Drug Crisis and Getting Treatment in Fayetteville, North Carolina
In nationwide surveys of opioid abuse and addiction, North Carolina shows up four times on the list. Fayetteville would land eighteenth on the list for its opioid addiction problem. In fact, North Carolina faces overdose death rates well above the national average.
The opioid connection to heroin is what is most troubling for law enforcement and government officials. Prescription opioid addiction usually begins with a medical condition treated legally by a doctor with these drugs. Something as minor as a toothache justifies an opioid prescription. Other medical issues including sports injuries, recovery after surgery and pain management related to cancer have all led to legitimate prescriptions handed out by doctors. Not understanding that these drugs are highly addictive, unknowing citizens of Fayetteville, like many people around the country become dependent. Today, opioids may include: opium, codeine, fentanyl, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, morphine, oxycodone, oxymorphone, paregoric, sufentanil and tramadol.
North Carolina lawmakers are pushing for increases of rehabilitation centers to help treat those afflicted. They are also driving for greater education through public awareness and in schools is part of plan to bring enlightenment to the drug crisis.
Other options include developing drop boxes to help keep expired prescription drugs off the streets. Operation Medicine Drop was created to allow Fayetteville citizens to safely discard prescription medicines they no longer needed to ensure they do not fall into the wrong hands. Since 2009, over 61 million doses have been disposed of in this manner.
When prescriptions are no longer provided by their family physicians many addicts go doctor shopping, faking illnesses and injuries to gain new prescriptions from new doctors. Eventually, this approach no longer works, and addicts turn to the less expensive heroin available on the street as a replacement high for the drugs that used to be in their medicine chest.
The immediacy of the crisis however requires more dramatic action from law enforcement. State-sponsored distribution of Narcan, a drug that stops opioid and heroin overdoses, is being distributed to law enforcement officers and paramedics in Fayetteville. As first responders, who are the individuals most likely to confront an overdose, these powerfully medications help safe lives. Even educators are being trained on the application of this drug, as teenagers fall victim to overdoses in Fayetteville schools. The crisis requires parents especially be on the lookout for the signs of drug addiction in their households.
How Opioid Addiction Shows Itself
Knowing when addiction has become part of a loved one’s life usually begins with telltale signs. Often, they become a person that is unrecognizable. They exhibit strange and unexpected mood swings, often veering from elation to sobbing. They also seem confused and unable to perform fundamental tasks. Their speech will become incoherent at times. Their sleep patterns will become erratic, often longer periods awake followed by longer periods asleep. If they have slipped from opioids into heroin, they will begin dramatically losing weight. Socially, they will become more withdrawn from family and secretive in their behavior, as most of their waking hours are spent figuring out how to get more of their drug of choice. Everything that tied them to responsibility is let go, from work and school to personal relationships. Their own hygiene and personal appearance will also begin to decay as they lose interest in how they look. They will regularly appear high with a distant look in their eyes.
As they build a tolerance for opioids or heroin, they come that much closer to risking drug overdose. Once they have reached overdose level on either heroin or opioids they will slip into unconsciousness and their breathing will become shallow. Opioids slowly relax the entire body, slowing respiration and heart rate, so slow it fact that at some point it stops.
A non-fatal overdose can be an opportunity to confront a loved one about their addiction. It may also be for them a reality check that makes them realize how deep they have slipped into their use of opioids and hopefully becomes a chance for treatment and recovery.
Pre-Intake Questions Prepare an Addict for Treatment
If an addict is fortunate enough to survive an overdose and is hospitalized, the opportunity to transition to rehabilitation can begin in this medical setting. With the willingness to move forward for treatment, a recovering addict may be asked these pre-intake questions.
Drugs of choice. After all the lies an addict might tell, now is the time to come clean. Listing the drugs, they have used and currently use can range from marijuana and amphetamines to heroin and crack. Questions about alcohol use will also be asked including how much alcohol they consume. Often addicts will be using many drugs at once, with one drug of choice predominating. For this reason, they may feel like they are only “experimenting”, which makes it easier for addiction to take hold.
They may be asked under what circumstances drugs are used. This may seem like a peculiar question, but it helps recovery professionals determine if drugs are being used to self-medicate for depression, anxiety or other mental illnesses. Answering the question honestly also helps to understand what is influencing drug use, from addicted friends and family to personal isolation.
Drug frequency and impact will be the next question. Recovery specialist will want to know how often a drug is being taken and how the addict feels it is affecting their life. Is it causing the individual to skip school? Has it cost them a job? Has it caused personal relationships to end?
From there, recovery specialists will inquire into personal history and family history to find root causes of addiction in upbringing or mental illness. Often a dramatic event such a death in the family or a divorce can be the tipping point that drives some to use drugs and which eventually leads to addiction.
