With a population of over 130,000, Miramar, Florida faces an alarming drug addiction crisis. Along with a resurgence of cocaine and an ever-increasing opioid problem, Miramar stands among the top cities in Florida’s nearly twenty million people battling a drug epidemic. Current trends show that alcohol, marijuana, opiates, Xanax, valium, heroin, crack, cocaine, and crystal meth are most prevalent throughout Florida. Over 24,000 people alone sought treatment for alcohol abuse between 2015 and 2016.
Pill mills continue to provide a substantial supply of prescription drugs for recreational use to the Miramar area. As of 2011, illegal prescription drugs were the leading cause of drug-related overdose deaths in Central Florida. The number of both overdose deaths and admissions to treatment facilities increased dramatically in 2011 over previous years. The most commonly abused meds include propoxyphene, hydrocodone, methadone, morphine, oxycodone, and benzodiazepines.
South Florida Law Enforcement Steps Up
Law enforcement in the region has sought to shut down the pill mills specifically, leading to the seizure of 28,000 doses of illegal prescription drugs, including hydrocodone, oxycodone, and alprazolam. While South Florida law enforcement continues to find new ways to combat the spread of opioids, they must still confront other drug issues in the area.
Complicating the drug problems in Miramar, is the growing popularity of synthetic drugs. Technically known as novel psychoactive substances, designer drugs, whose ingredients continuously change, offer highs equivalent to more well-known street drugs. The constantly changing ingredient list makes it difficult for law enforcement and the courts to designate illegal from legal substances. As a result, harsher and more dangerous drugs flood the streets of cities like Miramar, including new drugs like Flakka, which offer an amphetamine-like euphoria. The drug is highly addictive and produces in many users bizarre and uncontrollable behavior. For this reason, it has been called the zombie drug.
Crack and powder cocaine continue to be a prominent drug of choice among South Floridians. Cocaine-related fatalities rose for the fourth year in a row in 2016, contributing to the deaths of 2,882 people. Nearby counties including Palm Beach County experienced one of the highest rates of cocaine-related deaths at 405. Drug enforcement officials estimate that Colombia produced 710 tons of pure cocaine last year, which was enough to fill eighteen semi-trucks. This is a 35 percent increase over 2015 cocaine production.
Law enforcement cannot do it alone. Helping loved ones get rehabilitation saves lives. It is critical for families, friends and schoolteachers to look for signs of addiction in South Florida’s youth, where statistics for drug use and abuse continue to rise.
Assessing the Signs of Drug Addiction
Determining if a loved one is suffering from a drug addiction, family and friends must look for telltale red flags.
Signs of Cocaine Use
- Too much energy
- Dilated pupils
- Runny nose
- Weight loss
- Mood swings
- Social isolation
- Frequent nosebleeds from snorting
- Unrealistic confidence
- Changes in sleeping and eating patterns
- White powder residue around the nose and mouth
- Burn marks on the hands and lips
- Loss of interest in personal hygiene
- Financial difficulties
- Loss of interest in things that once brought joy
- Increased need for privacy
Signs of Designer Drug use
- Discarded glass vials, or small plastic bags, with traces of white powder
- The presence of pipes, inhalers or syringes
- Paranoid or delusional behavior
- Visual disturbances or hallucinations
Signs of Opioid Use
- Noticeable elation/euphoria
- Marked sedation/drowsiness
- Constricted pupils
- Slowed breathing
- Intermittent nodding off, or loss of consciousness
Convincing a Loved One They are Addicted
The hardest part of the recovery process for any drug addiction is convincing the patient they must pursue rehabilitation. No treatments will ever work when an addicted person refuses or simply “goes along” with the proceedings. Family and friends need to express the love they feel for an addicted individual as well as the pain they have been caused by their loved one’s addiction. Family needs to reach past the hardened shell that dependency builds and touch the person they used to know deep inside. Finding compassion and understanding is the only way to move an addicted person toward recovery.
The Intervention Process
Intervention may require the aid of an intervention specialist to help guide the process. Intervention success rates are at ninety percent the day of the intervention, which reveals the power that family can have when they work together. The steps for intervention may include:
- Having a Clear Plan- using a professional intervention specialist is ideal, however advice and counseling from social workers and organizations that help with drug addiction can give planning strategies to families. They can help prepare a family for what to expect, what to say and how to move forward.
- Organize an Intervention Group-deciding who will participate in the intervention is key. Many may not wish to join in because of the stressfulness of the situation. There are also those who may not be emotionally strong enough to handle the event. A group leader will designate those who are ready to help.
- Do Research-an intervention is made up of a group of loved ones committed to helping the addicted individual. Each participant must understand the depth of the addicted person’s dependency, as well as understand the value and process of treatment so they can speak truthfully during the intervention process.
- Define Absolutes from the Intervention-If an addicted person refuses treatment, then the group must agree on consequences. An addicted person may be excluded from the household, refused money or support. As painful as this step is, there cannot be any contradiction among group members.
