Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Oklahoma

Drug Rehab in Oklahoma

Alcohol and drug abuse in Oklahoma has increased, due to easy assess, and a negligence to treatment. Compared to California, drug overdose deaths in Oklahoma nearly doubled in 2016. According to the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control, 952 state residents died from drug overdose that year— a jump from 862 in 2015. Methamphetamine contributed to 328 fatalities (more than hydrocodone and oxycodone opiods combined). Heroin led to 49 deaths in 2016, a rise from 31 mortalities in 2015. Oklahoma has the 11th highest rate of alcohol poisoning in the nation; 326,000 state residents depend on alcohol or illicit drugs, and, only 7.6% of Oklahomans in need of alcohol treatment access help (Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse). To fully understand the magnitude of drugs and alcohol within Oklahoma, read on:

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Methamphetamine Addiction in Oklahoma

Jeff Ramond, a commentator for oklahomawatch.org, reports “A record number of Oklahomans died from drug overdoses , and for the first time in years, methamphetamine was the single biggest killer”. Narcotics Bureau spokesman, Mark Woodward, believes that the excessive number of meth-related deaths, arose from a rise in popularity, and availability of the drug. Jaclyn Cosgrove, writer for The Oklahoman, states, in 2016 “meth killed on average almost one Oklahoman every day”. Inexpensive methamphetamine has circulated throughout the South (Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Montana, etc) from Mexico; it’s relatively low street price, for its high-purity, has made meth not only attainable, but quite affordable. Counties with the highest rate of meth use include: Beckham (33.82%), Muskogee (29.00%), Atoka (28.52%), McCurtain (28.12%), and Washita (27.76%). Expectantly, these areas resulted in more and more people dying from chemicals and toxins everyday.

Furthermore, high rates of mental illness and addiction among Oklahomans, along with concentrated efforts to confiscate opioids, have made this state a prosperous destination for a type of meth, called “ice” (smuggled in by Mexican cartels). Although there’s been recent crackdowns on living-room meth labs, this illicit drug is now produced in “super labs,” stationed along the US-Mexico Border. Woodward added, “It’s cheap, it’s accessible and someone in your circle will have it if you’re using drugs”.

Yet it goes without saying that the long-term cost of meth, far exceeds its initial “cheap” price. Carol Falkowski, an addiction expert in Minnesota, says that during a meth-induced high, “Users experience a sense of elation and hyper-vigilance, and often become paranoid and aggressive,” and adds, “they may binge on meth for days without eating or sleeping, and they often start seeing things that aren’t there”. Meth creates a slower death than other opioid drugs; it gradually induces either a stroke or heart attack. As the body overheats, extreme sweating occurs, just before breathing shuts off. In addition, Cosgrove notes that meth-use has led to the number of people infected with HIV, claiming, “Oklahoma County is experiencing the largest syphilis outbreak the county has seen in recent history,” which is, “in part, linked to meth addiction”.

A Rising Problem: Opioids

According to the thetreatmentcenter.com, “While cocaine and methamphetamine are life threatening in some situations, opioid deaths are particularly prevalent for several unique reasons”—one of the main reasons is that many people assume that prescription opioids are “safe” since doctors and psychiatrists prescribe them. Unfortunately, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reports that the number of opioid deaths in the US quadrupled between 1999 and 2015; at the same time, prescription opioid sales rose dramatically. Pain relievers, such as xycodone (OxyContin), hydrocodone (Vicodin), codeine, and morphine, chemically interact with opioid receptors on nerve cells in the brain and body, thus lessening aches and tension. However, because they produce euphoria as well, some users take them in dangerous quantities, or without a doctor’s consent. Furthermore, addicted opioid-users, may attempt “doctor shopping”—a practice that involves visiting various doctors in order to receive multiple prescription substances. Mary Fallin, Governor of Oklahoma, claims that, “Of the 3,500 unintentional poisoning deaths in Oklahoma from 2010-2014, more than 74% involved at least one prescription drug”.

Recently, changes in the state law have helped reduce opioid overdoses, The Treatment Center reports. For instance, since 2015, Oklahoma officials enforced a law that requires doctors to view the Oklahoma’s Prescription Monitoring Program database prior to prescribing opioid or benzodiazepines (like Xanax), to new patients. Additionally, in 2014, a reclassification of combination opioids, moved specific substances into Schedule II controlled dangerous pharmaceuticals. Moreover, this regulation has prohibited doctors from writing prescriptions for more than 90 days, thus enforcing regular check-ups with patients. Jeff Dismukes, spokesman for the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, recognizes the decline in opioid-related deaths, as a result of stricter governance of opioid-blocking Naloxone. However, Dismukes, acknowledges that, “We’ve made a little progress with opioids, but we’re nowhere near that not being a problem”.

Heroin Use in Oklahoma

Fox News writer, Mireya Garcia, says, “Heroin abuse is infecting America, and it is not just an inner city problem anymore,” adding “any person in any community could be hooked on heroin, and Oklahoma is not immune to this epidemic” (2016). Unfortunately, law enforcement and addiction experts claim the rise in heroin and other opioid addiction has cost thousands of Oklahoman lives. When opioid prescription refills are no longer an option, the addict may turn to heroin as an alternative. Typically, heroin lessens the symptoms of opioid withdrawal, and is far more affordable than purchasing prescription pills on the black market. Oklahoma’s high rates of occupational injuries and fatalities in the nation, might explain why heroin sales have surged, as painkillers are essential for those with chronic or severe pain. Likewise, because life expectancy has increased, more and more elderly individuals are prescribed opioid painkillers due to chronic distress; and those who depend on, “Or are addicted to prescription opioid painkillers are 40 times more likely to become addicted to heroin” (Cosgrove). Considering heroin’s attainability
and cheaper price, Narcotics Bureau spokesman Mark Woodward maintains, “When you’re an addict, you’ll take what you can get,” adding, “they all have their drug of choice, but not exclusive to that drug,”. Although the number of heroin deaths have remained lower, they’re steadily rising (eg 28 deaths in 2013 to 49 in 2016). Maj. Paco Balderrama, who supervises the Oklahoma City Police Department’s Operations Administration Bureau, states that even though “the numbers aren’t skyrocketing,” Oklahoma now has stricter laws on opioids “and how we can prescribe them, the natural next progression is heroin”.

