Friday, December 2, 2022

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Drugs and Substance Abuse and Treatment in Long Beach, New Jersey

The Tourist Township

Long Beach is New Jersey’s quaint tourist township located within Ocean County. While the community normally has a neighborly feel with a year round population of 7,500, during the four month tourist rush it boasts a population of 140,000, with neighborhoods such as Loveladies, Beach Haven Gardens, North Beach, and Spray Beach bursting at the seams. The township is a barrier island, 18 miles in length, that rests in the midst of the Intercoastal Waterway. With a history that dates back to the trade interests of Dutch Sailors and a traditional sportsman’s wildlife getaway, the island continues to be a place of pleasure and bounty for visitors and residents. Where wildlife has faded into the background, shops and restaurants have claimed their place in the lives of those seeking a good time. Yet in the midst of this bustling playground, a darker problem lurks. As wealthy individuals flock to vacation homes on the island, their enjoyment and relaxation is seemingly furthered by substance abuse stimulation. Drug usage is an issue that has haunted the state on the whole and continues to wreak havoc in the lives of all those it touches- and it truly touches “all of those” ; everyone from doctors and lawyers to teenagers to Little League Coaches. The waterway access and tourist traffic have only exacerbated the issue, making drugs such as heroin inexpensive and easy to obtain.

The Bigger Picture

According to the Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services, housed within the State of New Jersey’s Department of Human Services, NJ has allotted $974,785,000 to mental health care and the battle against addiction. While the mission statement declares a focus on “prevention, early intervention, treatment, and recovery services,” it also acquiesced to the diversity of care and many branches of service available. Ranging from the state facilities and government funded offerings to the contracted private entities, given the skills needed to navigate the system, one is able to find the care they need, and generally do so in an affordable way.

Local Demographics

During the 2016 calendar year, heroin rose to the forefront of the Ocean County drug scene with 50% of users choosing it as their drug of choice, compared with 27% choosing alcohol and a mere 8% choosing opiates, which are often seen as a gateway drug to heroin. Access to heroin is ever becoming easier, whereas prescription drugs have become slightly more difficult to obtain. In the first nine months of 2016, 118 people in Ocean County died of overdoses linked to heroin, proving the continual increase since 2012 of heroin related abuse and overdose. Out of these folks, the number of people using OP (Outpatient Care) was only 1% higher than those participating in IOP (Intensive Outpatient Care), with both numbers respectively being 2,083 and 2,057.

The Police Department for the Township states in their year to date report that while the standard issues one might expect in a waterfront community: sea turtle rescue, debris in road, animal bite, and occasional theft  are in the single digit numbers, a surprising 103 cases of drug possession and distribution have occurred.           

Statistically, a stereotypical resident would be a young white male who is not married, receives medicaid, regularly uses tobacco, and has a high school diploma. However, within the population that is actively using heroin a surprising number are females. The Island itself is noted for having a somewhat segregated geography, with people of financial means dwelling on one end, and people with less material assets living on the opposite end.

The Lingering Stories

In 2014, a 23 year old man was given Narcan in an attempt to save his life after a relative found him passed out early one morning in the bathroom of their home. Unfortunately, the Narcan was not enough, and he lost his life that morning. His story has continued to repeat itself in the years since then, and the young lives lost from affluent and poor families alike lingers in the mind of local residents.                                   

These stories have led to organizations such as the Maximilian Foundation, created by parents who lost their son to an overdose and who seek to raise awareness to prevent others from losing their lives in similar situations. The community has also banded together in forms such as annual “Hooked on Fishing, Not on Drugs Event” sponsored in part by D.A.R.E. and the Long Beach Township Police Department.


For someone living in Long Beach, New Jersey there are signs of hope in the recovery process. The majority of folks receiving care chose to do so within Ocean County. Drug court and the Overdose Prevention Act are set in place to help prevent the drug user from losing every aspect of their being, including their life.


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 substancet, 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.        


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.


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. 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. 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.