- Be Prepared- Collecting one’s thoughts and preparing what to say to the addicted is what makes up the substance of intervention. Express love, explain how their actions have caused pain and how necessary treatment for them will be healing for all.
- Maintain Calmness- The addicted is confronted by the group and the thoughts and expressions of love are revealed one by one to them. It is important that consequences to their actions not become a threat or that yelling begins. Calmness is the optimal emotion.
- Be Ready with Next Steps- Offering a treatment option is the final step in the intervention process. Whether it be inpatient residential treatment or an outpatient plan, having a recovery center ready to go is critical to making the process smooth and stress-free for an addicted person who is embracing help.
When a loved one comes to the realization that drug addiction is causing both harm to themselves and to others, they are usually willing to seek help.
What Recovery Specialists Learn at Pre-Intake
Tests taken during the pre-take help recovery specialists learn more about the patient. By understanding them physically and psychologically, they can create a treatment plan that will provide the best results for their addiction. Up to four tests may be taken.
Medical Tests- doctors will test to see the physical impact drugs have had on the patient and if further hospitalization is necessary before transporting them to an inpatient recovery center.
Psychiatric Tests-a psychiatrist will determine the mental state of the patient, both to understand the influence drugs have had on the psyche of the patient as well as any other mental health issues that may be occurring. Because many drugs such as PCP and designer drugs can cause hallucinations, doctors must determine if perception has been influenced by external substances.
Toxicology Testing- Recovery specialists will determine what drugs are being taken and for how long to decide on the best treatment plan. A treatment strategy for heroin is different than meth.
A Personal Background Interview-The recovery specialist needs to know everything about a new patient. Aside from all the clinical testing, there needs to be an intensive interview to understand family history, any history of abuse and a deeper examination of personal life to better know why the individual fell into addiction.
The Detoxing Process for Drug Addiction
The process of ridding the body of the physical addiction to drugs has many risks, which is why it is never recommended that a person attempt detox without the aid of recovery and detox professionals. Though there have been instances where detox was achieved without medical assistance, it is certainly dangerous. Seizures are not unheard of. Having an expert at hand is essential for managing medical emergencies during the detox process if they occur. Recovery specialists can also help ease the pain of detox with prescribed medications. Medications can aid in pain management as well as curb drug cravings. The medications commonly used vary depending on the drug addiction.
The body begins to have harsh reactions to the absence of drugs in the body almost immediately. Many highly addictive drugs can cause severe reactions including sweating and anxiety. Vomiting and nausea accompanied by muscle cramping are also common. For the addicted to endure this ordeal is the critical step toward long-term recovery. Overcoming the drug requires reclaiming the body from the hold drugs have on the addicted person, both physically and psychologically. The physical part is the detox. The psychological part will take longer and is the next stage of the recovery process.
An Education on the Treatment Options
Many addicts may be experiencing an intake process for the first time. It becomes the responsibility of the recovery specialists to help educate every new person seeking treatment to what exactly will occur over the course of a thirty or ninety program. It is also important that the recovering addict have no misconceptions about recovery. Here are some points every patient will gain from the intake process.
Immediate treatment is critical. Getting treatment for drug addiction as soon as possible can prevent the addiction from becoming worse or risking an overdose in the future.
Treatments are different for every patient. It is often assumed by patients that there is one singular treatment that is offered to everyone. In fact, the complexity of treatment requires all the information gained from intake to completely understand the patient in every detail. Only then can they create a plan that helps.
Recovery is a lengthy journey. Therapists and recovery specialists will get to deeper personal causes of addiction that may include family life and past harmful experiences that have made drugs appealing to escape harsh memories. Long-term recovery requires time and patience.
Mental health issues may be contributing to addiction. Recovery specialists look at the overall mental health of a patient. Many times, other mental health issues like depression or anxiety have been the reason for the patient to choose drugs.
The physical makeup of the person is part of treatment. Though recovery centers are not necessarily hospitals in the traditional sense, they do need to pay close attention to the physical health of every admitted individual.
Detox is only step one. Once many addicts complete detox, they feel they are finished. Not so. Detox is just the beginning of a long process of treatment.
Looking into family matters. Often addiction begins with dysfunction within the family. A history of drug or alcohol abuse in families can be the basis for a child’s addiction. Helping heal the family helps heal the addicted in the long run.
Medications help beyond detox. Though some medications may be prescribed during detox to help ease symptoms, still other medications may be assigned to assist the recovering with cravings. Methadone for heroin, dextroamphetamine for meth and gabapentin for cocaine are some of the many prescribed medications that help the addicted along the path to recovery.
Personal commitment is critical. For an addict to fully recover, they must be committed to their treatment. Many recovery specialists will quickly determine the will of an individual who wants to truly get well.
Inpatient vs Outpatient Treatment
Inpatient residential treatment and outpatient treatment are the two primary options for treating addiction. During intake, recovery professionals will determine what style of treatment is necessary. Intake procedures are customized to fit the patient. They may determine if medications are helpful and what types of therapy may work best. They also may help the patient decide on the best course of treatment between the two existing types. Residential inpatient care or outpatient care both provide similar services but focus on different aspects and degrees of addiction for different kinds of patients.
