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Drug and Alcohol Addiction in Anchorage, Alaska

Anchorage is the largest city in the state of Alaska. It has an estimated population of 298,695 people according to a 2015 census. It is situated on the south-central side of the state and boasts of some of the most remarkable cultural sites. A particularly captivating site in this city is the Heritage Center which exhibits traditional crafts, hosts various cultural dances and showcases replicas of the houses and communities that indigenous people used to inhabit. The city has a median income estimate of $78,121 and an unemployment rate of 5.70%.

Despite having some of the best tourist attractions, employment statistics and an impressive infrastructure this city is dealing with a substance abuse and addiction problem that is quite heartbreaking. Teenagers are falling into habits that ultimately compromise their future while a number of adults are becoming unable to take care of responsibilities because of addiction. It is worth pointing out that Anchorage has over 5000 homeless people with a large percentage of these people being substance addicts. Studies suggest that 15 of these homeless people freeze to death each year. The individuals that freeze are often regarded as addicts who may have blacked out or stayed out in the cold while high on a drug which is why they end up freezing to death.

A large number of emergency cases in Anchorage are attributed to excessive consumption of alcohol. Legalization of marijuana in the state of Alaska has further complicated matters because the substance is now easily available to both the teenage and adult population. Other substances commonly used and abused in this city include prescription drugs, heroin and cocaine. Local authorities have over the years run ambitious operations to get rid of illicit substances and this has led to to significant success. Learning institutions, religious groups and community based organizations have also done their best to reduce the impact of drug use. However, those who are already using drugs may need more than awareness creation. They need professional treatment to help them break free of their addiction and become productive members of the society.

If you live in Anchorage and have fallen victim to substance abuse don’t hesitate to seek treatment. There are enormous resources in at your disposal.

Drug Laws in Anchorage

Marijuana – is legal for individuals that have attained the age of 21. This means anyone over 21 can grow, possess, use and give away a specified quantity of the substance. However, it is illegal for anyone under the specified age to do any of the issues mentioned. Driving or operating machinery while under the influence of this substance is illegal and can land the culprit in jail. It is also important to note that public use of marijuana is illegal and may attract a costly penalty to any offender.

Alcohol – this substance is legal for adults. However, there are specific time limits in which these products can be sold and purchased. Driving while under the influence of alcohol is illegal regardless of the age of the offender.

Prescription drugs – prescription medications are legal in the city provided the individual has relevant documents issued by a doctor. Of course it is difficult to regulate  the use of prescription medications which is why they present a tremendous challenge in the fight against addiction.

Heroin – the use, possession or sale of this substance is illegal in all states. It is one of the highest ranked illegal substances in the country meaning that anyone found using, possessing or selling it is likely to get an extremely stiff penalty. Mere possession can lead to a 5 year jail term while trafficking can lead to 5 to 99 year jail term.

Cocaine – this is an illegal substance in all states. Possession is considered a class c felony which may attract a jail term of up to 5 years. Dealing any amount of this substance is considered a class B felony and may compel a judge to sentence the offender to a jail term of up to 10 years.

Commonly Abused Substances and their Effects


This is one of the most commonly abused substances in Anchorage for both adults and teenagers. The fact that it is legal and easily available makes it an obvious choice for locals. Some alternative names for this substance may include booze, sauce, hard stuff, vino, suds, hooch and draft. While drinking a little alcohol is not harmful going over the recommended limit ultimately causes health and social problems. Below are some of the negative effects of taking too much alcohol over a prolonged period of time.

  • May cause headaches
  • Leads to distorted vision and hearing impairment
  • May cause anemia due to loss of red blood cells
  • Can lead to kidney and liver damage
  • Can damage the nerve system
  • Can cause cancer of the mouth and throat
  • May cause permanent damage to the brain
  • Addiction and death


Being a legal substance in Alaska it is easy to understand why it is commonly used and abused. Some of the alternative names for marijuana include dope, joint, weed, skunk, herb, ganja, aunt mary, cheeba, blunt, chronic and grass. This substance can be taken through a variety of methods including smoking, inhaling as vapor, brewing as tea and mixing with foods such as cookies. While it is illegal for individuals under 21 the truth is that a large percentage of teens using drugs in Anchorage have admitted to using it. Here are some of the negative effects of taking marijuana over the long term.

