Thursday, January 27, 2022

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The Lexington, Kentucky Heroin Problem

Heroin remains one of the most prominent drugs of choice in Lexington.  The Kentucky Office of Drug Control sees the heroin epidemic as a direct consequence to prescription pill crisis also facing Kentucky and the nation.  The over-prescription of painkillers such as OxyContin by physicians as led to widespread abuse and addiction. As prescriptions cease, now addicted patients are turning to the streets of Lexington for an alternative. Heroin, which is more accessible and less expensive quickly becomes the new drug of choice among opioid addicts. When an 80 mg OxyContin pill costs between sixty and one hundred dollars on the street and heroin costs only none dollars a dose, a day’s worth of heroin becomes more economical than a few Oxycontin pills.

Because heroin is having such a harmful impact on this region of Kentucky, lawmakers approved Senate Bill 192 making the import and sale in Kentucky a crime with a ten-prison sentence. Anyone selling two grams to one-hundred grams of heroin will not be eligible for parole before serving at least half of the sentence. Those caught selling more heroin than this determined amount face twenty years in prison.

The new law also understands the new to prevent heroin addiction must also be curative.  As a result, Kentucky’s drug and addiction treatment system will receive ten million dollars in immediate funding followed by twenty-four million dollars in annual funding to help curb the epidemic.

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Recognizing the Impact of Heroin

Recovery specialists emphasize the importance of identifying when heroin addiction has hit home. When a loved one has slipped down the pathway toward addiction red flags may go unnoticed by family and friends. It becomes critical for loved ones to stay alert to changing behaviors that could be an indicator of heroin use or addiction.

High for staying normal

When the ability to perform everyday tasks becomes impossible without drug use, then clearly an individual is becoming dangerously dependent. Heroin use normalizes addiction to the point that sobriety becomes both difficult and unpleasant and taking a necessary dose is essential as morning coffee. Once typical behavior depends on the right dose to maintain focus and performance, then drug use has escalated to addiction.

Failure to quit drugs

Individuals who have identified on their own that they may have a drug problem may make attempts to quit using the drug. When these attempts lead to severe illness and eventually a return to drugs, then heroin clearly has taken hold. Unfortunately, the failed attempts to quit only seem to reinforce a lack of will -power and personal strength, which further drives an individual down the path of drugs. Many addicted individuals may not realize the power of heroin and how difficult it is for anyone to quit.

All money goes to drugs

As heroin becomes the primary focus of everyday life, any oncome earned immediately finances the next high.  When all other fiscal responsibilities such as rent or food or ignored in order to pay for drugs then family needs to step in and offer help.

Risky behavior becomes common

As the need for drugs fuels everyday life, the addicted become more willing to take risks. They may travel to drug neighborhoods to get high and where crime is common. They may drive under the influence of drugs to get to these areas, as well as risk criminal behavior to get money for drugs.

Work and school are abandoned

As a drug addiction gets worse, the most important responsibilities one has in life become less important. A job, family and school, which may have once been keystones to a sober and successful life are left aside to seek the next high.

Turning to Rehab as a Solution

The role of recovery specialists in aiding the addicted begins with a pre-intake assessment. The goal of this evaluation is to determine the severity of the drug addiction as well as other background factors that may influence or hinder recovery.  Recovery specialists will conduct a medical evaluation, a psychiatric evaluation. They will also conduct cognitive testing and toxicology testing.

Accepting the Patient Through Intake & Taking Ten Steps to Recovery

Determining where individuals falls within the stages of addiction is what rehabilitation center assessors seek to understand first. Severe cases may involve long periods of hospitalization and withdrawal. In instances where the addiction has been identified early and the patient is eager for treatment, outpatient programs and medications may help. The key to intake is to determine the needs that exist right now and how the recovery specialists can begin the best treatment. Most importantly, rehab professionals will begin to educate the addicted about their addiction and how to recover with their assistance.

Educating the Addicted During Rehabilitation

Recovery specialists focus on ten steps to help an addict learn how treatment will help them. The insight helps any recovering individual realize their personal power over the drug and what they need to do to achieve that power.