Alcohol Dependency and Economic Damage

As stated by the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (ODMHSAS), “326,000 Oklahomans ages 12 and up, abuse alcohol or illicit drugs”. Of these Oklahomans’, 159,000 are 21 years of age or older, and regularly binge-drink (consuming five or more drinks on at least five different occasions within the last 30 days). As stated, “Only 7.6% of in need of alcohol treatment accessed help”. Reputedly, 30% of those receiving substance abuse treatment through ODMHSAS proclaim alcohol as their primary “drug of choice”. 

In general, addiction costs the state and its residents “an estimated $7.2 billion a year” as stated by authors, Andrew Knittle, Ginnie Graham (of Tulsa World Staff), and Ron Jackson (of Oklahoma Watch). This sum total surpasses the state government’s budget of $6.7 billion— according to these authors, “That’s roughly $1,900 for every man, woman and child in the state”. Terri White, commissioner of the state Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Department, maintains that in order to confront the addiction crises, Oklahoma needs to address one major contributor: drinking. In the state, excessive alcohol-use cost $3.08 billion, or $2.49 per drink consumed in 2010 (CDC, 2015). Specifically, White notes that teenage drinking needs to drastically change. Since the prefrontal cortex—the section that handles critical thinking and decision-making in the brain—does not fully develop until that age of 20 to 25, alcohol during adolescence may impair cognitive-development. Thus, White claims, “One of the most dangerous things that happens is underage drinking,” because “significant alcohol-use can actually permanently damage or stunt the growth of our prefrontal cortex”. Moreover, the younger someone starts, the more likely they’ll develop a full-blown addiction. 

Furthermore, alcohol and substance-related arrests have contributed to large amounts of tax expenses. As explained by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, “For every $100 that Oklahoma spends on substance abuse and addiction, only about $2 goes to prevention, treatment and research, while $97 goes to cover other direct costs, such as incarceration”. Susan Foster, the center’s policy director, argues, “It doesn’t have to be that way because we know more effective ways to make use of the tax dollar”.

Cities & Counties with Major Drug and Alcohol Problems

Oklahoma City

According to the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics, the state capital, Oklahoma City, is becoming increasingly affected by drugs. For example, on January 8, 2016, police discovered “3 pounds worth of crystal meth en route to its destination”. Shortly after, search warrants turned up a house where $1.5 million worth of meth “was in the process of being ‘cooked’ before distribution”. Apparently, its believed that 90% of the drugs being sold in Oklahoma City have been trafficked from South America, due to supplier identification symbols found on several seized drug loads. Furthermore, the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics claim that Mexican drug cartels have developed new ways of bypassing detection when bringing drugs into the US. In lieu of transporting cooked crystal meth, traffickers are now carrying “liquid meth hidden in car gas tanks, windshield wiper fluid areas and car batteries”. Then, they’re cooked into ‘ice’ sold on the streets in populated towns, such as Oklahoma City. 

Researchers from alltreatment.com, claim that an “estimated 16,932 people enter a drug or alcohol rehabilitation center in Oklahoma City every year”. Of these residents, 61.6% are male and 38.4% are female, and the city’s age group most affected by the use of illicit drugs is 20 to 30 year olds. Since the last ten years, drugs have risen by 8%; The All-treatment Program, explains that the recent pressures with school loans, along with unemployment-rates, and workrelated stress, has added to the increase in drug and alcohol use. Further data from technology manager, James Schergen, reveals that 17% of residents get prescribed painkillers, and one of every five patients abuses the medication. Even more, 72% of opioid addicts say they got it from a close friend or relative, while another 60% say that the medication did not cost them anything; only 4% admitted to buying it from a street-dealer. While drugs like crack cocaine, cannabis, amphetamines and prescription drugs, have perpetually affected this city, heroin has increasingly gained popularity. Figures from 2014 show that 864 Oklahoma City residents died from overdose that year, a rise from 687 in 2007. Oklahoma Drug Resources, indicates that the number of druginduced deaths in the city surpasses the national average.

Enid (City)

Megan Elliott’s article, The 15 Most Addicted Cities Behind the $8 Billion Opiate Epidemic, lists Enid, Oklahoma, as the fourth city with the highest rate of opioid abuse in the US. Enid has a population of about 50,000, and just over 10% of residents get “prescriptions for opiates, abuse them”— that’s more than double the national rate (Elliott). Additionally, 54.7% of those prescribed opiates, misuse them. Additionally, a comprehensive city-report, shows that just 11.3% of Enid residents report to not drinking at all; which means 88.7% of the population consumes alcohol. Notably, compared to the state average, this city’s unemploymentrate is below-standard, which may contribute to its high drinking rate.

Tulsa County

Like the state, Tulsa County’s primary drug of choice is alcohol, with 27% addicted. Out of all treatment admissions in ODMHSA-supported facilities in 2016, 45% entered for alcoholism. From these same statistics, 14.3% of Tulsa County adults reported to binge-drinking in the past 30 days; this percentage increased by 21% for ages 18 to34. Additionally, Tulsa County’s DUI rate is 20% higher than the state average. These stats explain why Oklahoma ranks number 3 nationally for the percentage of alcohol consumed by underage youth (Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation). Furthermore, writer for the Oklahoman, Silas Allen, says, in 2016,“Oklahoma City had the highest percentage of individuals age 12 and older who reported using prescription painkillers for non-medical reasons”. 

On the bright side, Tulsa County (with a population of 639,242) has the largest Specialty Court Program in the state by more than double. According to csctulsa.org, “So far, 1,221 offenders have successfully graduated from our program”. However there’s still a great deal of illicit drugs and alcohol abuse throughout the district. On August, 20, 2014, Tulsa World writer, Curtis Killman, reported that the Hoover Crips gang, “Distributed $10 million worth of cocaine from Mexican cartels, murdered at least one witness, ran a dog-fighting ring and had a vast network of co-conspirators”. Along with over 600 kilograms of cocaine, the gang distributed marijuana throughout Tulsa over a three-year period. Killman adds, “Of the 51 people indicted, 23 had been arrested,” with 14 more arrested later that day. Also, Tulsa Police Chief, Chuck Jordan, said that their investigation has taken “some of the worst people in community, off the streets,” so hopefully drug circulation has declined.