  • Reduced reaction time which may lead to accidents while driving or operating machinery
  • Onset of hallucinations including seeing, smelling and hearing things that are not real
  • Sexual complications for men
  • Increased risk of suffering from a stroke
  • Up to 7 times more risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection
  • A sharp decline in intelligence quotient
  • Antisocial behavior such as violence, robbery and lying
  • Greater chance of being unemployed due to poor performance
  • Dropping out of school
  • Financial problems
  • Mental illnesses

Prescription drugs

These are drugs that are given under the directions of a doctor. They can be used to treat a number of health issues including pain and management of other ailments. While doctors provide prescription medications hoping that their patients will adhere to instructions this is not always the case. There are times when patients use the drugs in a manner that is not recommended and that can result in addiction. Here are some o the negative effects of prescription drug abuse.

  • Development of constipation
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Confusion and drowsiness
  • Chest pains
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Abdominal pain
  • Muscle spasms and pain


This drug is used for relieving pain in certain countries. However, a number of people wrongfully use the drug to get high. It is quite powerful and acts within a few moments of ingestion. Some of the methods of taking heroin include injection, smoking, snorting and inhaling in the form of vapor. Regardless of the method used to take this substance the effects can be devastating in the long run. Some of the street names that may be used in place of heroin include smack, tar, dragon, dope, mud, brown, skag, junk and chiba. Below are some of the negative effects of taking heroin.

  • May cause constipation and inflammation of the gums
  • Leads to menstrual disturbances
  • Compromises the ability for individuals to achieve orgasm regardless of sex
  • Weakens the human immune system
  • May lead to muscle weakness or partial paralysis due to frequent injections
  • Loss of memory and a decline in mental capabilities
  • May cause the user to become introverted
  • Leads to insomnia and unusual sleep patterns
  • Increases risk of infections due to sharing of needles and unprotected sex
  • May cause respiratory illnesses
  • May cause organ damage or death in certain cases


Although it is not regarded as one of the most problematic of substances in Anchorage there are a few people that have been reported to have used it and experienced a variety of complications. The substance is quite potent which is why it acts in the body within a few minutes of ingestion. It can be taken through inhalation as vapor, injection into the veins, smoking and snorting. Some alternative names for this substance include coke, candy, cola, pearl, yeyo, snow, stash and powder. Some of the negative effects of taking cocaine are listed below.

  • Sleep disturbances and insomnia
  • Unusual behavior that may include aggression, irritability and stealing
  • Hyperstimulation which is why most people use it when going for parties
  • An intense craving for the drug which forces the individual to become violent or steal
  • Depression
  • Convulsions and seizures
  • Damage to internal body organs
  • Weakening of the muscles and immune system
  • Increased blood pressure, heart rate and body temperature
  • Sudden death due to overdose or damage to the organs

Why people use and abuse drugs in Anchorage

From Downtown, Fairview and South Addition to Spenard and Abbot Loop people have different reasons why they use substance. A look at some of these reasons should help just about anyone get a better perspective of what is happening.

Peer pressure – in most cases the younger population take to drug use due to peer influence. A number of their friends are already taking drugs and talking about how great it is. To fit in with the rest young people are likely to try out some of the drugs that their friends are already using.

Experimenting – this is sometimes regarded as curiosity. When people find out about a drug and how it can make one feel they tend to become curious and may use it as an experiment. The downside is that once an individual takes a drug and the immediate effects are pleasant they tend to use it over and over again. This repeated use quickly develops into an addiction that is difficult to break.

Past trauma – a lot of studies have shown that young people who have a past that is filled with unpleasant issues such as sexual or physical abuse tend to go for drugs to deal with their psychological trauma.

Recreation – a number of people drink alcohol or smoke substances such as marijuana as a way of having fun. This they may do while staying home or going out to nightclubs.

Boredom – when individuals have nothing to do with their free time they may end up indulging in drug use. This is why it is advisable for parents to keep their teens busy during the holidays by involving them in fun activities or camping trips.

Dealing with problems – individuals that do not know how to deal with their problems may resort to substance abuse as a way of escaping from reality. Adults who are unable to meet their obligations such as providing for their children or paying their rent may resort to drug use as a way of dealing with pressure. Teens may also use substance to escape from the reality of having poor grades and the pressure that accompanies such results.

Medication – in certain cases individuals may use drugs to get rid of a medical problem. Painkillers are among the most commonly abused drugs in this category. At the start of use people do it to treat a headache or get rid of back pain. However, as time goes by such individuals start using these prescription drugs to get high.

Risk factors for drug use in Anchorage

The methamphetamine epidemic is tearing through lives in Oceanside California. This stimulant is available as a white powder or a pill. Crystal meth looks like glass. People snort, smoke, swallow or inject meth and the high is a rapidly appearing and disappearing one. High levels of dopamine are released by the euphoria caused by meth intake. It can cause serious health complications like respiratory problems, increased heart rate and rise in body temperature.

