Thursday, January 27, 2022

Substance Abuse and Treatment in Springfield, Massachusetts

Drug & Alcohol Rehab Centers in Springfield are here to help begin your recovery!

Springfield is the New England town that is the seat of Hampden County, Massachusetts. Sitting on the eastern bank of the Connecticut River, from humble beginnings, the city’s population has grown to where latest census figures list Metropolitan Springfield as having a population of nearly a million people, with just over 200,000 people living in greater Springfield proper. With a topography defined by the many rivers that converge around the town, the city is a mixture of some hale old buildings and elegant modern construction, with a leafy green feel running through the city’s suburbs. Projects and inner city high-rises exist, but most residents live in suburban houses that cluster in the city’s suburbs. Relatively close to coastal Boston and the Eastern seaboard, Springfield has not been immune to the tremendous upsurge in opioid abuse that has become an American epidemic over the last three to four years.

Perfectly situated as a transit point for syndicates running drugs into the U.S. from the Atlantic seaboard , the city is an almost inevitable stop on well established drug dealers’ routes that criss-cross America. Fed from the east and the southwest, far from being isolated from drug trafficking’s impact, Springfield very often experiences at least a part of all such activity. The Springfield Police Department hardly dealt with heroin as a criminal substance five years ago. In 2018 they, like many other law enforcement offices across America, have been propelled into an ongoing attempt at curbing the drug’s pervasive uptake by Springfield residents. Local police spokesmen have been candid about the need to step up operations against trafficking, approach the issue holistically and also run educational campaigns aimed at prevention rather than the inevitable criminal prosecution that loomed for users in past eras.

While cocaine still ranks as the major consumer of police resources in combating trafficking, and methamphetamine has a dedicated following in the city, it’s the dramatic rise in heroin consumption, couple with prescription drug abuse, that is making opioid-related deaths the prime current concern. Although county figures depict heroin abuse at a tenth of cocaine and crack cocaine abuse, they belie the fact that, from an almost obscure drug seldom encountered, heroin abuse has grown around 3000 percent over the last few years, based on arrest and confiscation statistics.

Policing Heroin Trafficking in Springfield

There is a definite trend of drug dealers setting up shop in Springfield as opposed to treating the town as a merely transient possibility and the city is rapidly establishing itself as an opioid epidemic epicenter. More typical of much bigger cities like Boston and New York, Springfield is nonetheless unfortunately losing its status as a marginal town, at least in the eyes of drug traffickers. Although cocaine abuse seems to be either stable or in subtle decline, this is no compensation for the rise in opioid abuse. Also, the fact that many recreational users start out consuming cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine along with alcohol often blurs available figures. What can be deduced is that Springfield is suffering under the same push towards heroin becoming the drug of choice as many other American cities.

During 2016, a year that saw the U.S. suffer over 60,000 overdose deaths nationwide, heroin trafficking and sale was also entrenched as law enforcement’s number one priority in the region. Although the struggle to curb cocaine supply and methamphetamine manufacture in the town is ongoing, the dramatic increase in heroin’s availability and abuse is alarming officials. Compounding the problem is an aggressive move by Asian syndicates to muscle out South America syndicates, and this phenomenon has been noted by police departments across the U.S.

Drug Courts

Springfield is one town that has benefited from the statewide rollout of some 27 drug courts where, assuming an absence of violent crime associated with a defendant’s appearance on drug charges, courts now have a large amount of leeway in sentencing. Typically sending younger and first time offenders into a recovery program with strict bond conditions, the drug courts have proved a welcome, logical alternative to previously blunt criminal prosecution of drug offenders. That said, sentencing is aggravated by the presence of robbery or assault charges on a charge sheet and, although progressive in sentencing when dealing only with addiction, any other additional criminal charges may still see even light and first time offenders sentenced to suspended or real-time sentences. Officially known as the Court Assisted and Supervised Treatment Session, the drug courts rolled out in Springfield in January 2017. Faced with statistics that consistently indicate a clinical drug addiction rate among American prison inmates of just below 50 percent, federal initiatives are now filtering down to towns like Springfield in a bid to rather cure addiction-related offenders as opposed to simply jailing them.

The drug courts essentially compel an offender to undertake a program of recovery, with regular testing and courtroom meetings. Even appearing before a judge has become less formal, as drug court judges wear suits & ties and address program participants informally, eye to eye. Rounds of applause are not uncommon for returning previous offenders who have kicked the habit.

Coupled with sentencing for illicit drugs in specialized courts, other federal overtures like educational campaigns and social upliftment programs are all mobilized in Springfield to address the city’s drug problems.