DUIs and Chemically Impaired Driving Deaths

DMV.org, states that Oklahoma has tough laws and strict penalties for driving under the influence (DUI)—“Convictions can range from a license suspension to jail time to a prison sentence, depending on the circumstances involved”. To get a DUI charge, one must exceed the adequate level of blood alcohol content (BAC); for those 21 years old or over, 0.8% is above regulation, and for those with a commercial driver’s license (CDL), 0.4% violates the protocol. However, Oklahoma law dictates that a charge for driving while impaired (DWI), can presume if the driver has a BAC between 0.05% and 0.08%. Additionally, if a police officer pulls a driver over, and the individual refuses to take a breath test, this will result in immediate revocation of their driver’s license, and/or an arrest; depending on the person’s driving record, the revocation will stay in effect from 180 days to 3 years. What’s more, if the driver refuses or fails a chemical test, they’ll face penalties from the Department of Public Safety and any filed criminal charges; although the penalties are independent from one another, the offender must satisfy all requirements issued by the court and/or the DPS before having your license reinstated. Fines range anywhere from $100 to $500, and may lead up to 6 months imprisonment for a DWI; typically, the cost for a DUI averages around $4,400 and $6,500.

According to the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility, in 2012, 206 people in Oklahoma were killed in crashes caused by a drunk driver. Disturbingly, 90% of the drivers involved with a BAC of .15%, had at least one previous DUI offense. Though drunk driving fatalities has gone down by 20% throughout the US, Oklahoma continues to maintain high numbers of drunk driving accidents. Oklahoma-law.com, reports that in 2015, 188 people died in DUI accidents. Fatalities of drivers in alcohol-related crashes in 2015, totaled 82% male, and 18% female; and the number of drivers in alcohol-related crashes (with no fatality), was 74% male, and 26% female. From 2007 to 2015, Oklahoma counties with the most drunk driving deaths included: Tulsa County (213), Oklahoma County (209), and Cleveland County (63). Districts with the greatest increase in DUI deaths (from 2014 to 2015) were: Rogers County, Pottawatomie County, Le Flore County, and Pittsburg County, all with 6 deaths.

Drug and Alcohol-Related Crimes in Oklahoma

Adolescents: From 2007 to 2016, juveniles (10 to 17 years of age), “Accounted for 10.1% of all arrests, and 13.2% of all arrests for index crimes,” according to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation Office of Criminal Justice Statistics. Drug-related arrests totaled 11%, while 4.6% pertained to alcohol—“arrest” in this context means a crime occurred that would warrant the arrest of an adult. Of the ages 10 to 12, thirty-four were caught with possession of marijuana; as expected though, the highest-rate came from age 17, with 348 males, and 95 females. Likewise, crime reports of drunkenness occurred as early as 10 to 12 years, with 11 offenses; the number gradually increased for each older age group. In total, from 2007 to 2016, Oklahoma drug-related offenses for adolescents was 1,322.

Adults: Among adults, drug-related arrests (in this timeframe) accounted for 19.7% of arrests, and 25.7% related to alcohol. Oklahoma County had the highest percentage of adult drug and alcohol-related arrests. In the state, adult arrests increased from 89.0% in 2015, to 89.9% in 2016. Possession of marijuana offenses prevailed mainly in the 18 to 24 age group, with 3,279 males, and 950 females. However, possession of synthetic narcotics mainly affected ages 25 to 34, with 851 males, and 492 females. Offenses of drunkenness totaled to 13,323, and drug-related crimes equaled 21,091.

Overall Crime: Drug-use and excessive alcohol-consumption almost always contributes to other crimes, like sexual-assault, aggression, and vandalism. Oklahoma’s annual crime database, indicates that out of 134,685 crimes this last year, 17,648 were violent, and 117,037 related to property. Regarding violent-crimes, a large percentage of offenders were drinking at the time; for example, up to 86% of homicide offenders, 37% of assault offenders, and 60% of sexual assaulters had alcohol in their system during the incident(s). Additionally, 57% of men and 27% of women involved in marital violence had alcohol in their system. Alcoholism has also caused many cases of absenteeism (the act of staying away from work or school without good reason). Also, in the workplace, accidents and on-the-job injuries are far more common among alcohol abusers, as stated by the US Office of Personnel Management.

Usually though, most drug-related offenses aren’t violent. For instance, Knittle, Graham, and Jackson, reported, “An analysis of nonviolent prison admissions from 2005-10 showed 44 percent involved drug-related offenses, mainly possession”. They pointed to another 2010 study, in which “885 female offenders who left prison had been assessed as needing substance abuse treatment”. Geographically, Tulsa and Oklahoma County contribute a large portion of drug and alcohol-related crimes; for instance, data for felony cases within those districts revealed that on January 24, 2011, 38 out of 62 cases involved drugs or alcohol (odmhsas.org). Notably, “Possession of controlled drug with intent to distribute,” was the most common charge. Police Department Administrator, Paco Balberrama said, “Police grow weary of arresting the same people over and over because those people cannot get into treatment”. Balberrama makes an unfortunate, but accurate point: Oklahomans with brain diseases and mental-disorders, often get sent into the criminal justice system, instead of receiving appropriate treatment programs.

Meth Labs Report

At the county level, Sequoyah ranked number one of all Oklahoma districts with the most meth labs—in 2005 to 2006, 46 labs were cited, with a rate of 5.60 (Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation). Pushmataha County came in second, with 13 labs, and a rate of 5.58; and Mccurtain placed third with 30 labs, with a rate of 4.42. Statewide, meth-labs totaled 473, with a .66 rate within this two-year period. Then in 2011, this number jumped to 913 labs. Since then, the number has gone down—Oklahoma law enforcement agencies found only 54 meth labs statewide in 2016; However, narcotics bureau spokesman, Mark Woodward, claims this “is due to tighter sale restrictions on the main ingredient, pseudoephedrine, plus an abundance of Mexican-sourced meth known as ‘ice’ or ‘crystal meth’ pouring across the border over the last five years, which reduced the need of local meth addicts to manufacture their own supply at home”. Although the numbers of labs has reduced, drug trafficking across Mexican-borders are indeed very much an issue.

