Wednesday, January 19, 2022

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Thomasville, Georgia Laura Bardin

When traveling through Southwest Georgia, Albany is the city that jumps off the map, boasting of its size. Yet running a close second is the lesser known Thomasville, Georgia, located within Thomas County and sporting a population of around twenty-thousand. Closer to Florida than to Alabama, and yet Thomasville still maintains its Georgia identity through its preservation and acclaim as a historic town. Not to mention famous former residents such as Joanne Woodward, Paul Newman’s wife.While its history has been well preserved, its present is also thriving and growing, with around seven thousand of the local couples having children under the age of eighteen and the vast majority being married couples with established households.Most residents are an average of thirty-six years of age and are African-American. A little over fifty percent of the residents are in fact African-American, with forty-four percent being Caucasian, and all other races making up less than two percent each of the overall racial demographics. It is worth noting that despite the married couples and young children that fill the city, many of the residents still live below the poverty line, even with the headquarters of the Flowers Food company being located in Thomasville. The median salary is around $29,000 and nineteen percent of residents live below the poverty line. Of this nineteen percent, the majority are either under eighteen or over sixty-five.

Drugs in the News

In the spring of 2017 it became apparent that international drug trafficking was having a direct impact on Thomas County and that drugs were coming into the Thomasville area and surrounding areas from Hong Kong. Although Mexican cartels had been found on the opposite side of the state, Asian countries are more involved here. In the Hong Kong case. a car wash located in the Cairo area appeared to be the drop point, and Homeland Security was able to track the movements and apprehend the suspect. However, the whole incident pointed to a wider issue: an international and interconnected drug ring that has left few areas unscathed. During the summer of 2017 another local event brought these underground movements back to the forefront of people’s minds. A man and woman began arguing in a local motel and police were called to the scene. Upon their arrival they smelled marijuana, and the man admitted it was on his person, while then fleeing and dumping in mid run. However, while combing the area the police also discovered molly, cocaine, and ecstasy. An expert at the scene said that the powdered cocaine alone would bring in around fifteen thousand dollars in the street economy. Several months later international drug transactions surfaced yet again when in September of 2017 a Thomasville man ordered “bath salts” or Alpha PVP from China. Although he was already on the radar of law enforcement, the tip about the passage coming from abroad given by Homeland Security was the tip off locals needed to put him behind bars. It is said that the PVP will bring around twelve thousand if sold on the street.
Not only are illicit substances being shipped in from abroad, but some are produced locally, as was seen in the case of Murphy Drugs, a Thomasville pharmacy that has had employees indicted on two separate occasions for the sale of Hydrocodone, Oxycodone, and other controlled substances without a prescription.
In addition, a variety of substances are being seen aside from just heroin and fentanyl. In January of 2018, a man that law enforcement had been tracking for months was finally confronted and apprehended in Thomasville. He had in his possession at the time of arrest: Flakka, Meth, Oxycodone, Xanax, Marijuana, Heroin, Fentanyl patches, Crack Cocaine, Powder Cocaine, and ecstasy as well as six thousand dollars in cash. They also found a rifle and the makings of what could be used for a meth lab. The gentleman in question was twenty six at the time of arrest and answered the camper door with a toddler and three other people beside him, a pistol in one hand, and meth in the other.


In the year 2017, Georgia was listed in the top eleven when it came to states with the highest number of prescription pill/opioid overdoses. Sadly, within the first few days of February 2018 a forty-four year old man lost his life in Thomasville suggesting that this year would be no different when it came to overdose. Police found Eric Parker dead in his home and believe he met his end from the “grey death” drug, which is a mixture of fentanyl and heroin. A container of hypodermic needles and a pile of marijuana was present as well. Although law enforcement is still working to try and determine how he obtained the grey death drug, they do believe that it was that substance that did him in and not the opioid pills around him. Because of his chronic health issues, they feel that Parker had developed a level of internal resistance after lifelong opioid use and that only something as powerful as grey death could have done him in.
The sheer potency of fentanyl continues to alarm residents in the Thomasville community as it has been dubbed the new street drug. Many have expressed concerns over whether they will encounter it when out and about in the area, having it touch their skin and lead to serious problems for them without their ever realizing they came into contact with it. While the opioid epidemic of recent years had seemed problematic, it was also more removed from those not actively using drugs. Now, fentanyl seems to pervade boundaries. Narcotics agents are doing their best to trace fentanyl when it appears and put a stop to it.


