Addiction and Drug Abuse Treatment in Garfield, New Jersey
The state of New Jersey has seen a 700 percent rise in admissions to drug treatment centers in the last decade, and drug overdose is the number one cause of accidental death statewide.
Northern New Jersey is often referred to in media coverage as “Heroin Highway,” due to the recent and significant rise in heroin addiction and related deaths. In fact, heroin and opiate overdoses in the Garden State are three times the national average.
The Opiate Crisis in Garfield and Bergen County
Garfield, New Jersey is one of the cities in the U.S. that has been hit hardest by the heroin epidemic, and alcohol and other substances have taken hold there as well. Located in Bergen County—New Jersey’s most populous county—Garfield is home to approximately 31,876 residents. In 2016, the city saw 34 drug overdoses, five of which were fatal. That’s a sharp increase from the previous year, which recorded 23 overdoses.
Income per capita in Garfield is 25 percent lower than the national average, and the poverty rate is 4 percent higher than the state average. Studies have shown a strong link between poverty and unemployment and substance abuse and addiction.
Each year, approximately 36 percent of all substance abuse admissions in Garfield are opiate related (28 percent directly related to heroin). An additional 27 percent of admissions are due to alcoholism.
Garfield police and other city officials have taken steps to crack down on the crisis with programs such as “Not Even Once,” aimed at educating high school students in the area about the dangers of heroin, fentanyl, and other opiates, and the Garfield Prevention Coalition, which focuses on preventing adults and youth from turning to heroin, tobacco, marijuana, and alcohol.
There are many treatment options in Bergen County for those suffering from opiate addiction, alcoholism, and reliance on other substances. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, you do not have to suffer in silence. You are not alone and there are numerous resources and treatment options available to you.
One of the first steps when entering a treatment center for drug or alcohol abuse is a drug assessment. The particular evaluation and screening methods used during a drug assessment vary from treatment center to treatment center, but the general purpose is to provide clinicians with a comprehensive overview of the substances abused, the patient’s overall physical and mental health, and the severity of the addiction. This helps them to develop a customized detox and treatment plan that is appropriate for your individual needs.
Most treatment centers administer laboratory tests during the assessment process, which typically include a urine sample and a blood sample, along with a variety of other tests based on the patient’s self-report, the treatment center’s policies, and the clinician’s initial impression. Patients also sometimes receive a comprehensive physical exam to assess overall health and the severity of the addiction, as well as to identify any other existing medical conditions.
Details about the patient’s health, behavioral history, and past experiences with substance abuse and addiction will also generally be collected, and many treatment centers also gather information about family members’ health and document any familial history of substance abuse.
In addition, assessments typically include administering a number of survey tools to assess the patient’s behavioral and mental health and substance abuse patterns. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) lists the following surveys as common components of drug assessments:
- Substance Abuse Subtle Screening Inventory (SASSI)
This self-reported survey tool is used by clinicians to help them determine whether or not a patient is suffering from a substance use disorder. It also provides them with valuable information about the patient’s own beliefs and perceptions about his or her substance use.
- Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT)
The AUDIT is a 10-item self-reported questionnaire used specifically for those suffering from alcoholism. It helps clinicians assess patients’ level of addiction to alcohol, as well as their attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors related to drinking.
- CAGE Questionnaire
The CAGE questionnaire is a commonly used, four-question tool used to determine whether or not further assessments should be used and asks the patient to evaluate their feelings and experiences surrounding their use of alcohol.
- Mental Health Assessment
Additionally, many treatment centers will perform a mental health assessment to identify existing mental health symptoms and make or revise any appropriate diagnoses. As part of this assessment, mental health professionals use a number of tools and often administer traditional mental health surveys and screening forms to identify and understand any existing anxiety, personality, or mood disorders and determine if patients suffer from issues related to past traumas as well as to identify if there is the potential for self-harm.
It is important to make sure you are as prepared as possible and consider what steps must be taken prior to the intake process. It is common to feel anxiety, fear, and even dread before entering treatment and to worry about things such as how your job, your bills, or your family will be dealt with during this time.
