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Friday, April 12, 2024


Drug Addiction Profile of Utah

Because of its association with Mormonism, Utah is not commonly known for its drug abuse problems, despite the many Utah rehab centers available. But out of all fifty states, Utah has the seventh highest drug overdose rate in the US. Prescription drug deaths alone have increased by four-hundred percent since 2000. However, only one in ten Utah drug users receives any kind of treatment. Because substance abuse is frowned upon by Mormon culture, drug addiction is often managed in secret or simply not dealt with at all as a problem.

These cultural influences also define what types of drugs end up being abused.  Prescription pills are seen as a medication by Mormon culture and because they are prescribed by a doctor, they are seen as being well within the framework of medical treatment. But because of the addictive nature of so many prescription opioids, the medicine quickly becomes a dependency, then an addiction. When prescription drugs are no longer available, many users turn to heroin as a cheaper high. As a result, eight percent of heroin users in Utah state that they began with prescription pills.

Along with perception pain meds like Oxycontin, alcohol, marijuana and heroin are other preferred drugs of choice in Utah. Drug deaths have outpaced deaths caused by firearms and motor vehicle crashes. Based on overdose deaths and emergency room visits, the areas impacted range from urban sections of downtown Ogden and Salt Lake City to St. George and more rural Tooele County. Utah’s economically depressed coal country has also become vulnerable to drugs. Tooele County, Emery, Carbon and Grand counties, have the state’s highest rates of opioid deaths, at 33.96 deaths and 33.92 deaths per 100,000 residents, respectively, between 2014 and 2015.

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Fighting Against the Utah Drug Problem

A Department of Health and Human Services grant is Utah’s share of $485 million being sent to U.S. states and territories under the 2015-2016 21st Century Cures Act. The money will be distributed through the Utah Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services. The goal is to establish treatment centers, both inpatient and outpatient to help addicts find recovery.  Also, public awareness programs will help educate the Utah public about the drug problem in their state. The education approach will be both an advertising campaign to reach everyone in Utah, as well as a classroom-based program integrated into Utah schools. The goal is to reach children with drug awareness messages while they are still young.

The focus on Utah youth is especially important because eleven percent of high students reported drinking alcohol before they were thirteen years old. That means by the time they turned thirteen, eleven percent had tried alcohol. Of that eleven percent, half admitted that the alcohol they drank was given to them. Four percent also admitted to driving after drinking alcohol.

Alarmingly, eleven percent have also used inhalants, common products such as glue and spray paint aerosol cans to get high. The practice known has huffing is common among teens unable to get drugs and who turn to everyday household products to produce euphoric effects. Also, three percent of teens admitted to using cocaine and pain relievers to get high. Like inhalants, prescription drugs are readily available in most Utah homes. Teens merely need to check their parent’s medicine cabinet.

The education of Utah youth has pinpointed key topics of greatest importance for preventing drug use and abuse.

1.      Prescription medications from the family doctor can be highly addictive. The goal is to help Utah citizens understand that many common painkillers prescribed by doctors for ailments ranging from a toothache to muscle spasms can turn into an addiction.

2.      The prescription drug, heroin connection. The education program also focuses on showing how once prescription drugs are no longer available, many addicts turn to heroin.

3.      The risk of heroin overdose. Extra emphasis is placed on how easily anyone can die from heroin use, even with the first dose.

4.      The dangers of inhalants. Explaining how household products can be used to get high may seem like bad information to pass onto to kids, but the damage inhalants can do is also made clear. Inhalants can cause brain damage and damage to lungs. They can leave many users mentally impaired.

5.      The risk of binge drinking is explained. Binge drinking, most common on Utah college campuses, can easily lead to alcohol poisoning and death.

6.      Marijuana and brain development. The education program also emphasizes that though pot is seen as a fairly mild drug of choice, that it can impair brain development in youth. Definitive IQ declines have been identified in research among teens who smoke pot over time. 

Other Efforts to Stop Drugs in Utah​

The Good Samaritan Law protects anyone from legal action for reporting a drug overdose. Too many drug addicts abandon their overdosing friends for fear of repercussions. The hope was that the law would encourage the saving of a life of a fellow addict.

The DEA Amps up Law Enforcement in Utah

Federal law enforcement has also proposed a three-prong strategy to fight the influx of illegal drugs into the state.