Alcohol and Oklahoma’s Youth

As stated, Oklahoma ranks third nationally, for the percentage of alcohol consumed by underage youth (Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation). As reported by the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, “Underage drinkers account for nearly 17% of all alcohol consumed in Oklahoma, totaling $258.6 million in sales and providing $126.6 million in profits to the alcohol industry in 2013”. This data also revealed that 68% of Oklahoma students, grades ninth to twelfth, admitted to having at least one drink of alcohol on one or more days during their lifetime. Even more, in 2013, around 633 teen pregnancies and 11,987 teens having high-risk sex were associated with underage drinking in the state. Also troubling, 24% of ninth to twelfth graders reported to driving a vehicle while drinking (within the last month); and 40% had ridden with a driver who had been drinking. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, “Youth who start drinking before age 15 are six times more likely to develop alcohol dependence or abuse later in life than those who begin drinking at or after the legal age of 21” (2013). The Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (PIRE), also claims that in 2013, underage drinking cost the citizens of Oklahoma $1 billion.

Overall, the phenomenon of youth drinking consumes the nation: A survey, conducted by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, which focused on the alcohol-related problems experienced by 4,390 high school seniors and dropouts, revealed that within the last year, approximately 80% “reported either getting ‘drunk,’ binge-drinking, or drinking and driving; and more than half said that drinking had caused them to feel sick, miss school or work, get arrested, or have a car crash”. Resultantly, binge-drinking adolescence and youths, have problems attaining the “goals typical of the transition from adolescence to young adulthood,”
such as marriage, educational attainment, employment, and financial independence (NIH). Since a large amount of Oklahoma’s adult-population engages in heavy-alcohol consumption, there may be a link between children of alcoholics in the state, to a higher percentage of initiating and continuing drinking—this would explain the amount of underage drinkers, and teenagers who’ve consumed drinks within the past thirty days. Reaffirming this notion, retired Oklahoma County Sheriff, John Whetsel, said, “Parents play a huge role in reducing the odds that their kids will abuse drugs or alcohol,” adding, “what children see and hear at home, in many cases, determines what they will be like as they get older” (Oklahoma Gazette).

Furthermore, in a study of college freshmen, “A DSM-III diagnosis of alcohol abuse or dependence was twice as likely among those with anxiety disorder, as those without this disorder”; and in another study, “college students diagnosed with alcohol abuse were almost four times as likely as students without alcohol abuse to have a major depressive disorder” (NIH). Deductively, this data supports the need for mental-illness programs and recovery facilities, instead of Oklahoma’s youth serving the criminal justice system.

Drugs and Oklahoma’s Youth

Writer for the Oklahoma Gazette, Mark Beutler, reports that the 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Survey by the Oklahoma State Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, showed that among Oklahoma’s public high school students, 32% admitted to ever using marijuana, and 14% said they had taken prescription drugs without a doctor’s prescription. In addition, 15% said they were offered, sold or given illegal drugs on school property within that year. Beutler, says, “One key to curbing youth addiction is to prevent it before it begins, which means getting the message out to at-risk youths and their families about the dangers of underage alcohol and drug use,”—which cannot be underestimated. Another participant in reducing addiction, is the law enforcement community; Reportedly, Oklahoma law enforcement plays an active role in community outreach, “Targeting at-risk youth with various programs and departments”(Beutler). 

Substance Abuse Statistics from the the Office of Adolescent Health, show that in 2015, 13% of ninth to twelfth graders in Oklahoma smoked cigarettes during the thirty days before taking the survey, while US had an average of 11%. For male students in Oklahoma this percentage rose to 15%, while females totaled 11%; in the US males made up 12% and females came to 10%. Additionally, 52% high school students in the state reported that they tried to quit smoking cigarettes within the last year, while 45% of the nation claimed this. For high school students who admitted to chewing tobacco, snuff, or dip on at least 1 day (during the 30 days before the survey), Oklahomans surpassed the US yet again, with 9% from the state, and 7% for the overall population. Of these findings, males in Oklahoma made up 16%, and females came to 2%; then, US males averaged 12%, and females 2%. All around the board, it’s transparent that substance abuse among Oklahoma’s youth stands as a real problem.

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Financial Toll in Oklahoma

Beyond deficient health and strained relationships, drug and alcohol addiction causes serious financial burdens. According to drugabuse.com, the “economic burden of addiction in the United States is more than twice that of any other neurological disease”; along with the cost of drugs and alcohol, there’s the expenses of healthcare, legal fees, and other social costs. Furthermore, those addicted to drugs will likely end up with a decline in income as their school and work-life diminishes. Drugabuse.com, also explains the degree to which addiction costs those living at the poverty level, which according to the Oklahoma Watch Foundation, one in every six Oklahomans is considered poor; As of 2014, Oklahoma has the 16th-highest poverty rate in the US. Thus, the price of addiction greatly impacts the lower-class: a “pack of cigarettes per day can consume 10% of your family’s monthly income” (the Sober Media Group). Even more, heavy substance abusers may spend more than half of each month’s income on drugs. For those with children, addiction can hinder them from getting out of poverty; Drug habits of guardians will prevent children from receiving adequate education and financial support, and worse, they may even mimic these toxic habits, becoming addicted themselves.

Ironically, because addiction provides a means of escapism—a way for sufferers to avoid facing unpleasant areas in their lives—the user becomes more financially entrapped. Living paycheck to paycheck, struggling to make ends meet, or even engaging in absenteeism from work, or dropping out of school, substance-addiction drains finances. Considering the price of using, and the need to use more to get a “desired effect,” not only prevents addicts from improving economically, but increases one’s chances at losing everything—the house, custody of children, assets, and sanity. Then obviously more idle time, enhances the chances of giving into counterintuitive compulsions. To put these compulsions in an economic perspective: Drugaddicts can easily spend more than $10,000 each year to support their cravings; additionally, even a $5 six-pack of beer every day, will cost $150 each month, which adds up to $1,000 per 6 months on alcohol alone.

