Recovery Solutions in Dalton, Georgia
Dalton’s geographical position and economic history make its denizens vulnerable to the growing opioid epidemic, but authorities and caring citizens are working hard to reverse the disheartening trends.
Dalton, like several other cities in Georgia and many others in the country at large, has been struck painfully by the manufacture and distribution of heroin, cocaine, and crystal meth, as well as by the nonmedical use of prescription drugs like OxyContin and Vicodin.
Dalton is the seat of Whitfield County, near the northwestern corner of Georgia, and includes, among other communities, Northridge, Dug Gap, Prater Mill, Tibbs Road, Crown Mill Road, and Brookwood. The city has a population of about 34,000.
In 2017 there were six opioid overdose deaths recorded in the city, one of them a woman who was found to have consumed eight different prescription drugs.
Despite the prevalence of prescription drug abuse, in Whitfield County heroin is neck and neck with prescription drugs for prevalence of use, a situation that may be attributed to addicts who run short of funds and so turn to cheaper street drugs. (One OxyContin pill, for example, can be bought on the street for $60.00, whereas a dose of heroin goes for only a tenth of that.)
Local law enforcement agencies are busily addressing the problem as best they can. One success story is the four-month covert operation by the Whitfield County Sheriff’s Office Narcotic’s Unit, an investigation of a large crystal meth ring. The sting lead to the arrest, in November of 2017, of 27 people, 16 of them illegal sellers of prescription medications and eight others either possessing or selling methamphetamine. Of the 27 suspects, 23 were from Dalton.
Despite a slight drop in drug-related arrests in Georgia since 2012, the state’s per capita count of opioid overdoses is on the rise. According to Georgia’s Department of Public Health data, in 2016 four times the number of people died from opioid overdoses (most from prescription painkillers) as had died for the same reason ten years ago. It isn’t the highest count in the state or country, but it’s bad enough to be called an epidemic.
It can effect anyone
The problem is so pervasive that it’s getting harder to defend the unfair stigma against addiction. People with stable careers, for example may have been prescribed opioids by their physicians to help them cope with severe physical pain, but after becoming addicted are unable to handle the habit’s expense and so turn to heroin and other street drugs.
Then there are those who are suffering from mental illness but who have limited access to prescription drugs; these may turn to cheap and readily available street drugs much sooner in an effort to medicate their psychological distress.
Across the state Georgians turned to heroin after the justice system, in a well-intentioned attempt to contain the opioid crisis, reduced the availability of prescription drugs. The system, though blamed for the heroin outbreak, may have been on the right track; heroin may be illegal and dangerous, but many current prescription drugs pose the greater risk to life.
It gets worse: Greg Stinnett, director of Hamilton Medical Center’s pharmacy in Dalton, claims that cheap fentanyl analogs from China are being mixed with heroin by street dealers, greatly increasing the risk of death for users.
Economic upsets have also contributed to the city’s drug crisis. In 2012 Dalton, known as the carpet capital of the world because of the amount of quality floor coverings it produced, received the dubious distinction of having the biggest job losses in the country, the unemployment rate climbing from a rate of 3.5% in 2003 to 12% in 2012. Why? Once the housing boom ended, so did the need for floor coverings.
As much as city officials have struggled valiantly, with some success, to change the tarnished image bequeathed by the crash, the economic blow was sure to be an ace in the hole for sellers of opioids and may even have been instrumental in urging more people to enter the drug trade.
If this complex of circumstances is what lead you into addiction, know that you’re not alone and that there are trained people waiting to help free you from your pain. Your chances of recovery are much greater with the help of trained specialists and intensive recovery programs. Call us today and let’s get started on living a healthy, balanced, drug-free life.
Roots of recidivism
Drug abuse is a major root cause of recidivism (repeated returns to the penal system) in Whitfield County. Of the 448 inhabitants of the Whitfield County Jail, only eight are imprisoned for the first time. Drug abuse and mental illness are at the top of the list of reasons cited for repeated returns to prison. With the closing of mental hospitals, prison is sometimes even seen as the best place to get help for addiction.
It isn’t easy helping people through addiction when there aren’t adequate resources to help them with underlying mental health issues. Dalton’s prisons are doing an admirable job of recognizing psychological challenges and working around them to help inmates recover from addictions.
What about medical marijuana?
The legalization of marijuana for medical use is a controversial subject anywhere in the United States, but progress has been made in gaining acceptance for it. Some people in Georgia’s government are even proposing that the state oversee the production of legal marijuana in order to guarantee the safety and standardized potency of cannabis oil.