Though the rate of drug related deaths in California are lower compared to other states, the numbers are relatively higher and California continues to hurt itself with policies that don’t stimulate job growth. This could be due to the large population of the state. Some health experts are of the opinion that the state’s diverse demographics and the types of opioids and drugs available here are different in comparison to those available in other states – this is why the overdose rates are lower.

Why People Struggle to Seek Treatment for Drug addiction

Availability – teenagers that live in houses with drugs and alcohol are likely to start using. This is because the substances are easily available. It is important to note that when young people notice adults in their families using drugs and drinking alcohol they start having a positive perception regarding drug use. This means they may actually believe that substance use is not harmful in any way.

Lack of supervision – young people that are allowed to stay on their own for long periods of time may end up using drugs. This is because they have no fear of being reprimanded by a responsible parent or guardian.

Peer use – individuals whose friends are already using drugs may find it easy to get into the habit themselves.

Poverty – another risk factor associated with drug abuse is poverty. Because such people are unable to afford alcohol or pay for activities to keep them busy they may resort to drug use as a way of escaping their daily afflictions.

The Process of Substance Addiction

Individuals do not become addicted to a substance because of a one off use. Instead addiction is a condition that develops gradually. In a lot of cases the individuals becoming addicted and those surrounding them have no idea of the progression of the process. Here are some of the things that take place before and after addiction.

Introduction – this refers to the stage in which an individual is made aware of a substance and the pleasurable effects it is likely to give. Introduction may be done by a friend, relative, song lyrics or movie portrayal of the substance.

Experimentation – after becoming aware of a substance an individual becomes extremely curious about the effects of the drug and this may compel them to try it out. Because  the use of alcohol and other drugs results in a high that is characterized by reduction in pain and heightened sense of happiness or pleasure individuals often enjoy the experience. The pleasurable effect makes the individual want to use the substance of choice over and over again.

Regular use – at this stage the individual has become fond of the substance of choice and makes use of it whenever they can. Most users may end up taking alcohol or drugs in the evening, at night right before going to bed, during the weekends and over the holidays.

Risky use – sometimes referred to as problem use is a stage in which the substance user starts getting out of control. Most people become tolerant to alcohol or drugs during this stage meaning they have to increase the amount of the substance they take to achieve a high.

Dependence – at this stage the user’s body has become used to the substance of choice in such a way that cessation from use results in withdrawal side effects. When individuals are unable to get their daily dose of the substance they may end up stealing or lying to raise enough money to purchase what they want. Women may even go as far as having unprotected sex with strangers who offer them money.

Substance addiction – at this stage users are unable to stop using drugs. Their mind is taken over by thoughts of drug use meaning they only focus on how to get their next bottle of alcohol or drug of choice. Addiction is a condition that affects both the body and mind of the drug user. Substance addicts who try to stop using drugs or alcohol end up experiencing withdrawal side effects as listed below.

  • Episodes of headaches
  • Muscle cramps and spasms
  • Extreme anxiety and paranoia
  • Abdominal pain
  • Severe drug cravings
  • Cold chills
  • Sweating
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Vomiting
  • Dry mouth
  • Inability of certain body organs to function due to lack of the substance that the body is dependent on. This may result into death
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Nightmares

Addiction Treatment Key Principles to Remember

The National Institute on Drug Abuse points out the following principles to remember while you start an alcohol or drug treatment program.

  1. Addiction alters your behavior and affects your brain.
  2. For successful outcomes addiction must be treated as early as possible.
  3. Effective recovery is possible not just through voluntary enrollment for de-addiction treatment. People who have received court intervention, or who have been compelled by their loved ones to go in for treatment have successfully achieved recovery.
  4. There is no cookie cutter approach to treatment. People respond differently to treatments and facilities, and it must be carried out in order to determine what is best for an individual.
  5. Substance abuse and addiction are just a part of your life and a good treatment program will address not just that but also focus on your holistic welfare and development.
  6. Drug addiction and mental health are closely related and this must be taken into consideration during evaluation.
  7. Infectious diseases including tuberculosis and HIV must be assessed by the treatment programs.
  8. Overcoming addiction does not happen overnight; you must give it enough time and be patient.
  9. Behavioral therapy and support is and important ongoing process after the first stage of physical detox.
  10. Individual therapy, family and group therapy or a combination of these must be carried out and is a common form of treatment.
  11. There will be a requirement of pharmaceutical treatment along with behavioral therapy.
  12. A sound treatment program will keep a close check on you for relapses at all times during treatment.
  13. As your needs and circumstances change, so must your treatment plan and course of action.