Sleep patterns will also be asked about to determine how the drugs are affecting sleep. Also, other medical conditions, psychological conditions that are known must be addressed to help refine a clear plan for recovery.
What Happens During Intake?
Intake into rehab requires that certain clinical tests be taken to prepare the individual for treatment. Testing begins with a typical physical exam to determine personal health. This test will also help make sure that the individual is strong enough and well enough to endure detox. If there are other medical issues such as heart disease, HIV or diabetes, then these conditions must make up a component of the treatment plan. Tests to determine cognitive ability and memory will determine the capability of the individual to learn and remember. Often drugs have taken a toll on the mind or pre-existing psychological disabilities may play a part. If so, then modifications to treatment are necessary for someone with a learning disability as well as other mental disorders including severe depression or even schizophrenia.
Drug tests follow up on the questions asked in rehab. The toxicology screening estimates the type and amount od certain opioids or other drugs currently in the user’s system.
With the data gained from both pre-intake interviews and medical tests acquired at in-take, physicians, psychotherapists and recovery specialists will team up to decide on a treatment plan that fits that individual. They will also discuss if the individual is ready for the next stage of treatment. Often other conditions must be treated first before drug addiction can be addressed. Also, the personal commitment of the individual will be evaluated. Is this person really ready for recovery? Do they want it? Beds in recovery centers are hard to come by as so many people are seeking help. Making sure that the individual is ready to move forward is essential for the success of their treatment.
Recovery specialists maintain complete transparency and will present their course of treatment to the addicted individual. Because drug treatment is never enforced, the individual has the right to refuse treatment and leave a recovery facility. The hopes of their loved ones and the staff of any rehab is that the addicted fully grasp the severity of their problem and want help.
Three Options to Detox from Opioids and Heroin
Detox is an inevitable and very difficult phase in opioid and heroin recovery treatment. The individual must at some point simply stop taking drugs, which causes the body to physically rebel. Psychologically and emotionally the body is impacted by the sudden and dramatic absence of the drug. It is never recommended by recovery specialists that detox be attempted alone, as seizures and other medical emergencies may occur without professionals available to help. Within a recovery facility, detox can be conducted safely and often with the use of medications to help ease both the withdrawals and drug cravings.
There are three possible approaches to detox. Accelerated detox, traditional detox and natural detox. All these methods have their advantages and disadvantages and it may be up to the individual what approach is best for them.
Accelerated detox is a process in which the patient is sedated throughout the detox process. For opiates the period of detox can be as short as a few days to a week. Because the person is unconscious they do not feel the intense suffering associated with the withdrawals of traditional detox. When they wake up, they are drug-free and can begin the next phase of treatment. For many recovery specialists, however, accelerated detox is not helpful. By avoiding the experience of traditional detox, many feel that it makes slipping back into drugs more likely. Recovery specialists suggest that the experience of traditional detox and the horrific withdrawals inhibit father drug use in the future.
Traditional detox allows the patient to fully experience the impact of withdrawals. The symptoms can be intense, including:
- Extreme tension
- Panic attacks
- Difficulty concentrating
- Fitful sleep
- Heart palpitations
- Severe headache
- Muscle stiffness and pain like a severe flu
Though medications may be provided to ease symptoms, the severity is still a memorable experience. One which many recovery specialists feel makes detox a clear stage in the definitive journey of recovery.
Natural detox is another approach, often one that accompanies a traditional detox method. Under the supervision of holistic medical practitioners, the patient experiences a series of symptom-easing activities, usually without the aid of medications. These therapeutic activities may include massage, acupuncture, even exercise. The hope is that a natural approach will slowly unravel a patient from their addiction and introduce healthy ways to live while they are in recovery. The natural method has become popular for taking a lifestyle approach to something as unpleasant as detox.
Four Ways Inpatient Treatment Programs Help Addiction
The benefits of long-term residential treatment can be life-changing for an addict. Someone addicted to opioids and heroin can find a new way to live and a new way to perceive life without drugs. Most thirty day and ninety-day programs offered include the following:
- Round the clock attention, care and medical support. As many addict’s work through the long-term impact of withdrawals including cravings and depression, being in a facility where doctors and recovery specialist are always present can make the difference between relapse and recovery.
- A network of other recovering addicts offering their support. The ability to interact with others who are experiencing the same physical, emotional and psychological pains is important for recovery. Sharing stories and finding someone who understand the stories the recovering addicts are sharing are all factors that help heal.
- Health programs are available. Wellness opportunities in residential treatment facilities become a way for a recovering addict to rediscover nutrition, exercise and even meditation. As their personal outlook changes, fitness and well-being can become an integral part of the recovery, and it all starts in rehab.