Springfield Hot Spots of Supply and Demand

Although smart and broadly modern with good policing and maintenance regimes, some areas of Springfield like the City Center and across town at Indian Orchard are developing reputations as crime hot spots, notably due to the sale of drugs to drive-through clients. Springfield is unusual as, although it has somewhat downtrodden areas that residents and visitors alike associate with drugs and crime, an emerging trend is proactive delivery of substances across the city. While an established practice globally – making a phone call to connect with a dealer – it is noted by law enforcement officials as a preferred method of supply in this Massachusetts city.

Risk Factors

Several risk factors are established as contributing to an increased likelihood of drug or alcohol addiction:

Early aggressive behavior. Typically noticed by parents or guardians, individuals who exhibit atypically aggressive behaviour require early intervention to develop the tools of self-control and peaceable living.

Lack of parental supervision. This is a big contributor to early-onset addiction and a difficult one to address, at least for healthcare and law enforcement workers, who are often the members of society left to pick up the pieces of a neglected childhood.

Availability. The simple fact of drugs being available in a city enables a sub-culture of addiction and is the common battle ground for police and DEA officials who work to stem supply lines.

Peer substance abuse. Associating with friends or peers who drink or take drugs – whether as an adolescent or adult – is a high-risk activity with a high percentage of former addicts able to trace their addiction’s beginnings back to the poor company they kept that was enough to allow their own insecurities to consume them.

Poverty is a contributor to the likelihood of substance abuse, and many younger addicts experience a strong sense of attachment to their neighborhood and way of life, in the absence of real prospects and enabling reserves to study or better themselves in some way. When those neighborhoods and communities experience drug availability and abuse, it’s often a short step to a person becoming addicted, usually at a fairly young age too.        

Risk factors work to influence outcomes in many ways. The more of the above classic risk factors a child experiences when growing up, the higher the likelihood of future problems with substance. That said, risk factors can all be mitigated by caring parenting, especially during the fragile teenage years, when many experience almost overpowering pressure to conform and be “cool”.

Causes of Addiction

Based on the risk factors listed above, causes of alcohol and drug addiction vary widely, as can be imagined, where various risk factors may combine or intertwine with individual personalities that make it extremely hard to predict a substance abuse problem manifesting in the future. That said, there are common causes that appear time and again when looking at statistics for almost any city in the world. Professionals generally cluster the causes of addiction into three main camps.

Firstly, psychological causes that contribute to addiction manifesting are widely seen as being the single biggest contributor to a life of addiction. Psychological causes encompass the after effects of trauma, sexual, physical or emotional abuse, parental neglect and a chaotic home environment. All of these can contribute to a person’s desire to “self-medicate” – to numb the pain of the experience – which is often a short route to full-blown addiction.

Other contributing factors might include:

  • Clinical depression
  • A personal bias towards loneliness and an inability to connect with others and make friends
  • Persistent negative appraisal of substandard performance at school or work that is symptomatic of a deeper malaise
  • Poorly developed social skills that include an inability to cope with stress

Secondly, environmental factors can contribute powerfully to the onset of addiction too. In neighborhoods or even families where substance abuse has been normalized, the children in those situations have a much higher chance of succumbing to drug addiction post adolescence. A particularly lethal combination of teenage pressures and a lack of parental supervision often provides fertile ground for addiction to take root.

Other contributing environmental factors include:

  • Poor economic status
  • Participation in sports that promote performance-enhancing drugs, whether unofficially or not, can begin a cycle of consumption that eventually leads to wholesale addiction to one or several substances
  • Peer pressure from existing users with whom a person seeks favor or companionship
  • Ethnicity and gender show trend lines among certain substances that are seen as somehow “part” of a particular culture or gender preference, being seen as “appropriate” for the gender or ethnicity concerned – again a quest for personal identity that often ends in persistent addiction

Finally, genetic causes, while still relatively poorly understood, are starting to insist upon inclusion as contributors, based on current scientific research. With twins, for example, fully 50 percent of the contribution towards drug addiction can be seen at play in this arena, while families with a history of addiction tend to produce more addicts. Although this can be attributed as an environmental factor, it does appear that genetics have a role to play, although science has yet to finalize the tally of exactly what does what and when and why when it comes to the human genome.

How Addiction Happens

Very few people actively seek out an addicted lifestyle. Alcohol or drug abuse typically comes about as the end result of several bad decisions that were made much earlier on in an individual’s life. While there might be some desire to get “out of it” and escape through the effect of being high or drunk – self-medication – more typically these appear initially as ancillary benefits when a person is in pursuit of acceptance and camaraderie.

Conversely, when left to their own devices, such as in the case of anti-social people or those who spurn human connectivity, that individual ends up lacking a balanced perspective on life and initially “innocent” habits can grow to full-blown addiction without the input of their peers, who might otherwise incline them to abstain. While circumstances and personalities vary, it does appear that parenting is a huge contributor to whether or not a person grows up feeling that the world is a safe place and sobriety an essential attribute of a balanced human being. Children who grow up feeling insecure about life for whatever reason often manifest a hedonism that shows as rampant drug abuse, as they are engaged in a complete lack of patience and understanding, taking all now in the fear that it will be gone tomorrow.

