most structured options of all. If you have little structure in your home environment, both of these invaluable choices will likely take some time getting used to. That said, the importance to your overall treatment plan cannot be understated.

Note: Substance use disorder treatment is listed as one of the 10 Most Essential Health Benefits of the Affordable Care Act, meaning that your care is covered if you have health insurance. If you do not have insurance, many treatment centers offer financial aid.

Always ask when you speak to a treatment adviser if this is a concern, as inpatient treatment is more expensive than outpatient. 

Should I choose inpatient or outpatient?

OUTPATIENT TREATMENT RESOURCES

Outpatient treatment is often preferred when one has substantial duties in their outside environment, such as school or family. In fact, family and friend group therapy is often included in this option, which is quite flexible in its scheduling. Outpatient treatment has proven to be very effective for those with underlying causes for their addiction, such as eating disorders, to grasp the root of their substance-related issues in a more relaxed setting among familiar support systems.

As an outpatient, you are not enmeshed in a structured environment, you live at home and you are not under constant supervision.

However, outpatient treatment is no less important or helpful than inpatient treatment. Though the scheduling of your appointments may be flexible, you still need to commit to the time. If you miss one appointment, you will likely miss another. 

Ask yourself if you are responsible enough for an outpatient program. If you are, and you maintain your treatment, the rewards can be innumerable.

Both inpatient and outpatient treatment are comprehensive approaches to wellness. You will face temptations in both but as long as you remain responsible, you will also learn specific strategies as to how to deal with them. It is up to you to take advantage of those lessons.

Never allow an excuse to fail. 

AFTERCARE AND SOBER LIVING RESOURCES

Sober living may be the final step in your formal treatment plan before returning home, but treatment never really ends. Sober living houses provide the interim environment between rehab and mainstreaming back to your natural environment. The reason for the initial formation of sober houses was simple: a person in recovery frequently needed a safe and supportive place to stay, during the vulnerability of early recovery, prior to returning home.

Sober houses are also highly-structured, and most residents are referred to a sober living environment from a rehab center. Requirements and rules are strict, and they usually include:

      No drugs or alcohol on the premises

      No violence

      No overnight or sleepover guests, not even family

      Commitment to random drug testing

      Involvement in a community-related program

      Acceptance by a peer group

A benefit of many sober houses is that staff frequently are former addicts themselves. This is a benefit for two primary reasons: 1) They understand the struggle, and 2) They are living examples of former addicts who have successfully completed treatment and are now giving back. Some of these former addicts work on salary, and some happily volunteer their time.

Sober houses are most successful when utilized (in conjunction with a formal treatment plan) for a designated period of time. Do not expect all residents to attain equal success during this stage. You will likely come to know your peers through intensive group counseling. You will also undergo one-on-one therapy, but in the group setting you will notice your peers’ various stages of recovery. You will form opinions but always remind yourself that you are there for one person:

You.   

Fort Smith, Arkansas, has been among the most proactive cities in the county in terms of combating addiction issues with education, a highly successful take back program, and strong efforts by law enforcement. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has a strong presence in Fort Smith, and they are supportive of the city and state’s outside efforts to curb their drug problems. 

The largest issue, consistent with present national trends, is that the abuse of prescription opioids is not only a problem for those who use, but also with the children of those who use who steal the medication to sell on the street, or otherwise trade for pot or alcohol – preferred substances for their own personal usage. 

Heroin, a synthetic opioid, is popular but not as large an issue in Fort Smith as it is elsewhere in the state. Meth also remains a scourge, as it’s been since the turn of the millennium, but treatment admissions for meth are substantially lower than they were a decade ago. Cocaine use is also below the national average, according to many recent statistics, though the drug is still widely available in the area. Crack, once a major issue, has fallen substantially.  

Arkansas’ TakeBack program has been a major success. Literally tons of drugs are turned in  yearly. Still, Caucasian and Mexican drug traffickers continue to take advantage of the myriad of transportation systems in Fort Smith, Arkansas and the surrounding areas, and the state’s ensuing drug problems, as such, continue to evolve. Trafficking crosses lines between Arkansas and easily-accessible states, including Texas and Oklahoma.

Still, Arkansas has proven itself as a model state in its efforts to fight substance abuse. Year-to-year, numbers decrease where they need to. However, when numbers decrease, traffickers generally become smarter.

Be aware, and be careful.

We wish you the very best of luck on your treatment. 

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