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El Dorado, Arkansas

                El Dorado, Arkansas is a small city in South Central Arkansas with a population under 20,000. Once one of Arkansas’s most affluent cities due to the oil industry in the 1920s, El Dorado, Arkansas has become a relatively quiet community with a slowly declining number of inhabitants. Nevertheless, the city is not without its drug and alcohol problems, and treatment and rehabilitation continue to be critical in meeting the needs of community members. The purpose of this article is to discuss drug and alcohol prevalence and treatment options in the city of El Dorado. Topics of discussion include arrest records and most frequently used drugs, city demographics, and drug and alcohol treatment options. 

City Population And Demographics

                Some trends with regards to population and demographics may offer insight into El Dorado’s problems with drug usage. El Dorado has a population of just under 19,000 people, including nearly 9,000 households and close to 6,000 distinct families. About half of the residents are of African American descent and slightly less are Caucasian. There are also small contingents of Native American, Asian, Hispanic, and Pacific Islanders. More than one quarter of the population is under the age of 18. About 8% are 18 to 24, 25% are 25 to 44, 21% are 45 to 64, and 18% are over the age of 64. Evidence suggests that the highest rates of drug trafficking and usage occur amongst individuals aged 25 to 44, representing one potential contribution to El Dorado’s current challenges with these activities. Additionally, El Dorado, Arkansas is a relatively low socioeconomic region compared to national income averages. The median income for a household in El Dorado is about $27,000, with the median family income being just less than $35,000. A substantial gender wage gap exists, with men earning an average of more than $10,000 per year than women. The per capita income in El Dorado is just slightly above the national poverty line of $15,000. Nearly one quarter of citizens in El Dorado live below the poverty line, with more than one third of them being under the age of 18. These socioeconomic and demographic characteristics are potential antecedents to growing problems with drugs and alcohol in the area. 

Arrest Records

                Despite its low population and not being particularly close to any large urban center, El Dorado, Arkansas faces problems with crimes of many different types. The city was given a safety index rating of just 2 out of 100, making it safe than only 2% of all cities in the United States. The violent crime rate is nearly 11 per 1,000 residents, which is more than twice that of the remainder of Arkansas. The murder rate is more than five times higher than the remainder of the United States as well. Based on these high rates of criminal activity, it is also not surprising that drug and alcohol trafficking and abuse are high in the city. While DUI statistics specifically for El Dorado are not available, data from the state of Arkansas suggests that drunk driving and fatalities related to drunk driving are higher than the national average. Despite recent efforts to implement stricter penalties for drinking and driving, the state still faces among the higher rates of DUI arrests and fatalities when at least one driver had a blood alcohol content above 0.08%. Though data is lacking, there is some evidence to suggest that El Dorado is experiencing a growing problem with drug trafficking. Several recent examples of drug arrests involving federal agencies and prescription drug distribution rings illustrate a growing problem in the region. The United States Department of Justice recently assessed the threat of drug trafficking and distribution in the state of Arkansas, suggesting that methamphetamines and opioids represented growing concerns, which are believed by the agency to be highly related to Mexican criminal groups that cross the border undetected in Texas and mobilize throughout the Southeastern United States. 

Highest Drug Of Choice

                Like many cities throughout the United States, El Dorado, Arkansas has experiences a crisis involving opioids. The problem is believed by many to have been created by addictions based on prescription narcotics. As these addictions are formed, many turn to the street for pure heroin to meet their chemical dependency needs because of the lower prices and easier access involved. Union County has one of the highest rates of opioid prescriptions of any in the nation with nearly 115 prescriptions given for every 100 people in the area. Arkansas is second to only Alabama in the rate of opioid based prescriptions granted to citizens. Interestingly, Arkansas does not boast one of the highest rates of drug overdoses or fatalities related to drug overdose in the nation. Furthermore, the state has not demonstrated a significant increase in the rate of drug overdose deaths in recent years. These trends may illustrate improved emergency responses by law enforcement and health professionals to manage cases of overdose, as well as the city’s recent stance toward taking a long-term and preventative approach toward managing this opioid crisis. However, it is quite clear that El Dorado, Arkansas is likely to face significant challenges associated with managing opioid addictions in the coming years, and drug and alcohol treatment and recovery facilities will play important roles in the lives of many of the city’s residents. Methamphetamines and marijuana also represent continuing problems for residents of the city due to Arkansas’s proximity to Mexico and the elaborate network of traffickers and producers that have been developed throughout the Southeastern United States. Other dangerous drugs that represent threats in the state of Arkansas include MDMA, LSD, GHB, and other prescription drugs. El Dorado, Arkansas is not located on either of the two state’s major highways, allowing it to avoid many of the crimes that occur in the aftermath of drug activity, such as violent crimes and robbery. However, many demographic factors make El Dorado, Arkansas inherently exposed to higher than average risks of drug activity and usage than what would be expected in the remainder of the nation. 