1) Coordinated Law Enforcement actions against drug cartels and heroin traffickers in specific communities. The Drug Enforcement Administration will crack down on dealer networks and organized crime in Utah communities where drugs have become prevalent.

(2) Diversion control enforcement actions against DEA registrants operating outside the law and long-term engagement with pharmaceutical drug manufacturers, wholesalers, pharmacies, and practitioners.  Targeting prescription pill mills and other illegal operations within the Utah medical community, the Drug Enforcement Administration hopes to stop the flood of illegally distributed prescription meds on the streets of Utah’s cities.

(3) Community outreach through local partnerships empower communities to take back affected neighborhoods after enforcement actions and prevent the same problems from cropping up again. Reaching out to clergy, teachers and parents, the Drug Enforcement Administration hopes to emphasize the educational component of their strategy by creating meaningful advocates against drug use in those communities.

New Victims to Addiction: Drugs and Utah Moms

The depth of the drug problem in Utah is not only impacting addicted adults and youth, but unborn children as well. New research shows nearly one in every 15 babies born in Utah hospitals have a mom whose using drugs. Doctors discovered that as many as one in twenty moms are taking opioids while pregnant. That means their babies will be born with the extreme likelihood of a painful withdrawal in their first days of life.

Doctors testing umbilical cords often find the presence of drugs.  Opiates made up most positive tests with nearly one in twenty or a little over four percent of umbilical cords tested returning positive for opiates. Evidence of other types of drug use is present as well. A little over two percent of umbilical cord tests were positive for barbiturates, benzodiazepines, alcohol, marijuana, methamphetamines and cocaine. Overall, nearly one in fourteen umbilical cords came back positive for drugs in one year.  As a result, the state Health Department has begun tracking moms addicted to drugs during pregnancy.

The difficulty for doctors is that cutting off drugs immediately means risking the health of the newborn infant. These new babies now need medical drug treatment just as much as their mothers. Genetically, the infants are also at risk for dependency and addiction later in life because of the shared addiction with their mothers.


Understanding The Drugs Plaguing Utah


Opioids are a class of drugs that include heroin, as well as synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and pain relievers available legally by prescription, such as oxycodone, or OxyContin, hydrocodone or Vicodin, codeine, morphine, and many others. Prescription opioids used for pain relief are generally safe when taken for a short time and taken as prescribed by a doctor, but they can be misused. Misuse occurs when the medication is taken in larger doses than what is prescribed or taking the medication when it has not been prescribed to that person. Recreational use of opioid drugs is also considered a form of misuse. Often the pills are crushed and snorted as a powder or the contents of capsules dissolved in water and injected. Both approaches deliver the drug more quickly to the brain to get high faster.


Heroin is an opioid drug made from morphine, a natural substance taken from the seed pod of the various opium poppy plants grown in Southeast and Southwest Asia, Mexico, and Colombia. Heroin can be a white or brown powder, or a black sticky substance known as black tar heroin.

Heroin enters the brain rapidly and binds to opioid receptors on cells located in many areas of the brain, especially those involved in feelings of pain and pleasure and in controlling heart rate, sleeping, and breathing. Because heroin slows respiration so dramatically, it can easily lead to overdose as the part of the brain that instructs the body to breath is shut down


Although other substances that are misused can be inhaled, the term inhalants refer to the various substances that people typically take only by inhaling. These substances can be solvents, aerosol sprays, gases and nitrates. Inhalants are various products easily bought and found in the home or workplace—such as spray paints, markers, glues, and cleaning fluids. They contain dangerous substances that have psychoactive properties when inhaled. People don’t typically think of these products as drugs because they are so commonplace and for that reason do not perceive them as dangerous. Inhalants can cause liver and kidney damage, hearing loss, bone marrow damage and brain damage because of the sudden lack of oxygen supply to the brain. People use inhalants, not really realizing the long-term health impact because of the fast euphoric high produced. People may even hallucinate while using inhalants. Excessive use however can also trigger vomiting and severe headaches.