For someone living in Thomasville, Georgia there are signs of hope in the recovery process. Many folks receiving care choose to do so within Thomas County or the actual city limits of Thomasville itself. In the state of Georgia on the whole, drug possession is taken extremely serious, with infractions resulting in everything from suspension of your driver’s license to long prison sentences. When an individual is enduring their first conviction, they are guaranteed to have their license suspended for at least six months. When it comes to possession, all substances with the exception of marijuana, are automatically considered a felony charge. Prison sentences often range from two to fifteen years with more narcotic substances carrying up to thirty plus years of incarceration. Marijuana possession leds to between one and ten years in prison and around a one thousand dollar fine. However, the one thousand dollar fine can be increased to up to five thousand if the situation is considered serious enough.


When beginning to investigate rehab, a variety of words will appear in the literature about options and in personal conversations with representatives. Assessment is often the starting place after having self-identified or being identified as potentially needing rehab. While assessment varies based on the facility and their approach, as a general rule several individuals with unique focus areas (i.e. social worker, psychologist, nurse, etc.) will work together to understand each potential clients’ circumstances. The client will provide information via questionnaires and conversation, as well as often being asked for a urine and hair sample. This process serves to help the treatment center better understand whether the client is dealing with an actual addiction to said substance, and if so what the depth of their addiction may be. Furthermore, it allows specialists the opportunity to see if their are co-occurring conditions, be they psychological or environmental, at the time of admission. Whatever conditions are discovered provide better insight into the addiction itself and are also often able to be simultaneously treated.


During this phase of interaction with the potential treatment center, the service provider works with the client to map out what a treatment plan would look like, and seeks to name the ways in which life will change for that individual once they enter into rehab. In doing so, they are able to identify potential barriers to the treatment process, as well as struggles that may be specific to that individual. Since the life of an addict is often surrounded by a web of uncertainty, it can be invaluable to have the stability provided in a plan of treatment. However, even in its positive form, it is still a tough transition, and working with the facility to find the best program and fit is vital.


While a client may learn some about a facility during the pre-intake, it remains very important for the client to find the rehab facility that best fits their needs and liking. Not only does the initial impression need to be positive, but the ongoing climate of the facility needs to be good enough to ensure retention and a level of change occurring in the patient so that they do not simply leave the program. Since rehabilitation as an overall process differs from detox in its focus on lifestyle and thought pattern change and overall transformation, the intake process is more of a partnership with the rehab facility, whether it is self-initiated or proposed by a family member or close friend. Paperwork, urine samples, and breathalyzer all generally occur during this stage.


Detox can be a step in a rehabilitation center, and it can be a separate process completely, depending on the approach of the providers. In its most basic form however, detox is the withdrawal and cleansing of the body from the drug. It can be a very difficult process as the body craves the drug and has repeated visceral reactions to not having said drug that often resemble the symptoms of having the flu. However, this experience is made much more pleasant by the trained stuff able to assist the patient during the process. Centers are able to help monitor the physical process and do their best to aid in the transition for the client.

The Treatment Process

One of the main benefits of inpatient treatment, or treatment within a facility that offers around the clock care and trained staff to assist with all aspects of the transition, is that the friend groups, stress points, and triggers to use are temporarily removed as one is isolated from the outside world. RTC tends to be focused on individuals who have been struggling with addiction for an extended period of time or who may have been battling another co-occurring issue. PHP (partial hospitalization) allows for the freedom of not needing to stay the night, and yet having more intensive care during the daytime hours than at normal outpatient treatment. The third option, IOP, focuses more on illnesses such as eating disorders and depression, while also treating addiction in a subtle way so that the client is able to go about their work or family life in as normal a routine as possible.
When an addict has a community supporting them and the means to start replenishing the life they diminished during their drug use, outpatient treatment is often a good option. This format often requires meeting with a therapist during the week who specializes in addiction counseling, and following their advice along with the advice of a medical provider.
Whatever route an individual decides to follow when seeking help, it is vital that an aftercare plan is in place for the time period when the initial treatment has ended. Even after returning to society or passing benchmarks for sobriety, triggers such as lifestyle changes may still lead to a relapse. Having an aftercare plan in place helps ensure the recovery will truly be long lasting. Aftercare plans in which individuals “check in” and receive remedial work/information are very common. However, for individuals needing more than occasional realignment, options such as sober living communities exist, where people trying to stay clean live and work together and follow a set of house standards and rules.
Regardless of the route, recovery is worth the effort.