Regarding health care, insurance costs, and legal fees, drug and alcohol addiction can result in serious health problems, thus significantly increasing health care fees and insurance premiums. Additionally, getting arrested for a DUI not only causes numerous fines (eg legal fees, damage costs, educational courses), but will likely result in a 300% increase in car insurance. At large, (in 2006) excessive drinking alone “cost the United States approximately $223 billion dollars in health care expenses, law enforcement costs, and lost productivity” (Office of National Drug Control Policy). Likewise, Drug War Facts, a nonprofit project of Common Sense for Drug Policy, reports, that the Federal Drug Control Spending for the nation’s budget has gone up, from $23.8 billion in 2013, to $27.57 billion for 2018. Clearly a ridiculous amount is spent on druguse and alcohol-addiction, however, for every $1 spent on substance-abuse treatment, $4 is saved in healthcare costs and $7 is saved in law enforcement costs. Getting help, not only saves lives, but it preserves billions of dollars.

Overdose & Death

Prescription Drug Abuse is Widespread in Oklahoma, causing numerous fatalities. Journalist, Jaclyn Cosgrove, reported, “In 2016, 945 Oklahomans died from drug overdoses,” which is “the highest number of drug overdose deaths in 15 years”. According the Oklahoma State Prevention of Health statistics’, as of 2013, “Poisoning is the leading cause of injury deaths in Oklahoma; drugs cause 9 out of 10 poisoning deaths”. In addition, the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics & Dangerous Drugs Control, reports that more than half of the state’s drug overdose deaths in 2015 were due to painkillers. Overdose deaths increased between the years 1999 and 2013, and surpassed motor vehicle traffic-related deaths in 2009. Then in 2013, the poisoning death rate averaged 22.4 deaths per 100,000 persons, and the drug overdose death rate totaled to 20.3 deaths per 100,000 persons. Comparatively, that same year, motor vehicle traffic-related death rate averaged 17.8 deaths per 100,000 persons. Strikingly, the Oklahoma State Prevention of Health Injury Prevention Service, reports, that 91% of all poisoning deaths in 2013, resulted from drugs and medications—“prescription drugs, illicit drugs, and over-the-counter medications”. Moreover, 85% of these deaths were unintentional, while 8% were intentional selfharm or suicide, and 7% was unknown. Ages 45 to 54, had the highest rate of overdose fatalities with 45.0 per 100,000 individuals; and males an 18% higher rate than females.

From the same reports, Opioid Pain Relievers caused 61% (477 out of 777) of drug overdose deaths in 2013. Notably, more deaths involved opioid pain relievers, than meth, benzodiazepine, and cocaine combined; although the percent of “unspecified drug(s),” may slightly alter these results. Likewise, more overdose deaths came from prescription painkillers than alcohol and all illicit drugs combined. Since then, Oklahoma’s Department of Health has prohibited refills of hydrocodone, regulated naloxone, and implemented a prescription drug monitoring program to share health information with the public, and mental health departments. Currently, they continue to create, distribute, and evaluate opioid prescribing guidelines, as well as provide medical/educational training. Although measures have been taken, author, Meg Wingerter, claims, “Drug overdoses in Oklahoma increased again in 2016, and the situation could get much worse”. Last year, 813 Oklahomans died from overdoses, or 21.5 deaths for every 100,000 people. Wingerter, notes, “If Oklahoma’s population remained at its current size, more than 1,200 people could die of drug overdoses in a single year”.

Oklahoma Laws & Drug Regulations

As of July, 1, 2017, Oklahoma’s new drug law states that any possession of illegal narcotics (drugs, CDS) counts as a misdemeanor (Faulk Law Firm). Possessing a certain amount of drugs (eg 28 gams of cocaine, 10 grams of heroin, 20 grams of meth) will be charged as trafficking, which counts as a serious felony. Possession with intent to distribute is also considered a serious felony—even though the distributor may be caught with smaller amounts of narcotics, if evidence proves that these drugs aren’t just for personal use, they will face significant charges. Regarding jail time for misdemeanors, according to Faulk Law Firm, it varies greatly by county—some areas may have mandatory jail time for drugs like meth and heroin, while others may be more lenient.

In terms of workplace regulations, the Standards for Workplace Drug and Alcohol Testing Act in Oklahoma, “Provides that any private or public employer that has one or more employees within the state may conduct drug and alcohol testing in accordance with the Act” (Business and Legal Recourses ) the Standards for Workplace Drug and Alcohol Testing Act in Oklahoma, “Provides that any private or public employer that has one or more employees within the state may conduct drug and alcohol testing in accordance with the Act.” The employer may require an applicant/employee to undergo testing under the following circumstances:


• Applicant testing (May use refusal to undergo testing or a positive test result as a basis for rejection)
• For-cause testing (May require an employee to undergo drug or alcohol testing at any time it reasonably believes that the employee may be under the influence of drugs or alcohol).
• Post-accident testing (May require an employee to undergo drug or alcohol testing if the employee sustained a work-related injury or the employer’s property has been damaged. Refusal to take a test or testing positive, disqualifies the released employee eligibility for workers’ compensation benefits.
• Random testing (May use a random selection process to select one or more employees to partake in a drug-test).

Mental Illness and Addiction in Oklahoma

According to the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, in 2013, the Oklahoma Department of Corrections estimated that out of 26,539 inmates, “55% (14,625) of all offenders had a history of or current symptoms of a mental illness”. Even more, another 2009 study (conducted by the Oklahoma Department of Corrections) revealed that 55% of incarcerated offenders with some form of mental illness, had been convicted of only nonviolent offenses. Thus, the majority of DOC prison receptions were for alcohol and drug offenses, and with the prison population, over 40% were for alcohol and drug offenses (Oklahoma Department of Corrections, FY2012 Receptions, Incarcerations, and Releases).