  1. The addicted will learn the neurological consequence of drugs. The addicted person has had their brain rewired for dependency and all efforts will be made by recovery specialists to rewire them back to sobriety.
  2. Treatment begins immediately. There is no wait for a better time to start recovery. It needs to begin as soon as possible.
  3. Customized treatment is key. Recovery specialists use the in-take evaluations to determine a customized course of treatment that meets the needs of the addicted both medically and psychologically.
  4. Going deeper beyond the drug problem. Drug use is often the result of other personal issues. Recovery specialists will probe deeper to get at the heart of the personal problems that cause many to seek escape through drugs.
  5. Taking mental health into account. Mental illness may be a determining factor for addiction. Recovery specialists will use the intake results to determine if other mental health treatments must also accompany drug addiction treatment.
  6. Medical health matters. The physical exam conducted during intake helps recovery specialists understand the health of the addicted and if any diseases may have been contracted during their drug use.
  7. Gaining the commitment of the addicted to recovery. The psychiatric and mental health evaluations during in-take will also evaluate how willing the individual is to accept the terms of rehab. Without personal commitment, relapse is likely.
  8. More than just detox. Many addicts may think that rehab is basically just detoxing from the drug. This is incorrect. Even if detox was successful, it is only a matter of time before the addicted slips back into drug use. The long road of rehab is critical to prevent relapse from recurring.
  9. Involving family. Bringing family into the recovery process also heals wounds that split the family up during addiction. The healing process with family is a personal journey that helps both the addicted and the family members they have hurt.
  10. Recovery medications may be used. In some instances, medicines can help the recovery process and may be prescribed to assist with the painful and difficult step of detox.

Detoxing from Drugs

Purging the body of drugs is both a painful and harrowing step, but it essential for beginning the recovery process.  Recovery specialists may ease the symptoms of withdrawals with medications. They will also carefully monitor the detox process to ensure no medical emergencies occur. As part of the intake process, recovery specialists are prepared to manage the individual patient through detox. They are informed on the personal medical makeup of the individual, the type of drug being detoxed, how long the patient has been using the drug and if other drugs are also being used. Because of the complexity of the detox process, it is highly recommended that recovery specialists be consulted. Dangerous results may occur when a patient attempts to detox on their own.

What Medications Help During Detox?

Recovery specialists may use a variety of prescriptions that have been proven to minimize the physical suffering of detox as well as the longer recovery process after detox.

Methadone for Heroin Craving Management

Methadone is the most often used for heroin addiction and can be slowly reduced in dosage over time allowing the addicted to ease out of dependency.

Buprenorphine for Cravings

Buprenorphine is an additional choice for managing heroin and prescription opioid addiction. Buprenorphine helps cravings without producing a high and can be reduced in dosage much like methadone.

What is withdrawal? How long does it last?

Beginning the Inpatient Treatment Process

Long-term residential treatment is the next step for recovering from heroin and addictive drugs.  With the assistance of recovery specialists in the comfortable and managed environment of a residential facility, recovering addicts can begin retraining their mind and body to live without drugs. During the inpatient process, many recovering addicts will experience symptoms of temptation and craving for their drug of choice, depression and anxiety and lingering physical effects after detox. Programs extending from thirty to ninety days involve group therapy sessions, continuing medical evaluations and personal psychological interviews to monitor treatment.

Click on the link to compare inpatient treatment vs. outpatient treatment.

The Long-Term Promise of Outpatient Treatment

The next step in the recovery process may involve outpatient treatment. Now that the recovering individual has completed residential treatment, outpatient treatment offers the opportunity to begin integrating back into society, resuming work and school and reconnecting with family while still engaging in group sessions.  

For less severe addiction cases, the recovering addict may forgo inpatient residential treatment altogether and engage entirely with outpatient programs. Outpatient allows recovering addicts to continue on with their responsibilities in life while maintaining treatment. With group sessions conducted several days a week by a recovery counselor and other recovering addicts, an individual can learn to mend the wounds that have been caused by addiction.

Should I choose inpatient or outpatient?

Managing Addiction Beyond Treatment

Once all patient programs are completed, there is still a tremendous risk for relapse, even years from recovery. Recovering addicts may need additional time and additional counseling before they can ever feel comfortable with sobriety. After all, the issues that caused addiction may still exist, and may still impact a person struggling with recovery. For these reasons, aftercare programs involving group therapy and family therapy have played a major role in most rehabilitation programs once a patient has finished treatment.