- Family therapy programs can help heal. Often family can be the root cause of addiction, and programs that can address those family issues are critical if the recovering is to every engage with them again. Also, addicts may have caused their families harm during the course of their addiction. Those wounds need to be healed in order for the family and the recovering to move on in life. It is often the guilt and shame of damage done that prevents a recovering addict from overcoming addiction. It is the shunning of family that sometimes leads to relapse. Family therapy sessions in residential patient care accommodate for those complex aspects of addiction and offer ways to overcome it.
Outpatient Programs Offer Flexibility
Outpatient programs serve recovering addicts in two ways. One, they are usually the next phase after patients leave thirty and ninety-day residential treatment programs. They slowly integrate the recovering back into the responsibilities of a sober life without totally cutting off treatment. Two, they offer some milder cases of addiction an alternative method of treatment. For those who are struggling with an addiction, but have not compromised work or school or relationships, then outpatient is a way to get help without staying in a long-term residential facility.
Outpatient usually requires regular counseling sessions that are scheduled around other responsibilities. The sessions may be with an individual counselor or with a group of other recovering addicts, much like those sessions in residential treatment. Also, recovering addicts can experience a variety of treatment options that work with their personality and their personal commitment to recovery.
Alternative Outpatient Treatment Options
Patients are taken out of the traditional group or individual session and are sent off to experience art projects, physical challenges like rock climbing and a score of other activities that disengage them completely from drugs as an activity.
If a spiritual background has offered a recovering addict solace in the past, then faith-based treatment is a possibility. Using prayer and Bible study, counselors and other session members may find hope and recovery through God’s help.
Age Specific and Experience-Related Therapy
Because some recovering addicts may feel more comfortable engaging with their own age group or with others that have had similar life experiences, many outpatient sessions an be grouped by age or by other determinants such as veterans of war. Teens and young adults can interact with others their own age and those older adults with similar personal experience, like veterans, may be able to relate based on their time in combat, which also may be a factor contributing to their drug addiction. Specializing treatment is one approach to helping reach specific issues many recovering addicts may be facing.
Aftercare Focus on a Sober Life
Aftercare treatment takes all the hard work that went into ridding an addict of drugs and expands on that with more detailed programs. Aftercare extends sobriety into everyday life and addresses the complex issues that may be present in that life. Aftercare specialists may bring many talents to work and they work hard to make those talents achieve results for recovering addicts. Aftercare programs may focus on some of the following:
Personal Relationships. The breakdown of family or marriages is often a consequence of drug addiction. Many aftercare programs will either help heal those wounds or help an individual move on from broken relationships with optimism.
Child care. When children are involved, drug treatment becomes complex. How to go back to work, afford quality daycare and handle the stresses of parenthood are all issues that a recovering addict needs to learn.
Housing and transportation issues. Often addicts have become homeless or lost their driver’s license because of their addiction. Helping them get back on track with finding a place to live and renewing their driving privileges are ways aftercare support can revitalize the life of one who was once addicted.
Money Issues. Financial management can be complex for anyone, but for someone struggling with addiction, financial issues seem foreign. Learning how to manage money can be a part of aftercare learning.
Legal Issues. Often incarnation or other legal entanglements become a consequence of addiction. Getting help resolving those legal matters is sometimes found with aftercare professionals.
Employment. Lost jobs and the inability to find work are a common struggle with recovering addicts. Often a criminal record has impacted their employment capability. Aftercare helpers can work on changing that scenario and finding gainful employment for recovering addicts who are ready for independence.
Education. In many instances for teen addicts, education is lost to addiction. Without a basic high school education, many recovering young adults feel helpless. Aftercare focuses on regaining their confidence in learning and not only getting their GED but moving onto college.
Medical matters. Often health issues may impact recovering addicts after they have left residential treatment. Helping them get the medical care they need becomes an important part of aftercare specialists.
Mental health. Much like medical 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 compound addiction recovery.
What is a Sober Life?
Ultimately, a sober life is a perspective. Seeing hope and possibility is something a drug addict cannot do. Caring for others and be willing to help others is something a drug addict cannot do. Giving up is something a drug addict does, but a sober person does not. Sober living is simply finding the will to live.
The goal of all rehabilitation from intervention to aftercare, is to save a person from their own negative perspective. Drugs define a world of abandonment. All rehabilitation centers, whether offering inpatient or outpatient treatment strive to resurrect hope through any means possible.
For a recovering person, temptations are everywhere. Sober friends still like to party on the weekends and their activities are filled with risks that can lead a recovering person down the path of relapse. Also, triggers never seem to never let the recovering person go and must be dealt with daily. By embracing hope and the help offered in the recovery community, anyone suffering with an addiction to opioids or heroin has a chance to lead a sober life.