Instead of receiving proper assistance and support for mental health and addiction, most “crime offenders” get locked up behind bars, which inhibits recovery and keeps the state from reducing overall crime. Research has proven that treatment works for mental-illness and addiction, thus, non-violent offenders need treatment in their communities, which would benefit economically and medically. Furthermore, the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, reports that, “The average cost to maintain an inmate in prison is $48 per day” (and $175 for someone in a prison mental unit); In contrast, offering appropriate mental health services “to someone in the community to keep them from entering the criminal justice system costs approximately $25 per day”. Then providing adequate substance abuse services to individuals in the community to prevent them from entering the criminal justice system costs approximately $15 per day.

Fortunately, Oklahoma’s network of drug and mental health court programs work to transfer non-violent, eligible offenders from prison to organized, court-supervised substance abuse and mental health treatment. The Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services has implemented a “Smart on Crime” legislative that targets treatment services to at-risk populations, in order to reduce crime and incarceration rates, which saves millions of tax dollars. Using evidence-based programs in the areas of criminal justice diversion, the “Smart on Crime” Council pre-sentences and reintegrates those with mental-illness to reduce recidivism and decrease demand for correctional beds. As reported by the Oklahoma Sheriff’s Association and the Oklahoma District Attorney’s Council, not only does this department have a tremendously successful track record, but it’s programs require funding and not statutory changes, making it a cost-efficient alternative to the criminal justice system.

Like the above statistics, out of 25,000 inmates (in 2009), the Oklahoma Department of Corrections reported that, “79% of females and 46% of males” were diagnosed with a mental illness; and, 57% of these individuals were incarcerated for non-violent offenses. Even more, “33% were imprisoned for drug and alcohol offenses and at least 50% were incarcerated for a crime related to substance abuse” (DOC of Oklahoma). This affirms the necessity for the “Smart on Crime” program—since 2009, they’ve placed non-violent offenders, whose primary issue is an untreated mental or addictive disorder, in a closely monitored program such as a drug court, mental health court, a day reporting program or a jail diversion program, or other proven programs that, “Proactively address the problem and reduce incarceration”. Resultantly, at the end of July 2009, there were 4,501 active participants in 41 adult drug and DUI courts in Oklahoma—Financially speaking, the annual estimated cost of DOC incarceration is $19,000; the cost for drug court is $5,000, thus reducing tax costs. Additionally, drug court has been proven to reduce re-arrest; for instance, the re-arrest rates for drug court graduates after four years, drops to less than half of released inmates. However, before arrest or court-sentence takes place, if you or a loved one has an addiction problem, there’s highly successful ways to get help.

Support and Treatment

In 2014, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), estimated that 64,000 Oklahomans needed help for illicit drug use and 183,000 Oklahomans needed help for alcohol abuse. Yet, only 13,851 arrived at publicly funded rehabs; although SAMHSA does not research the number of addicts at privately funded rehabs, most programs receive public funding. OpioidAnalyses’ conclude that certain changes must be made: 1. When possible, doctors must attempt to manage patient pain without prescribing pills; and only a minimal amount for short-term pain should be given. 2. Doctors must recognize signs of addiction, and take steps in weaning that patient off the drugs until well again. 3. Youth must gain awareness of potential risks with any pills (as mentioned, 85% of opioid deaths were unintentional). 4. Coaches and parental-guardians must identify drug misuse among young injured-athletes, etc 5. Extremely critical, is that a drug rehabilitation is sought for those addicted.

Identifying Addiction:

Opioids: An estimated 156,000 Oklahomans are abusing opioids

• general sedation,

• memory issues

• inability to concentrate

• slowed reaction times

• lethargy

• and mood swings

• Off the drug, user(s) may appear anxious and display flulike symptoms.

Alcohol: As a legal drug, alcohol generates a significant risk of addiction.

• Poor coordination

• Slurred speech

• Impaired thinking

• Memory impairment

• Professing a desire to stop drinking, but not able to

• Social events centered around drinking or getting drunk

• Secretive about the extent of the alcohol consumed

• Heightened risk-taking (eg drunk driving)

• Denial about the having an alcohol-abuse problem

• Signs of distress at the prospect of not having alcohol-access

Stimulants: Methamphetamine (including crystal meth), Prescription ADHD medications (such as Adderall, and Ritalin), and Cocaine (and crack cocaine).

• Majority of time spent seeking out and using the drug.

• Continues seeking out drug despite adverse effects on life and health.

• Attempted to quit or cut down unsuccessfully

• Takes larger amounts each time to feel the same effects

• Without the stimulant, they feel ashamed and experience withdrawal symptoms including: mental and physical exhaustion, insomnia, anhedonia (inability to feel pleasure), irritability, etc.

Marijuana: Addiction to marijuana has a much younger influence than any other drug. One in eleven adults who begin using this drug, will become addicted. Whereas, one in six teenagers will become addicted.

• Isolates from family and changes peer-groups

• Study and/or work performance worsens

• Confusion; short-term focus-span;

• Neglect projects, hobbies and goals

• Inaccurate judgment of time and distance

• Loss of coordination

• Very potent marijuana may cause delusions, panic attacks, hallucinations or psychotic breaks

• Increased suicide tendencies (with heavy use)

Addiction At Large

Drugs vary in impact: “Some nudge open the door to addiction, and others break that door down; some have innocuous origins, and others were crafted for no other reason than to poison and corrupt” (Foundations Recovery Network). Attitudes and stereotypes differ for each drug type—some receive approval and celebration, while others get shunned and pushed away. Demographic plays a major role in what drug prevails and inhabits communities. Thus, here’s what to consider in terms of drugs and alcohol:

Overall, while marijuana has spread in popularity throughout the nation, harder drugs, like heroin and cocaine, still remain unpopular in the general sense. In 2013, the Huffington Post, conducted a poll that showed only about 10% of Americans favored legalizing “hard drugs”. Yet, although marijuana is now legal in states, such as California, Colorado, and Massachusetts, Oklahoma has some of the strictest laws on cannabis in the US—even medical marijuana is illegal. However, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, reports that many Oklahomans smoke weed regardless: At 44.1%, “Possession of marijuana represented the largest number of drug-related arrests for both adult and juveniles” in 2016.