How can I tell if someone is using?

Telltale symptoms of addiction are usually noticeable when others take the time to look closely. Erratic eating and sleeping, drastic mood swings, general flippancy, an unkempt lifestyle and repeated minor misfortunes are all potential flags for addiction. Other noted clues are:

  • Slurred or incoherent speech when the person is found using substance or has just used
  • Bloodshot eyes and an ashen complexion
  • An overall degradation of a person’s physical health and/or appearance
  • Compulsive tiredness, often at unusual times of the day or night
  • Shaking, tremors or obsessive scratching
  • Sudden fluctuations in weight

Assessment & Pre-intake into Treatment

In Springfield, many rehabilitation centers abound and established civil societies that focus on recovery and sober living are present in the city too. When a person reaches a point of realization that the typical outcomes of addiction loom large in their future – hospitalization, incarceration or death – that is the moment when many turn to face their reality by contacting a rehabilitation center. The first step towards recovery typically centers on an initial assessment interview, where medical tests as well as counselling dominate in order to determine the nature and extent of the addiction.

In the welcoming environment of the recovery center, healthcare professionals will interview prospective patients to determine, in consultation with the patient, the best course of action to follow to enable recovery. While there are many nuanced offers that accommodate all comers in the realm of recovery, it’s important for a person to be both honest and practical at the initial assessment. Employing rehabilitation as a management tool for addiction is not the aim and merely perpetuates a life of suffering far longer than needs be. When a person attends the assessment, huge relief and a long-lost hope often suffuse the experience and , once a route is chosen, the pre-intake period begins and is often a sobering moment for many. Pre-intake involves personally committing to the process, making such practical arrangements as are needed to enable the recovery journey and also at times involving friends and family for support when taking this critical step.

Intake & Detoxification (RTC, PHP and IOP)

There are a few usual structures to rehabilitation that have proved their efficacy in recovery. RTC refers to a residential treatment center, where inpatient admission takes place and a person is interned within a recovery center to follow a process of physical and mental curing of addiction. PHP refers to partial hospitalization – an option for many who have unavoidable obligations outside of the center that they fear tarnishing. While it involves much of what inpatient programs offer, it also comes with an added level of responsibility as, during recovery, a person involved in partial hospitalization will have moments off the center premises where their own will needs to see them through possible temptation. The last common option is treatment on an intensive outpatient basis (IOP). This suits some people very well and, although demanding of a core discipline that guides and maintains the commitment to clean living, many do find that the demand, coupled with active and intensive involvement with an outpatient program, is just the right mix that enables a return to normality.

No matter the route followed, detoxification will be a component of the first experiences of rehabilitation. Detoxing is essential to help the body shed the dirt of addiction, repair possible damage to tissues and organs, as well as throttle the homeostasis an addict has attained, where daily consumption of their substance has become a way of life. Detoxification typically involves a strict dietary regime, physical activities and medical treatments that help with the effects of withdrawal. As the body returns to health, so too does it enable a physiological transformation that speaks to all other factors that contributed to the addiction manifesting, and for this reason a detox has become a virtually standard practise in American recovery centers.

Sober Living Environments

Sober living facilities have become the norm in modern rehabilitation after healthcare professionals realized that many patients will remain successfully sober and healthy with the addition of an interim step between inpatient treatment and discharge. For many, the warm, sheltering environment of the recovery center seems intimidating to leave and they can then stay in a sober living facility where the emphasis is on responsibility and healthy living. Interns at such a facility typically have scheduled outside time, but return each day to the reality of a managed lifestyle. They help with chores, share in group settings and often follow strict curfews and regimes to entrench sober living prior to a return to the wide world. The counselling, physical activity and very often medication that formed parts of the inpatient treatment are perpetuated to a greater or lesser degree in a sober living facility, to the long-term success of the person concerned.


Aftercare takes many forms, but therapy and social activities probably define the phenomenon more than any other aspect of recovery aftercare. Broader social concerns are addressed by aftercare, with chaperone drivers, communal check-ins and proactive affirmation of a healthy, sober life being typical components.

A less intense but still regular routine of therapy, group sharing and exercise, along with dietary dictates, are all components that contribute to ultimately successfully living a clean life. Very often, a sponsor or “buddy” can be engaged either through the recovery center or other rehabilitated groups who host regular meetings in and around Springfield.

Many former addicts find great meaning and joy in participating in aftercare activities, and it may well be mandated by an attendant physician or counsellor for the benefit of the recovered person. For those who found their route to recovery via the drug courts, it’s almost a standard inclusion in their court-ordered rehabilitation program. From a harrowing existence, enslaved to substance, many find tremendous value in slowly emerging as facilitators and “seniors” in the aftercare fraternity and enjoy sharing and motivating others who still grapple with their own personal demons.