What you should know about addiction treatment

A large number of people are ignorant of the fact that addiction is a condition that needs professional treatment. Most people end up scolding their loved ones or breaking up relationships without ever realizing that the substance addict is unable to break free of the habit. It is worth noting that anyone addicted to a substance is not able to stop the habit even if they want to. This is why family members and friends are advised to seek help on behalf of the substance addict.

Talking to a local social worker, health official or religious leader can be a good place to start. There are also drug abuse hotline numbers available online for individuals that need help with addiction related problems. Individuals addicted to substance must be taken through a process of intervention which enables them to understand their condition and accept  treatment. Here are some of the things involved in addiction treatment.

Detoxification – this refers to the process of getting rid of drugs or alcoholic content from the human system. Doctors can fast track this process by recommending a strict diet and prescribing certain medications. If the addiction is severe doctors may continue administering the substance that the patient is addicted to but gradually reduce its quantity until the body no longer needs it.

Medications – patients that are affected by conditions such as infections due to sharing of needles or weakened immune systems are provided with prescription drugs that cure or manage health complications.

Counselling – this involves conversations between the patient and a professional therapist or counselor. The talks are meant to help the patient resolve psychological issues that may be pushing them to abuse drugs. The talks also help the patient deal with consequences that occurred during drug addiction.

Physical therapy – this may involve medical massage and aided physical activity to ensure patients regain their physical abilities. Therapy may also be used to manage pain and relieve patients from stress and anxiety.

Formation of support groups – this involves creating groups that are made up of people with similar problems. During sessions group members are allowed to share their experiences and how they managed to cope with some of the toughest times of their lives. Each member gets to learn from the others while also getting an opportunity to impact positively on other members.

Follow up – this is care and support that is provided after patients have successfully completed a treatment program. The service can take place in special facilities referred to as sober living homes. The facilities are designed in such a way that they encourage recovered addicts to stay sober. Individuals that go back to their own homes are also able to receive this care depending on the treatment program they may have been enrolled to.

Inpatient and Outpatient Treatment

Inpatient treatment – when people are enrolled in an inpatient care facility it means they will have to stay at the facility for as long as it takes to recover from addiction. This type of service is ideal for people that have been severely affected by addiction. It allows doctors to monitor the situation and provide emergency response in case of dangerous withdrawal effects. It gives the patient ample time away from the things that may trigger cravings for drug or alcohol use.

Outpatient treatment – individuals that receive this type of service are allowed to go back to their homes after sessions at the rehabilitation facility. This service is ideal for people that are not severely affected by addiction. A particular advantage of outpatient service is that it is cheaper than inpatient care. It also allows the patient to continue with daily obligations such as attending class or going to work.

Should I choose inpatient or outpatient?

Inpatient and Outpatient Treatment

Drug addiction patients are usually treated in rehabilitation facilities. However, with a growing number of centers in Anchorage it may be quite a challenge picking the right one. Use the following details to choose a suitable facility.

The costs – the total amount of money you will have to pay for a patient go through a treatment program should help inform your decision. Talk to a representative from the center to get a sense of the costs and the mode of payment that is allowed. Some centers accept private insurance while others require patients to pay cash.

Reputation is important – the last thing you want is to take a loved one to a rehabilitation center that is not reputable. To avoid any mistakes do some online research to find out about the top rated rehabilitation centers in Anchorage.

Specialty of the center – some centers are known to provide exceptional treatment programs for alcoholics while other centers may be well equipped to handle heroin or cocaine addiction. By talking to representatives from various addiction centers you should be able to determine which among them is most suited for handling the type of addiction that you or a loved one is dealing with.

Age and gender considerations – if you are seeking help for a teenager it may be better to enroll them in a rehabilitation center that caters to the needs of teens rather than opting for a general rehab. It is wise to consider issues such as gender and religious beliefs.

Type of facility – there are different types of facilities in the city. Some offer executive services while others are luxurious in nature. There are also standard treatment centers for individuals that want to get treatment without spending too much cash due to budgetary constraints.

License and certification – before enrolling a loved one to any rehabilitation center inquire if the facility is legally mandated to provide care to patients. Facilities that are certified by authorities are better placed to offer good services. It is equally important for you to seek help from a facility that has highly qualified personnel capable of handling patients that are dealing with physical and mental health complications.

What advice can you offer when comparing treatment centers?