In the U.
S., drug overdoses are the number one killer ofpeople who are 50 years old or younger. Although marijuana, cocaine, andmethamphetamines are some of the most commonly abused drugs in the Cobb Countyregion, heroin and other opioids have topped the list.
Within recent years,opioids have become the primary cause of death for those 35 or younger. Thesestatistics hit particularly close to home for Georgia residents as opioidoverdoses have increased an astonishing 1000% in the last ten years. Opioid is the blanket term used to describe both opiatesderived from the opium poppy (ex.
morphine, codeine, heroin, and opium) andsynthetic drugs (ex. methadone, oxycodone, Vicodin, Percocet, and Dilaudid). Whenused responsibly and as prescribed by a physician, opioids attach to receptorsin the brain and are meant to assist in pain management. However, the abuse andaddiction rate of opioids in the U.S. is far-reaching and growing exponentially.
Opioids don’t discriminate by gender, age, race, or socio-economic status, andsadly, it often begins with opioid painkillers. In 2016, Cobb County had the second highest number ofoverdose deaths in the entire state, only surpassed by neighboring FultonCounty, which has one of the highest opioid overdose rates in the entirenation. In 2014, Cobb County reported 10.1 – 12 drug-related deaths per 100,000people, only slightly lower than Fulton and Cherokee Counties (12.
1 – 14 per100,000). One culprit to the high rate of opioid overdoses is the recentintroduction of the drug Fentanyl to the region. Because it is easier andcheaper to manufacture, opioids are sometimes cut with Fentanyl, which issimilar to morphine, but 50 times more potent. For this reason, Georgia hasseen a marked spike in both opioid overdoses and deaths. The difficulties ofFulton County and the surrounding metro areas have been chronicled on theA show Intervention and provide a glimpse to the rest of thenation of how dire this situation is in the “heroin triangle.” The city ofKennesaw and surrounding neighborhoods of Deerfield, Summerbrooke, and AbingtonGreen haven’t been immune to the devastation that opioids can inflict.
However, the Kennesaw community has been a pioneer infighting this epidemic. Three years ago, in an effort to minimize the number ofdeaths from opioid overdoses, Kennesaw State University was the firstuniversity in Georgia to arm the campus police force with naloxone, theantidote that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose. Faculty, staff, students,and others affiliated with the campus have also been trained to use this lifesaving kit. But there is still much work that needs to be done. If you, your spouse, partner, sibling, child, friend, or co-worker is struggling with addiction,you are not alone.
There are resources to help those in need navigatetheir way through addiction. Here is a snapshot of what to expect in therecovery process: Initial Assessmentand Pre-Intake The initial assessment begins with a phone call or visit toa treatment facility. Although each treatment program is unique, manyfacilities use the Addiction Severity Index (ASI) to help determine the needfor treatment.
Experts are looking for signs of crisis (those who need immediateattention), risk factors, and potential barriers to successful treatment.Additionally, experts help potential patients to make an informed decisionabout their own treatment. It’s important to note that there may be a waitingperiod for programs that are currently at-capacity. Admission and Intake After the decision is made to enter treatment, patients willgo through a formal intake process, which often includes providing a detailed medicaland treatment history as well as having physical and psychological evaluations.
Patients can expect to provide information about drugs of choice, method ofdrug use (smoking, snorting, injecting, etc.), frequency of use, and known orpotential infectious diseases such as sexually transmitted diseases, tuberculosis,HIV/AIDS, and hepatitis. Often, new patients are required to take a drug testand submit bloodwork. Being armed with this information will help the medicalstaff suggest the best method of treatment for new patients.
Detoxification Treatment from addiction involves a detoxification process,which is important for eliminating the harmful chemicals within the body. Aswith any addiction, there is a withdrawal period as the body detoxifies. After druguse has stopped, patients may initially experience muscle aches, anxiety,sweating, and a rapid pulse. As the withdrawal symptoms peak, patients mayexperience nausea, stomach issues (ex. cramping, vomiting, and diarrhea),depression, and cravings. Depending upon the facility and the patient’s needs, thereare different methods of detoxification: Medical DetoxificationSevere withdrawal is often a catalyst for relapse and forthis reason, some patients choose to participate in a program that offers medicaldetoxification.
Doctors will prescribe medication to help patients move throughpainful withdrawal symptoms. With opioid addiction, the most common types ofmedication used in a medical detox are: · MethadoneThis type of method is referred toas Methadone Maintenance Treatment (MMT) where patients are given a daily doseof methadone, a synthetic opioid to help counteract the withdrawal symptoms. Methadoneworks by linking with opiate receptors in the brain, which lessens withdrawalssymptoms without the “high” that opioids create. Unlike heroin or other opioids,the effects of methadone last 24 hours.
Over a period of time, the amount ofmethadone administered is decreased, with the ultimate goal of being opioid-free. · BuprenorphineSimilar to methadone,buprenorphine, commonly known as Suboxone, fits into opiate receptors in thebrain, eliminating the withdrawal symptoms without the euphoric high. Thisprescription medication is administered by pill and dissolved under the tongue.Suboxone also contains the drug naloxone, which is used to prevent abuse of thebuprenorphine.
When this medication is injected instead of dissolved under thetongue, it creates withdrawal symptoms. Subutex is another form ofbuprenorphine, but does not contain naloxone, and may be prescribed for thosewho are pregnant or have an allergy to this particular medication. The effectsof buprenorphine are long-lasting and those prescribed this medication willtake it daily or once every two days depending on doctor recommendations.