Making the Most of Group Therapy

For most rehabilitation programs, and after care programs especially, group therapy has been a mainstay for treating addiction long-term.  Groups composed of recovering addicts work together to support each other through the struggles of recovery and maintain a sober life.  Groups may even focus on addiction to a particular drug, so that the understanding and compassion from members can be very acute and relatable. Group offers the opportunity for members to speak about relapse episodes and express their feelings about their personal struggles. Because everyone in group therapy session is facing the same crisis, the road to recovery becomes easier.

Family Sessions

Because family can sometimes play a key role in both causing addiction and nurturing the addicted toward recovery, family sessions are often established to address these very personal issues.  Other family members may be addicted to drugs or there may be abuse in the household. For a recovering addict, returning to this environment can immediately trigger a relapse.  Family sessions may be an opportunity for those family members to seek help as well.  

In other instances, much harm has been done to family by the recovering addict.  Lies, theft and abuse are common themes when a recovering addict is now sober. Trust in the family has eroded and it takes time and therapy to heal these wounds. Sometimes family members cannot let go of the hurtfulness they have experienced and may not give a recovering sibling a chance for renewal. Family sessions become the place where healing can begin.

Family therapy may be recommended when:

  • Family members are currently using drugs or alcohol
  • The recovering addict has issues related to family that may have contributed to the drug use
  • Codependency, in which other family members, consciously or unconsciously, are leading the recovering back to drug use

Discovering a Sober Life

Depending on the individual, the recovery specialist will devise a specific and customized plan to help the recovering individual work their way back into sober living. The recovering individual is now, to some extent, on their own in terms of decision-making about their future. However, the temptation of drugs is always present and they must remain committed to sobriety.

To aid a recovering addict in this journey, the recovery specialist may recommend several options beyond family therapy or group therapy meetings. For example, if the home life of a recovering individual is especially toxin or contains those still using drugs and refusing treatment, then the work accomplished through rehabilitation would be lost if the recovering addict were to return.

Sober Living Facilities

One ideal option for many individuals are sober living environments (SLE’s). To avoid an unhealthy home environment, a recovering individual can reside in these centers where group therapy sessions are conducted and the recovering can live peacefully. The recovering is free to attend work or school and return to the sober living home at night.  If house rules are obeyed and the individual remains sober they are welcome to stay.

Continuing Support Programs

Focusing on personal goals of recovery, the addict may also attend a twelve-step support group to assist with sobriety.  These programs do not require attendance and exist to only help provide a support structure for recovering addicts to function in society. They can be specific to drugs of choice and include:

  • Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
  • Narcotics Anonymous (NA)
  • Pills Anonymous (PA)
  • Cocaine Anonymous (CA)
  • Crystal Meth Anonymous (CMA)

Twelve step programs help define goals and establish steps toward recovery that a recovering person can focus on daily.

Avoiding the Risks After Treatment

Most importantly, to any recovering addict, is becoming educated in avoiding the many risks to relapse that face them in the outside world. With renewed confidence, many recovering individuals resume a normal life free of drugs, but may find triggers for relapse all around them.

The Risk of Too Much Responsibility

Trying to resume a normal life, a recovering individual may throw themselves headlong into the responsibilities of career, school or family life.  These are all positive developments, but are steps that need to be taken gradually.  Having been isolated from the sober world as an addict, the demands of sober life can be pressuring. Workplaces can be stressful. School expectations can be demanding and family life can be overwhelming. It is critical that the recovering addict realize when to withdrawal from extreme demands that can trigger a relapse.

Junkie Relationships That Cause Damage

Left behind with drug addiction were many relationships that centered solely on drugs.  Old friends, girls or boyfriends, even some family members, may have a continuing relationship with drugs and are not themselves in a path of recovery. It is not uncommon for them to bring a recovering person back to addiction.  Because of the sentiment of old times, druggie friends can be persuasive, but are in no way friends if they want to return a recovering user to drugs. Any recovering person must be wary of these old relationships. Some must simply end. Others can be flipped, with the recovering person becoming a guiding light to aid their addicted friends to recovery.