Cocaine is a highly addictive stimulant derived from the coca plant. Street dealers will mix cocaine with cornstarch and even talcum powder to increase profits.  Cocaine produces immediate short-term effects including extreme happiness and high energy levels. Cocaine users become highly focused and alert as well as hypersensitive to sight, sound and touch. The stimulating effects also lead to increased irritability and often extreme paranoia. Large doses of cocaine can product erratic and often violent behavior.  Long term continued use of cocaine can gradually diminish the sense of smell if snorted, as well as cause nosebleeds and difficulty swallowing.  If ingested orally, severe bowel problems may result, and if injected, cocaine use can lead to HIV and other blood borne diseases.  Studies have revealed that cocaine use speeds up HIV infection and weakens the immune system.

Alcohol and Binge Drinking

Though a completely legal drug, alcohol has a devastating impact on health and society.  Most disturbing is the trend of binge drinking, in which large quantities of alcohol are consumed at one time, oftentimes with dire consequences. Binge drinking has become popular on college campuses and has led to many deaths of college youth as well as leading to reckless behavior and acts of violence including rape.


Marijuana refers to the dried leaves, flowers, stems, and seeds from the Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica plant. The plant contains the mind-altering chemical THC and other similar compounds. When a person smokes marijuana, THC quickly passes from the lungs into the bloodstream. The blood carries the chemical to the brain and other organs throughout the body. The body absorbs THC more slowly when the person eats or drinks it. In that case, they generally feel the effects after 30 minutes to 1 hour. Marijuana overstimulates parts of the brain that contain the highest number of these brain receptors. This causes the high that people feel. Other effects include: altered senses such as seeing colors brighter, altered sense of time, changes in mood, impaired body movement, difficulty with thinking and problem-solving, impaired memory, hallucinations, delusions and even psychosis when taken in large doses.

The Impact of Drugs on Youth

Teens in Utah across the US make up the majority of those addicted to drugs. In fact, most adults who suffer through addiction may have begun with alcohol and drug use in high school. As drugs become more easily accessible and the variety of drugs available constantly changes, youth become more susceptible to the many easy options for getting high.

Opioids in the Home Medicine Chest

Opioids are one of the highest risk drugs for youth due to their availability in medicine cabinets at home. Painkillers for common ailments used recreationally by kids can quickly escalate to addiction.  The launch of pharm parties where stolen pills can be transacted among high school kids can be communicated via social media. In other instances, opioid medications are mixed with other drugs and alcohol to produce unique highs. This mixing of drugs puts most teens at risk for overdose.  One out of eight high school seniors reported having used prescription opioids for recreational use.  And seven out of 1ten nonmedical users reported using prescription drugs with at least one other drug such as marijuana and alcohol. 

What Parents Can Do

Parents need to know what meds are in their medicine cabinets. They need to know especially when they go missing. They should count the pills as kids will be discreet, taking only a few pills at a time to prevent anyone from noticing. Hiding prescriptions out of sight of teens is another way abuse can be prevented. When prescriptions expire, they should be properly disposed of.

Marijuana Is No Longer a Big Deal

Though marijuana has always been considered a gateway drug to more dangerous drugs such as heroin and cocaine, its continued use is still common among teens and even pre-teens in junior high. The drug has lost much of its threat over the years as medical marijuana becomes a legitimate treatment for many illnesses and laws punishing marijuana possession and sale have become less severe.  But the drug still has consequences for youth.

Among all grades, perceptions of harm and disapproval around marijuana use continue to decrease, with only a small percentage of 8th and 10th graders thinking that regular marijuana use is harmful. While only 29.0 percent of 12th graders report that regular marijuana use poses a great risk (half of what it was 20 years ago), disapproval among 12th graders remains somewhat high, with 64.7 percent reporting they disapprove of adults smoking marijuana regularly. In fact, daily pot use exceeds daily cigarette use among 8th, 10th and 12th graders. Another trend among teens is the use of electronic cigarettes to smoke pot. Vaping is rising among teens as the ideal method for smoking pot. Research from the University of Michigan found that more than a third of high school seniors have used a e-cigarette in the past year to smoke pot. But as cannabis becomes less sinister, it also has a greater impact on the health and minds of Utah youth.

Alcohol Abuse and Kids

Alcohol continues to be one of the most popular substances and one of the most abused substances by teens. Binge drinking, which was once limited to college campuses is now cropping up in high school weekend parties.

  • By age 15, about 33 percent of teens have had at least 1 drink.
  • By age 18, about 60 percent of teens have had at least 1 drink.
  • In 2015, 7.7 million young people ages 12–20 reported that they had more than just a few sips of an alcoholic beverage in the past month.
  • 5.1 million young people reported binge drinking (for males 5 or more drinks and for females 4 or more drinks on the same occasion within a few hours) at least once in the past month.
  • 1.3 million young people reported binge drinking on 5 or more days over the past month

How Does Binge Drinking Lead to Death?