It is important to remember that taking care of your health must be your priority, and your focus needs to be on treatment, recovery, and getting well. Taking the proper steps to prepare can help ease any anxiety you may feel and allow you to focus on getting better. Below are a few things to consider before entering treatment:
- If you are employed, tell your employer about your plan to enter treatment. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) entitles employees to up to 12 weeks of medical leave for a serious health condition and these can be used for substance abuse and addiction treatment.
- If you are responsible for children or pets, make sure they will be taken care of during treatment. Ask friends, family, or loved ones to look after them while you’re in treatment or investigate other local care options.
- Make sure you have a plan for any bills that need to be paid, if you are entering inpatient treatment. Ask a friend or loved one to handle your bills and other mail while you’re away or sign up for automatic payments.
- Understand the rules and requirements of your treatment center. Make sure you understand what you are allowed to bring and what items are restricted as well as your treatment schedule, rules about phone calls and visits, individual and group therapies, medications, and restrictions. Every treatment center has its own unique set of rules, so it’s important to make sure you understand the specific requirements and expectations.
- Make sure you have a plan to pay for treatment. If you are covered by medical insurance, chances are at least a portion of your treatment will be covered. Find out more about how to pay for treatment here.
In addition to the drug assessment, the intake process for heroin addiction or alcoholism generally involves turning in any restricted items that you may have brought with you. Every treatment center is different in terms of what you are allowed to bring in, but most treatment centers restrict the following:
- Drugs and alcohol
- Cell phones, laptops, tablets, and other electronics
- Expensive belongings and cash
- Unapproved medications
- Flammable objects
- Products containing alcohol (toiletries, etc.)
Upon arrival at your intake appointment, you will be asked to fill out and sign formal consent forms and you will be given additional information about the rules and expectations. During this appointment, you are likely to meet with a counselor one-on-one. You will also likely be asked to provide a urine sample and drug test, take a breathalyzer, and go over your medical history. It is important to bring any current medications with you, in their original packaging. It is also helpful to bring a list of medications and dosages for the staff.
You are likely to be given a list of rules, regulations, and expectations during the intake process, and go over your treatment plan with staff members. You will also be given a tour of the treatment center by a staff member or a patient who is approaching discharge. You will be shown where you will be sleeping, eating, and attending therapy sessions and check-ups.
Entering a treatment center for drug addiction is a major decision and it is perfectly normal to feel strong emotions and experience anxiety. The treatment center will need to collect a lot of information from you and ask you a lot of questions during the intake process. This is also the time for you to ask the staff any questions you have and communicate your worries, hopes, and concerns.
Because heroin is a fast-acting drug, withdrawal typically takes 5 to 7 days, but depending upon the severity of the patient’s addiction, it can take up to 10 days to fully detox. Heroin is a very difficult drug to stop using, but with the right mindset, supervision, and resources surrounding you, it is absolutely possible.
Due to the tremendously addictive nature of heroin and the added risks associated with heroin detox, it is highly recommended that patients are medically supervised during the withdrawal process. Withdrawing from heroin without medical supervision can be dangerous, so it is not recommended that you go it alone.
Stopping heroin cold turkey can be dangerous. The risk of relapse is higher than for other substances, which can lead to overdose and even death if the patient uses the same amount of heroin as before. Cold turkey withdrawal can also lead to severe dehydration, hallucinations, convulsion, and even seizures. Because of these and other risks, most treatment centers taper patients off the drug, making the withdrawal process safer and more comfortable and allowing clinicians to closely monitor symptoms.
Common symptoms of heroin withdrawal include:
- Restlessness and hyperactivity
- Muscle spasms
- Mood swings, aggression, and irritability
- Paranoia and anxiety
- High blood pressure
- Drug cravings
Detoxing from heroin is not easy—it is known as one of the most difficult steps of recovery. However, under proper supervision and with enough determination, recovery is possible.
Residential or inpatient treatment programs are full-time, intensive programs designed to treat the most serious and severe addictions. They involve intensive individual and group therapy, counseling and support groups, and round-the-clock medical supervision.