The Value of Residential Inpatient
24/7 support from staff- inpatient offers the extra attention from both medical professionals and recovery specialists around the clock.
The opportunity to gain support from fellow addicts- the support groups formed during inpatient care lead to some of the most meaningful experiences learned by a recovering addict. Stories are shared, and support is provided by others working through their own addiction struggles.
-Health programs are available. As an addict, health usually took a backseat to drugs. Now in recovery, many centers offer nutrition programs, fitness and even yoga and meditation to help change lifestyle.
Outpatient Treatment for Patients with Functional Addiction
There are instances where residential care is not necessary or simply not accessible. Often, residential rehab can he expensive or many drug addicted individuals have a milder addiction that allows them to still function. This means they are still able to manage some semblance of a life and residential treatment would interrupt that. Though residential treatment is preferred for most addiction cases, outpatient treatment is another possibility. Here recovering addicts can receive the best care from licensed counselors and recovery professionals without staying in a facility. They balance therapy, medication and life.
Alternative Approaches Available to Inpatient Care
Many outpatient treatment plans are exploring alternatives to traditional care. New and innovative approaches using holistic care therapies are being included along with traditional recovery regimens.
Faith as Therapy
Because spirituality was once important in the lives of many of those who are now addicted, the idea that faith can heal is brought into therapy. Here counselors may use prayer and Bible study to help reinforce traditional addiction recovery principles and use spiritual teaching to connect sobriety with a greater power.
Many counselors look to helping the recovering experience life outside of drugs. Often drug addicts have started in their teens, so there experience of the more meainginful aspects of life have never been witnessed. Experiential therapies take addicts out of a circle of chairs in a room and introduce them to physical activities like camping and canoeing and even helping others in charity. The idea that seeing life outside addiction can heal is the basis of this therapy approach.
These are just a few of the new therapies that are introducing recovering addicts to see sober life in a new way. However, they still center on traditional approaches that have been historically proven to work.
What is Considered Traditional Drug Treatment Therapy?
Twelve Step Programs
The twelve-step program is the benchmark of drug addiction therapy. Beginning with alcohol addiction twelve step program eventually expanded to other types of addiction. The success proved that this approach tapped into the basis of what many addicts were missing in sober life and sought in drugs.
How the Twelve Steps Change Lives for Addicts
Seventy-four percent of rehabilitation and drug treatment centers still use twelve step programs to this day. The basic philosophy is that addicted people help each other through the recovery process and help each other maintain a life of sobriety. Each step is a goal achieved.
- Admitting a powerlessness over drugs. Because addicts often fool themselves into believing they are in control of their habit, they become lost. Accepting a weakness to drugs is the first step
- Accept a greater spiritual power great than yourself-abandon self-centeredness
- Spirituality not the cravings of drug addiction define a life
- Self-examine fearlessly to discover why drugs were chosen
- Admit that you are at fault and have harmed yourself and others
- Embrace spiritual healing, not just physical health
- Ask God to remove weakness that hold you back from recovery
- Go to those you have damaged and seek to make amends
- Amending your damage whenever possible becomes your motto
- Always humbly seeking forgiveness
- Heal yourself through prayer and meditation
- Find that spiritual awakening
As a result, many aftercare programs have specialized to specific addictions. Today here are just a few of the twelve-step programs available.
- Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
- Narcotics Anonymous (NA)
- Pills Anonymous (PA)
- Cocaine Anonymous (CA)
- Crystal Meth Anonymous (CMA)
Other Aftercare Programs That Focus on Sober Living
Aftercare treatment is the last step in the recovery process and helps recovering addicts learn how to live in a sober world. Often, mistakes were made along the way and as a result, help is needed to get recovering individuals back on track. Programs that assist with this renewal involve volunteers with specialized skills who want to make a difference. Some of the areas where recovering addicts can find help include:
Personal Relationships. The breakdown of family or marriages is often a consequence of drug addiction. Many aftercare programs will either help mend these conflicts or help an individual move on from a relationship through counseling.
Housing and transportation issues. Often addicts have become homeless or lost their ability to drive because of their addiction. Helping them find a place to live and regain driving privileges are ways aftercare support can change a life.
Employment. Lost jobs and the inability to find work are a common struggle with recovering addicts. Often a criminal record has limited their employment possibilities. Aftercare helpers can work on changing that scenario and finding gainful employment for recovering addicts who are ready for independence.
Education. In many instances among teen addicts, basic education is never completed. Without a basic high school education, many recovering young adults become a burden on the state. Aftercare focuses on regaining their confidence in learning and not only getting their GED but helping them move onto college.
Mental health. Mental health issues may impact a life after addiction. Helping those with mental health needs in aftercare also prevents homelessness and a host of other issues that complicate addiction recovery.