The consequences of death from binge drinking are various.  The statistics show that:

  • 1,580 deaths from motor vehicle crashes- teens are more likely to get behind the wheel after too many drinks, especially after a party.
  • 1,269 from homicides-excessive alcohol in the system increases emotions like anger and many deaths have resulted from alcohol fueled homicides that usually started with a minor dispute.
  • 245 from alcohol poisoning, falls, burns, and drowning- alcohol poisoning kills and when drinking as much alcohol as possible in a short span is turned into a game at weekend parties, death may result. Also, drunken behavior easily leads to slips and falls and in instances where a drunken teen was near a pond or lake, a fatal drowning.
  • 492 from suicides-under the emotional influence of alcohol, teens may become depressed and without clear judgement take their own life.
What Parents Can Do

For parents whose child seems to be slipping toward alcohol addiction, there are many options.  Environmental interventions such as eliminating alcohol in the household, even for adults eliminates the attraction of drinking in the home. Insisting on a zero tolerance for drinking alcohol is also recommended for parents of teen children.

Inhalants and Teens

Inhalants can be any substance found in the house. Most are in aerosol form but can also be in other forms such as adhesives which is then inhaled to produce a high.  Inhalants may be:

  • Solvents
  • Aerosol Sprays like spray paints, electronic contact cleaners, hair or deodorant sprays, vegetable oil sprays
  • Markers
  • Glues
  • Cleaning Fluids, case found in propane tanks, whipped cream aerosols (known as whippets) and butane lighter fluids.

How Do Teens Use Inhalants?

Typically known as huffing, teens take in the fumes from various household chemical substances through the mouth or nose. They can sniff or snort fumes for a glue bottle. They can spray aerosols directly into the nose, especially products like computer dusting sprays, which can be found in any home office. There is also bagging, in which teens fill a plastic bag with the fumes and then breath those trapped fumes in quickly from the bag.   Inhaling a chemical soaked rag from automotive products found in most garages can also produce an immediate high.

Inhalants can cause slurred speech, a lack of coordination an extreme sense of euphoria and dizziness.  Though the high only lasts for a few minutes, teens may try to reproduce it again and again for several hours. The health impacts though can be extremely dangerous

The Numbers on Inhalants and Youth

1.1 million kids in the 12-17 age demographic in the United States have used inhalants at least once in the past 12 months.

By the time students in the US reach the eighth grade, one in five will have already experimented with inhalants. In 2007, inhalants were the substance most frequently abused by youth aged 12 or 13.

22% of inhalant abusers who died of Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome had no history of previous inhalant abuse—they were first-time users.

Inhalants are the fourth most-abused substance after alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana

What Parents Can Do

Parents who suspect their child of using inhalants must confront the issue with education.  Many kids feel that inhalants, because they are easily found around the house, are harmless. Check for sudden decreases in the availability of household products that could be inhaled.

Teen Drug Addiction Over Time

No teen thinks of the long-term consequences of drug use. To most it is just temporary fun. But addiction can quickly overcome a teen, especially one vulnerable to mental or emotional disorders like depression.

When a teen takes drugs over time physical and emotional changes may go unnoticed by parents because they are so gradual and because teens generally display moodiness.  But some issues may become easily noticeable.