Drug And Alcohol Treatment Options

                Despite these challenges with drug and alcohol use and abuse, there are some positive trends in the availability of treatment and rehabilitation options for residents. An increase in the number of inpatient and outpatient treatment centers has been observed in recent years, illustrating a shift in community focus toward both managing and preventing a growing problem with drug and alcohol use. There is one highly regarded inpatient facility in the area and a variety of other partial inpatient and outpatient centers to meet the needs of community members with varying drug and alcohol usage issues. Drug and alcohol treatment and rehabilitation undergoes a relatively universal structure, regardless of the type of center selected or its location. This structure typically includes an assessment, pre-intake, detox, inpatient or outpatient treatment, aftercare, and sober living. Each of these phases is discussed in more detail below. 


                The first step in any drug and alcohol treatment or rehabilitation program is the assessment. This consists of the administration of a battery of qualitative and quantitative evaluations that are designed to inform treatment and rehabilitation and potentially lead to a diagnosis of a particular drug and alcohol disorder. Furthermore, this process leads to a more accurate referral during the subsequent pre-intake and intake phases. Finally, the assessment process may also include psychological tests to determine the presence of further mental health disorders and to better inform the subsequent treatment program. 


                Once the initial assessment has been taken and an appropriate referral for treatment has been made, the pre-intake occurs. This step allows for medical and rehabilitation professionals to collect pertinent information relevant to that particular center’s treatment philosophy that will be used to guide care. Unlike the initial assessment, the pre-intake involves a more intensive in-person interview that enables for a more informed determination of treatment needs. The pre-intake is a primer that leads to a more productive intake process. 


                Based on information gathered from the assessment and pre-intake phases, the intake process occurs. This process involves meeting with a licensed treatment and recovery professional, who will collect further information about mental health and family medical history, current social and environmental contributors to drug and alcohol use, and any psychological needs that may lead to more effective recovery within an evidence based treatment plan. An additional goal of the intake process is to address any shaming or stigmatization experienced by the patient that could potentially detract from the ability to provide proper care. 


                Though not essential to all drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs, this step is important for many who have developed physiological dependence on a particular substance. An alternative drug is given to address this chemical dependency during the detoxification process, and the patient is supervised while the substance of choice and any other toxins are removed from the body. The removal of these toxins is a critical first step in preventing further relapse and beginning to work toward full physical and psychological liberation from drugs and/or alcohol. 

Inpatient Treatment (RTC, PHP, IOP)

                Inpatient treatment may be necessary in more severe cases of chemical dependency. There are three forms of inpatient treatment, including residential treatment centers, partial hospitalization programs, and intensive outpatient care. The former consists of full residential care, in which patients live in the treatment facility and are supervised at all times. Residential care is necessary in cases of detoxification. Partial hospitalization is needed when there is a chemical dependency that does not require detoxification, but supervision is needed to manage withdrawals from the substance of choice. Intensive outpatient care is important for patients who demonstrate the ability to manage these symptoms and still function independently in the community but still require ongoing medical and rehabilitative support. The determination about which service best matches the patient’s need occurs during the assessment, pre-intake, and intake phases. 

Outpatient Treatment

                Outpatient treatment is a critical component of drug and alcohol rehabilitation, regardless of which type is eventually selected. Either early in the treatment process or after release from inpatient care, outpatient treatment is essential for monitoring environmental contributors to drug and alcohol use, patient physical, psychological, and emotional needs, and promoting coping skills to help patients manage environmental stressors and prevent relapse longitudinally. An emphasis is placed on psychological skill building and establishing social support networks during this phase to equip patients with the tools and skills they need to continue to remain sober throughout the remainder of their lives. Check out the difference between Inpatient vs. Outpatient here.


                Aftercare is a continual aspect of outpatient care that contains less formal supervision, but aims to continue to promote a sober lifestyle in recently rehabilitated patients. An emphasis is placed on community integration and promotion of an independent lifestyle during this stage as the patient grows accustomed to a sober lifestyle. Aftercare programs promote ongoing accountability on the part of patients who have recently undergone rehabilitation, as well as responsibility for peers’ care and immediate coping needs as they navigate a sober lifestyle. 

Sober Living

                Sober living is the final step in any drug and/or alcohol treatment and recovery program. Sober living is a philosophy and approach toward engaging in one’s environmental surroundings that is free of drugs and alcohol. Sober living skills including identifying potential contributors to drug and alcohol use in one’s environment and implementing skills and tools needed to prevent relapse. Additionally, replacement for substances and contributors to substance use are identified and incorporated into one’s life so as to foster a meaningful life that is free of the need or desire to consume drugs and alcohol. 

                The purpose of this article was to discuss drug and alcohol usage trends and treatment issues in El Dorado, Arkansas. An introduction to city challenges with drug and alcohol usage and demographic characteristics were each presented first. Treatment and rehabilitation options in the community were then discussed. It is clear that El Dorado has shown many promising trends towards meeting the drug and alcohol treatment and recovery needs of its residents, and there has been an effort to promote a more long-term and preventative solution to substance abuse within the community.