· NaltrexoneNaltrexone also works by blocking opiatereceptors in the brain. In addition to counteracting opiate withdrawalsymptoms, this medication also helps treat alcohol dependence by reducing theeffects normally felt with alcohol. Naltrexone is either administered by pillor an injection of Vivitrol. Naltrexone pills must be taken daily while the injectionis time-released and lasts for 30 days.
Medically SupervisedDetoxification Not to be confused with medical detox, medically supervised detoxinvolves licensed medical staff closely monitoring a patient’s detoxificationprocess. Depending on the facility, medically supervised detox programs mayemploy either natural methods or use prescription medication to alleviate thesymptoms of withdrawal while monitoring a patient’s vitals and level ofdiscomfort. Natural DetoxificationA natural detoxification process, which is supervised bylicensed medical professionals, is also considered a type medically superviseddetox. Natural detox focuses on allowing the body to go through the withdrawalprocess naturally. Herbal remedies and over-the-counter, non-addictivemedication may be used, but this type of detox doesn’t use any prescriptionmedication.
Patients can expect to be closely monitored by doctors and nursesto ensure their vitals are stable and help address any other medical issuesthat may arise. The philosophy behind this method is that feeling the effectsof withdrawal may serve as a deterrent in the future. Rapid DetoxificationRapid detoxification involves putting patients into amedically-induced sleep state and administering medication that accelerates thedetoxification process while eliminating the awareness of withdrawal symptoms.There is much debate about this type of treatment. Advocates believe that thismethod helps people move through the most challenging part of withdrawal, whileopponents argue that the rate of relapse is greater with rapid detox becausethere are no negative withdrawal symptoms to serve as a deterrent.
Treatment Options Think of treatment as a chain – depending on needs, eachpatient will begin on a certain rung. Each subsequent rung is meant to movepatients closer and closer to individually managing their addiction. Treatment fallsinto three broad categories: inpatient, intensive outpatient, and outpatient.After the intake process, medical professionals will help patients determinethe best option. Inpatient TreatmentInpatient treatment involves a patient residing in afacility for a specified amount of time, which can range from a few weeks toseveral months. This occurs in either a residential treatment center, wherepatients receive psychological, emotional, and medical support to work throughtheir addiction.
Patients are often supported by a team of doctors, nurses, therapists,and other trained healthcare professionals. The environment is highlycontrolled to allow patients to focus on their recovery. PartialHospitalization ProgramsIn some cases, medical personnel may recommend a partialhospitalization program (PHP). A PHP isdesigned for those that have either completed a residential program or those whohave demonstrated they do not need around-the-clock care of a residentialprogram. Those enrolled in PHP participate in highly structured in-housetherapies and activities several days during the week, but return home in theevening. PHP provides the high level of support of an in-patient program, butoffers the flexibility of an outpatient program. Those enrolled in a PHP canexpect to commit approximately five hours five days a week of their time.
Intensive Outpatient ProgramsIntensive Outpatient Programs (IOP), similar to PHP, are theintersection of inpatient and outpatient treatment. Those enrolled in intensiveoutpatient programs will attend in-house sessions, receive one-on-onecounseling, and be given medication if needed. IOP participants can expect tocommit approximately three hours three days a week, which is less time requiredthan PHP. Those enrolled in an IOP may receive one-on-one counseling sessionsfrom medical professionals in addition to group therapy sessions.
Outpatient TreatmentOutpatient treatment offers the most flexibility of alltreatment programs as patients are allowed to continue with their dailyresponsibilities such as work, but are required to check in at a treatmentfacility during regularly scheduled times. Outpatient treatment varies greatly,but can include personal counseling, group sessions, medication oversight, and othersupport. Aftercare Programs Aftercare is a term relative to where treatment begins. Forexample, if a patient begins with inpatient treatment, part of their aftercaremay include outpatient treatment. Completing a recommended treatment plan is animportant milestone in the recovery process, but patients should also plan forlong-term success.
Participating in aftercare programs is highly recommended asit reduces the chances for relapse. Those in recovery will work closely with theirtreatment facility to find an aftercare program that best suits their needs. Aftercareprograms vary greatly in time commitment and services, but are often focused ongroup therapy, individual growth, and self-efficacy. Some types of aftercareprograms that patients may consider: 12-Step Programs12-Step programs such as Narcotics Anonymous and AlcoholicsAnonymous provide a safe and supportive environment for those in recovery. These group sessions are confidential andprovide participants with the tools to work through “steps” of recovery. Almost75% of treatment centers utilize 12-step programs in their treatment ofpatients. To find a meeting near you: https://www.
na.org/meetingsearch/. Individual counselingThose in recovery may also choose to work with a mentalhealth professional to address any barriers to sobriety. Counseling may beconducted with either a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist, preferably withdrug and alcohol counseling experience. Therapists may employ behavioral,cognitive, or a combination of therapeutic approaches during sessions. Group Therapy andSupport GroupsSharing some of the same components of a 12-step program,group therapy and support groups can help provide emotional support for thosein recovery. Participants are placed in a group with others struggling with thesame addiction issues and will normally work with a trained therapist leadingregularly scheduled sessions. Sober LivingSober living facilities are meant to bridge the gap betweenresidential treatment centers to living on one’s own.
These substance andalcohol-free homes are shared by individuals who are also in recovery. Those insober living homes often participate in multiple forms of aftercare such as12-step programs, group therapy sessions, and individual counseling.