Inpatient treatment takes place at a live-in facility, where care is provided at all hours of the day and night. These kinds of programs allow patients recovering from substance abuse and addiction to focus solely on recovery by providing a safe and secure, controlled environment free from drugs and alcohol.
Inpatient programs generally last between 28 days to 6 months, depending on a number of factors. During this time, patients live separately from family and friends and do not leave the center to go to work. For the most severe and complex addictions, and for those who have been abusing heroin or opiates in large amounts or for a long period of time, inpatient treatment is often the best option.
While residential, inpatient treatment involves living at a treatment facility full-time, outpatient treatment programs allow patients to live at home full-time or part-time during treatment. Outpatient programs are generally less expensive than inpatient treatment, and vary greatly in terms of intensity and duration.
Outpatient treatment programs can be the right option for those with less severe addictions and for those who are unable to take time away from family, work, or other obligations. Additionally, outpatient programs may be recommended by clinicians for those transitioning out of an inpatient treatment environment.
It is important to remember that detoxing from heroin on your own—especially doing so cold turkey—can be very dangerous. For most people, inpatient treatment is the safest option during detox.
In addition to traditional inpatient and outpatient treatment programs, partial hospitalization programs and intensive outpatient programs may be good options for those who do not require residential treatment, but who need intensive therapy and supervision during recovery:
Partial Hospitalization Programs
Partial hospitalization programs (PHP) for substance abuse treatment share much in common with residential and inpatient programs; however, they differ from residential programs in that patients generally return home at night. Patients are treated with group and individual therapy, case management, and medical supervision during the daytime, and typically spend at least 5 or 6 hours at a treatment facility.
PHPs can be effective for those who have strong family and social support systems, thrive in flexible environments, and do not require 24/7 medical supervision. PHPs can also be effective after inpatient treatment, when a patient has completed his or her residential stay but requires additional supervision during the transition back into the community.
Intensive Outpatient Programs
Intensive outpatient programs (IOP) differ from residential and inpatient treatment in that patients do not live at the treatment facility full-time. Instead, IOP patients attend treatment sessions at a treatment facility on a regular basis but live at home or with family or friends.
These kinds of treatment programs are not generally used to treat severe and long-term addiction. Rather, clinicians may recommend IOPs in cases where patients do not require detox or intensive medical supervision. Those addicted to heroin and other opiates typically require a medically-supervised detox period, so IOPs are rarely used to treat addiction to these substances, although they can be an option for those who have successfully completed detox and are continuing treatment through counseling and therapy.
Recovery from drug abuse and addiction does not end upon being discharged from treatment, and one of the most important components of the recovery process is what happens after inpatient or outpatient treatment has concluded.
Particularly for those who have just completed inpatient treatment, and have been living in a secure, drug- and alcohol-free environment with 24/7 supervision and care, having a plan for continued treatment and aftercare can make all the difference in ensuring a successful transition.
Aftercare greatly decreases the likelihood of relapse and allows patients to learn valuable coping skills and develop ongoing support groups during the transition from treatment back to the community.
Since those recovering from heroin addiction and abuse of other opiates are at greater risk of overdose in the case of relapse than those addicted to other substances, it is important to consider the full range of aftercare options. Some of these are listed below:
- Ongoing outpatient treatment, including partial hospitalization programs, intensive outpatient programs, and intensive group therapy.
- Sober living houses
- Pharmaceutical treatments
- Individual therapy and family counseling
- Local support groups
- 12 step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA)
Continuing your sobriety after treatment takes diligence, hard work, and dedication. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.
Maintaining a strong network of other people who are also committed to living a sober lifestyle and continued recovery is an extremely important consideration for most individuals transitioning out of treatment. It’s important to have people to reach out to if and when you are struggling.
Particularly for those recovering from severe addiction, which is often the case for those transitioning out of treatment for heroin and other opiates, sober living homes can serve as a bridge between intensive inpatient treatment and the transition back to everyday life. Learn more about sober living homes here.
Whatever your plan for maintaining your sobriety, it is important to carefully consider your plan for continued recovery and make sober living an ongoing priority in your post-treatment life.