In 2015 Georgians were allowed to possess no more than 20 ounces of cannabis oil, but only to treat the following medical conditions:
- Parkinson’s disease
In May of 2017 Georgia’s governor, Nathan Deal, passed a measure to make six more medical conditions eligible for the state marijuana program:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- epidermolysis bullosa
- peripheral neuropathy
- Tourette’s syndrome
- patients in hospice care
Addiction treatment in the law courts
Dalton, like many cities in Georgia, has a drug court—a problem-solving approach to drug sentencing that involves social agencies, communities, and the justice system in finding the best long-term recovery solutions for offenders with addiction and mental health problems. The purpose of such a court is to reduce recidivism by reducing drug-related crime. First offenders who participate in the program can avoid having felony convictions on their records.
The Conasauga drug court in Dalton, dating from 2002, has, on the average, 90 participants. Conditions are strict—participants must plead guilty to a felony charge, participate in a recovery program, and make regular court appearances.
Though this is not a residential program, participants get daily check-ins and are required to do homework, attend meetings, do other forms of work, and make a sincere effort to turn their lives around.
In the first phase of the program participation is demanded for two hours each week day and a court appearance is required each week, but in later phases of the program the prescribed check-ins and court appearances become less frequent.
Sterile syringes—in other towns
Although syringe exchange programs have been proven to reduce the spread of blood-borne diseases like AIDS and Hepatitis C, Georgian law doesn’t permit the distribution of sterile syringes for illicit use.
In 2016 a bill provision that would have supported sterile syringe programs in the state received the approval of the House of Representatives but was rejected by the Senate and so wasn’t passed.
There are unofficial citizens groups in the state that run needle exchange programs, but although these initiatives are allowed to operate they’re ineligible for federal funding (a fact that does have an impact on how much they can do—and how far their influence can reach). No such program is openly known to exist in Dalton.
Too close for comfort—to an HIDTA
Dalton itself hasn’t been designated a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA), but it’s close to Atlanta, which houses an HIDTA headquarters and sits smack in the middle of a complex of counties deemed HIDTA.
This area is close enough to Dalton to have authorities worried about incoming drug trafficking as well as home-based production of narcotics. Dalton Municipal Airport, with support from the Georgia National Guard and the Civil Air Patrol, provides aerial surveillance to fight the production and sale of drugs.
Unfortunately, drug users don’t have far to go to get to an HIDTA, and the very fact that money is to be made from illegal production can present a major temptation to those having difficulty finding adequate employment.
The situation does indeed look grim. But what’s encouraging is the zeal of the Dalton’s citizens, lawmakers, law enforcers, and medical professionals as they step up to the bat to help their friends, family members, and fellow denizens. What’s even more encouraging is seeing how addicts are being helped through recovery, thanks to a host of resources designed to help you through every step out of the woods.
Addiction Treatment Resources in Dalton
Dalton’s specialists (including psychologists, medical doctors and nurses, psychiatrists, and addiction counsellors, among others) are trained to assess the addict and their needs as opposed to simply assessing their severity of addiction, taking the whole person and their circumstances into account to determine the best course of action.
Usually when a patient arrives at a Dalton facility they’re guided through that center’s intake process, which will probably include a physical examination, a medical test, and an orientation session.
Detox is seen as a necessary precursor to long-term treatment because individuals definitely need to be free of narcotics in order for the treatments to succeed. Dalton has a number of detox centers, and some treatment facilities also provide detox services.
Inpatient treatment is seen as most effective if long-term, usually anywhere from 30 to 120 days, the longer stays being correlated with greater long-term success rates. Inpatient programs usually provide detox, and they also aid in the withdrawal process. This is followed by relapse prevention in the form of counselling (often involving cognitive therapy) and attendance at 12-step meetings.
Residential treatment centers (RTCs) ask that patients:
- participate in the program
- complete prescribed chores
- perhaps find outside employment to support themselves while living at the center
- earnestly dedicate themselves to their own recovery
There are a variety of choices for residential programs in Dalton, with varying costs and commitments. Some of these centers are run by church groups and provide recovery solutions based on Christian principles. Some provide separate facilities for men and women, with gender-specific treatment programs. Some provide art therapy. Other addiction recovery programs are offered by organizations that seek to address a number of other needs, including poor mental health, family problems, and developmental issues.
Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOPs) are also offered in Dalton. The city’s outpatient drug rehabs are one alternative to longer inpatient stays. They’re not always recommended for addicts because many experts see separating the addict from their immediate environment, with all its triggers and temptations, as necessary to recovery.
However, those with family or vocational responsibilities can choose outpatient treatment as one way of furthering their recovery after rehab while taking responsibility for their other obligations.
Such programs ask the patient to check in regularly at the treatment center, receive medical tests and counselling, and learn how to avoid relapse.
Sober living for life
Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous have stellar reputations for aiding people in the hard climb out of the black hole of addiction, and several chapters of these groups meet in Dalton.
We hope this has given you hope, as hope is definitely there for you. Call us to help you navigate the full spectrum of resources in Dalton, and let us aid you personally in your recovery process, setting you on the road to a full, meaningful, addiction-free life!