Not surprising, alcoholics make up the biggest consumers of alcohol in America (more than 10% of drinkers drink more than half the alcohol drunk in a year). Yet, alcohol-related deaths average around 88,000 fatalities per year in the US. From the prior (2016) statistics, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, stated that drunkenness represented 48.6% of all alcohol related arrests in Oklahoma. In terms of heroin use, USA Today claims that, “Heroin addiction is not limited by demographic”. Interestingly, the Foundations Recovery Network, stated that, “Heroin users are often white and suburban”. Furthermore, 90% of “new users are white, and quite possibly getting addicted because they were introduced to opiates via prescription medication” (FRN). Liz Szabo, writer for USA Today, says, “More women and middle-class people are falling under the sway of heroin”; Addicts come from “all walks of life, from 60-year-olds to teenagers, in people of all races, in men and women.”

Crack Cocaine persists among the lower income demographic, primarily because its easier to manufacture and cheaper to sell than pure cocaine. Although both forms of cocaine cause similar degrees of addiction, individuals arrested because of possession or association with powdered cocaine spend an average of 87 months in prison, whereas those convicted of crack cocaine offenses spend 115 months in prison. However, the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 increased the amount of base cocaine required for mandatory minimum prison terms to go into effect—this thereby brings crack cocaine closer to powdered cocaine in terms of the necessary criteria. National Institute on Drug Abuse, reports that the 18 to 25 age group has the highest current cocaine use nation-wide—1.4% claimed to have used in the past-month. Likewise, research shows that cocaine use is prevalent among the youth in Oklahoma: In a recent survey by the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, 4.3% of high school students reported that they had used cocaine during the 30 days prior to the survey. Yet, the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 reduced penalization, increasing the amount of base cocaine that’s required for mandatory minimum prison terms to go into effect.

Mirroring Oklahoma, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime reports that methamphetamine is a worldwide issue: it’s estimated that the production of amphetamine-type stimulants (including methamphetamine) is “nearly 500 metric tons a year, with 24.7 million abusers”. Within the US, the national government reported in 2008 that approximately 13 million people over the age of 12 have used meth—and 529,000 of those were regular users. In 2007, 4.5% of high-school seniors reported to have used meth at least once; while, 4.1% of tenth grade students made this claim. However, according to the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), meth use has decreased from previous years—“Approximately 1.2 million reported using meth in the past year, and 440,000 reported using it in the past month”. Still, the NSDUH says that meth still greatly affects the youth: In 2012 the average age of new meth users was 19.7 years old. Additionally, the ODMHSAS reports that in a survey conducted in Oklahoma schools (with 6th, 8th, 10th and 12th graders) meth increased by 104% within a six year period among substance-abuse consumers.

Addiction and the Family

Whether it’s a parent, daughter, son, or another family member, drug and alcohol addiction affects everybody. Drug and Alcohol Information and Support, describes common roles the son or daughter of a parent abusing drugs or alcohol ends up playing. For example, “The Family Hero,” is often the eldest in the family, and he or she works hard for approval, and takes on tremendous responsibility; however, internally, this person usually feels insecure, incompetent, and agitated. Then, there’s “the Scapegoat,” who gets blamed when circumstances go wrong—Providing the family with a distraction from “real problems,” everyone focuses on this persons faults, thus causing this person to believe they’re “rebellious, troublesome, and a law-maker”. Resultantly, this individual is at a higher risk of abusing drugs themselves, as a means of escape. Additionally, there’s “the Lost Child,” who appears as a “dreamer,” often appearing optimistic and mentally well, but inside he or she quietly endures hurt, anger and loneliness. Finally “the Mascot” (also known as “the Clown”), usually appears fun and lively, “quick to make a joke”; at times they’re quite restless, and sometimes rather fragile and easily hurt. Yet, they’re usually proficient at hiding pain, and feelings of loneliness, low self-esteem and fear. Research shows that, “Children of alcoholics are four times more likely to develop alcoholism than individuals who were not raised by alcoholics” (Behavioral Health of the Palm Beaches Inc). For children of alcoholics, it’s important to have alone-time, and to speak with a friend, and/or a psychologist.

On the other side of the spectrum, a son or daughter with an addiction affects the whole family unit. For instance, parents often dispute with each other over how to handle the situation, causing them to grow farther apart. Then, other siblings may get blamed for not setting a “good example,” by drinking a can of beer at home, or by saying the “wrong thing”. Furthermore, while the drug user absorbs much of the attention, everyone else gets neglected or over-looked. Again, it’s crucial for the parents and other siblings of a substance-abuser to put their needs first, before helping the one causing the problem, as well as, talking to close friends and/or a psychologist. Then in both cases, its worth researching and setting up an intervention.

Intervention

When an addicted individual refuses to acknowledge the degree to which their abuse has reached, a more focused approach may need take place. By joining forces with others and taking action through a formal intervention, your loved one will receive a structured opportunity “to make changes before things get even worse, and it can motivate him or her to seek or accept help” (Mayo Clinic). In addition to family and friend involvement, an intervention, includes a consultation with a licensed alcohol and drug counselor, or is directed by an intervention professional (interventionist). Gathering together, these people collaboratively confront the addicted individual about the consequences of addiction and ask him or her to accept treatment. Typically the intervention points out specific examples of destructive behaviors and instances that the substance-user or alcoholic engaged in that greatly impacted family members and friends. In conjunction with this, the intervention provides a prearranged treatment plan with clear steps, goals and guidelines, and warns what each person will do the individual refuses to accept treatment (eg break off communication, kick the person out of the house). Notably, careful planning determines whether a successful intervention will occur; by contrast, poor planning can worsen the situation, as the addicted person may feel attacked and become more detached or resistant to treatment.

Intervention-Steps in Detail:

Make a plan: the concerned friend or family member should propose an intervention and form a planning group; a qualified professional counselor/interventionist will help organize an effective intervention; its essential to have expert guidance, as an intervention has potential to cause resentment, anger, or a sense of betrayal.