Creating Strong Lines of Communication

In the aftermath of addiction, there are often breakdowns in communication with family and friends. Those people who have witnessed a person’s erratic and destructive behavior as an addict, may be wary of them even though they are now sober. To rebuild those lines of communication, the recovering person must be willing to open up and ask questions to those loved ones around them. They must ask for a second chance and what is expected of them for renewed relationships to be successful. Without these lines of communication, a recovering person may become isolated once again and turn to drugs as a way out. They may feel that the negative impression of them is accurate which begins a fast and inevitable downslide back into drug use.

Making a Vow to Maintain Sober

Ultimately, is the role of the recovering person to remain sober. Committing to that cause is the only way any recoverin addict can overcome the harsh realities, broken relationships and bad influences that can drag them back into addiction. Personal faith and the continued support of group programs can be a helpful and meaningful approach to ensuring they do not disobey their personal dedication to sobriety.

Living Sober: Six Ways to Stay on Track

Rebuilding a sober life is not easy, but there are some guiding principles that can help prevent relapse and keep a recovering person focused on living healthy.

New Sober Relationships

Now that negative relationships rooted in drugs are out of a recovering person’s life, there can be a void. No one may seem to understand the circumstances, or so seems, that the recovering person is existing with. To avoid isolation, they can start by seeking out healthy, sober relationships.  Finding sober friends and establishing positive and sober romantic relationships all help the healing and put a past of addiction behind them. Even those that attend group sessions can become valued comrades in the fight against addiction. After all, they have seen as much as the addicted and know the struggle that goes into recovery more than anyone.

Starting Up New Activities

Taking the focus of drugs out of the picture also leaves a lot of boredom. When using drugs, the addicted had only that for their personal focus. Any personal interests from music to hobbies to entertainment vanished as drugs become the one and only form of engagement. Taking up these old interests renews a healthy way of life and replaces the boredom with activities. Many addicts become more charitable, finding solace in church events or working with local non-profit organizations. One motto of many recovering addicts is that:  if you have time to be bored, then volunteer that time.

Staying Physically Fit

Exercise is not only a new activity it is also a great way to help transform a recovering body. Drugs robs of the body of health, not only by poisoning it, but also by encouraging an unhealthy lifestyle. Inactivity is the most common pattern of everyday life for an addict, leaving even a young body in need of exercise. Fitness can tone muscles, restore energy levels and even improve physical appearance. A positive self-image also begins to evolve as a recovering person spends time exercising. It’s also a great way to establish those new sober relationships at the gym.

Eating Well

Addiction not only encourage lethargy, but also unhealthy eating habits. Junkies eat junk food. With a new outlook, the recovering person can begin seeking a healthy diet of fruits and vegetables. They may also find cooking to be an exciting new activity. Improvements in diet can lead to weight loss, or weight gain for a recovering person, both of which can lead to a more positive self-image. Healthier food also contributes to energy levels and can improve areas that drugs damaged like complexion.

Sleeping Well Again

Most addicts never really sleep well. Either the drugs have knocked them out and they sleep too much. Or in the case of stimulants like cocaine their energy levels become artificial fueling days without rest until they pass out.  Crashing is a normal sleep pattern and contributes to the addiction cycle.  Now free of drugs, achieving healthy sleep patterns is an easy way to regain personal health in recovery.  Many recovering individuals discover a renewed alertness and willingness to learn new things.  Moodiness and depression may start to wan as a full night’s rest makes the day something any sober person wants to enjoy rather than hide from.

Learning New Things

The absence of education is often the greatest drawback for an addict. Time spent addicted meant time away from school. Also, drug use weakens the mind and spirit and makes learning anything more difficult. Now, with drugs a thing of the past, a person in recovery can rediscover education.

A Renewed Interest in Dreams and Goals

Taking a life back from drugs, most importantly leads to the one thing an addicted person missed: the possibility to dream.  Without drugs as an obstacle, a recovering person can spell out new goals in life. They can make plans and take interest in the world around them.  Staying focused on healthy living and sustaining the necessary help of local support groups, as well as committing to sobriety are the key factors that keep any recovering addict on a healthy path.  One goal many addicts have chosen is to help others. Inspired by those who helped them, it is not uncommon for recovering addicts to become drug counselors too, often volunteering to help at recovery centers or going back to school to become licensed recovery specialists. With goals on the horizon, recovery becomes less of a struggle and sobriety a way of life.