Gather information: With other group members, find out about the extent of the sufferer’s problem and research the condition and treatment programs—perhaps agree on a specific treatment program.

Form the intervention team: The “planning group” forms a team of participants for the intervention. This step includes setting a date and location, and working together to construct a consistent, rehearsed message and a comprehensive plan. Notably, the loved one shouldn’t know what’s occurring until the day of the intervention.

Decide on specific consequences: If the addict refuses treatment, each person must decide what action he or she will take.

Make notes on what to say: Each individual should cite specific incidents where the individual’s addiction caused major problems. However, in doing so, the speaker(s) must also express care and expectation that he or she can change.

Hold the intervention meeting: Bring the addicted individual to the intervention site, without revealing the reason. Team members then take turns sharing their concerns and feelings. Afterwards, the addict is presented with a treatment option and asked to accept that
option on the spot; meanwhile each member warns the individual what will happen if he or she refuses.

Follow up: If all goes well, and the individual goes through with a treatment program, members of the intervention-team should assist them in staying on track in order to avoid relapse. From changing patterns of everyday living, such as ridding of alcohol in the house, to attending counseling meetings with your loved one, healthy changes will avoid destructive behavior.

Intervention does not need to take place for an individual to turn his or her life around. However, in many circumstances, outside involvement may determine the fate of an addicted person; if they cannot give up the addiction, intervention may be extremely necessary.

How the Treatment Process Works

Whether one’s going through treatment on their own, or by external pressure or force, making the commitment to give up control in order to make drastic changes is the first step in recovery. Yes, reversing the damages done by alcohol and drug-addiction takes an incredible amount of work, but in doing so, the sufferer’s life may be spared.

1. Detox 

In order to begin a recovery program, the patient must detox— this means, ridding of all toxins in the body’s system by staying clean for at least five to ten days. Usually, rehab programs reject those who aren’t fully detoxed. However, many centers have medically supervised detox programs for those whom struggle to abstain from substance and alcohol-consumption. Detoxing without further therapy, though, will inevitably lead to relapse. Therefore, detoxing is just the initial measure in a series of phases for full recovery. 

What is withdrawal and how long does it last?

2. Assessment 

For rehabs dealing with any major addiction—heroin, cocaine, alcohol, other opiates, etc —assessments must take place before letting in a patient. Assessments typically come in the form of questionaries, self-evaluations, and/or a physical exam. By answering questions and recording health-data, the assessor can more adequately determine whether an addiction is fully present, to what extent, whether or not it pairs with co-occurring condition(s), and how to treat the specific, individual. Usually doctors, nurses, social workers, and therapists carry out these assessments. Although assessment strategies sometimes differ from rehab to rehab, all locations carry out similar investigations. 

3. Intake 

During the intake process, the patient will usually meet individually, with a counselor or therapist, a doctor, and/or a psychologist. Establishing these relationships with the staff helps them communicate with each other to collaboratively develop a methodical treatment plan. Typically, documented notes describing medical and mental health history, will be reviewed from the session(s), and specialized screenings and physical exams might also take place. Additionally, the patient will be asked about major events or certain instances that might have led to the eventual addiction. Important to note—the intake process usually involves some form of payment and/or a financial plan, and fortunately, many facilities offer a number of payment and insurance options.

4. Inpatient Treatment 

Residential treatment centers (RTC), are highly structured, and evidence-based programs that typically follow the 12-step model of recovery (Alcoholics Anonymous). Additionally, inpatient rehabs offer emotional process groups—e.g. CBT (for obsessive thoughts and compulsions), DBT (for stabilizing moods), and work-return planning, etc. RTC works especially well for individuals who have recently received hospital-care, or who need more structure, and stability than outpatient care. Average length of stay is typically three to six months, and is usually all residential-based (no returning home each night). 

More on Inpatient vs. Outpatient treatment.

5. Outpatient Treatment 

Partial hospitalization drug rehab programs (PHP), and intensive outpatient programs for substance abuse (IOP), differ from RTC in that patients go home in the evenings. PHP, also referred to as “day rehab,” provides the patient with the intensity of RTC, but for six hours a day, five days a week. Using many of the same tools and resources, PHP can be just as effective; individuals receive group-therapy, counseling, medical assessment, etc. Due to cost-reduction and flexibility, many drug and alcohol rehab centers now offer this style of treatment. 

Should I choose inpatient or outpatient?

6. AfterCare 

Immediate, and continuous follow-up treatment for substance abuse, should occur after the completion of an initial rehab program. Addiction aftercare programs aim to encourage recovery maintenance, and helps develop ways to prevent relapse, to achieve a fulfilled life with healthy relationships and a sense of purpose. Longstanding substance abuse can de-normalize cognitive-function and altar parts of the brain long after rehab, therefore continuing treatment is extremely important. Beyond physical impact, several long-term psychological changes may affect thoughts, feelings, and behaviors (as another consequence to prior intoxication). Therefore, its essential that aftercare proceeds. 

What happens after discharge?

7. Sober Living 

Another idea to consider is living in a sober living home— a group home for addicts, that allows one to come and go as they please, as long as they follow curfew-rules and do chores. Before moving in, the recovering-addict should find a 12-step sponsor (a family member, a friend, or an acquaintance, that will support, listen, and hold you accountable). Once, enlisted, residents in these homes must remain sober, and willingly support one another. Thus, this environment encourages sobriety and helps addicts adjust to a non-substance/non-alcoholic life. Many sober living homes include volunteer opportunities and therapeutic meetings, such as
feeding the homeless at soup-kitchens, as well as, Alcoholic-Anonymous (12-Step) gatherings, and job-search tools. Before moving in, each individual must complete the detox process.

Not every recovering-addict needs to move into a sober living home, but, like the above resources and programs listed, it’s worth considering. Many members agree that there’s strength in numbers, when trying to get help; and it’s comforting to know that most other members can relate, as they too suffered from addiction. Still, if a patient recovered with a different program, and can confidently live on their own without feeling the urge to take drugs or drink, than that’s great too. Although the road to recovery differs from person to person, the main point is that the sufferer gets help, and begins the process of living a healthier, safer, and sober lifestyle.

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