  • Indifference– drug addiction makes individuals feel less, both emotionally in terms of caring to what happens to others and even to physical pain as their bodies become numb from drug abuse.
  • Constipation– teens using drugs may start to experience difficulties with bowel movements as the drugs they take changes their biological regularity.
  • Breathing problems– a teen may not notice how winded they are with the slightest physical exertion.
  • Slower brain function than normal– teens will have trouble with basic cognitive functions. Thinking and reasoning become more difficult and many will give up on any task when it becomes too hard.
  • Memory problems– memory loss will become so common they will make mistakes from their forgetfulness.
  • Increased blood pressure– a young person should never have high blood pressure, but a visit to a doctor will show a teen on drugs with alarmingly high blood pressure numbers.
  • Increased heart rate– palpitations will become common as teens experience biological fluctuations from drug use
  • Body temperature fluctuations– they will feel colder and hotter, and those body temperatures will fluctuate rapidly from moment to moment as the body’s chemistry goes haywire on drugs.
  • Loss of appetite- food loses its appeal.
  • Weight loss- because of reduced appetite, weight loss quickly follows.
  • Long term, problems in school and with relationships are the most noticeable to family and friends.
  • Problems in school- school becomes less important and failure of classes, skipping classes and eventually dropping out become the path they choose.
  • Problems in family relationships– pressures brought on by drugs and failure at school ruins family relationships. The domino effect never seems to be the fault of the addicted teen, rather everything seems to be happening to them.
  • Social issues with friends– sober friends drift away from a drug addicted individual and only friends also using drugs are left.
  • Withdrawal symptoms when trying to quit- when there is a concerted effort to quit, withdrawal symptom become intense. This causes fear in the addict, who quickly resumes using drugs not only to get high, but simply to stay well.
  • Potential overdoses– when drug usage increases because of heighten tolerance, overdose may occur. If the addict is lucky they will survive and see the incident as a wakeup call for recovery.
  • The risk of seizures– sudden seizures from drug use are not uncommon and are even more common among those trying to quit drugs cold turkey.
  • Paranoia and psychosis- feelings of irrational fear can become normal as the drugs begin affecting the psychology and perception of the teen.

Knowing the Red Flags of Teen Drug Addiction

The hardest part for any parent is accepting that a teen son or daughter is going through a drug problem. Most parents refuse to accept the possibility that is occurring. They may put their own personal concerns about shame for the family or the community before the health and well-being of their teen. Only acceptance of a problem can help save an addicted teen.  That is why it is critical for parents to know the warning signs.

  • When a teen exhibits sudden and extreme mood swings it is often a sign of something deeply troubling. Even though teens are often moody, there is always the possibility that drugs may be playing a role.
  • A change in friendships. Sober friends disappear and new friends who share their interest in drugs start to hang around. 
  • A lack of interest in what they used to love. Kids experiencing a shift toward drug addiction lose interest in hobbies, relationships with the opposite sex and anything else that once held their interest. Drugs becomes the central focus.
  • An excessive need for privacy. Teens need privacy, but when the privacy reaches a point of excessive secrecy, they are clearly hiding something that could be drug-related. This secrecy also includes extreme withdrawal from family. They become more isolated.
  • Poor performance in school. As drugs take over their goals at school becomes meaningless. Academic performance drops and they may start skipping class.
  • Money goes missing. The need for money to pay for drugs means they may start to steal. When money goes missing around the house, they may be taking what they need to feed their drug addiction.
  • Sleep patterns change. As they use drugs they appear to sleep long hours or stay up for long hours, depending on their drug of choice.
  • Changes in appetite. They may eat a lot all at once or appear to have no appetite at all.
  • A change in their appearance. Because drugs take front and center to their lives, their appearance is left to the wayside. They may not care about the clothes they wear or how their hair looks. Later, they may even stop bathing or brushing their teeth.

Taking Action to Help an Addicted Teen

Approaching a teen with the news that they are suspected of taking drugs will probably be met with anger and denial. The key to this moment is not to become angry but to wait for them to consider getting help. Do not force the issue. Simply let them know they are loved and everything will be done to get them the help they need.

Expressing concern. Letting them know that there is worry about their well-being and safety. Suggesting that drugs are making them sick and trying to open their eyes to the realities of their addiction is all any parent an do. Letting them know about their school performance is getting worse or their appearance is getting worse are ways to let them know that things are falling apart because of drugs.

Bringing in other friends and loved ones to express love.  Sisters, brothers and any other members of the family need to get involved. When one parent is the only way making the confrontation that can easily be interpreted by addicted teen as an personal attack. But when several members of the family step up to offer love and help it becomes harder for an addicted teen to deny a problem.

Making specific offers of assistance. Lastly, specific treatment options should be presented. Suggesting that a teen be admitted to a residential treatment center might scare them and make it sound like they are being locked away. A parent can offer other options, including psychiatrists will specialize in addicted teens. Explain to them the value outpatient treatment centers have and how they can continue with school and only use the outpatient sessions to get help.

Introduce an interventionist. For the very worst cases, a professional interventionist can help persuade a teen that they are risking their lives by continuing to take drugs. A professional can also organize the family in a manner so that a helpful and nurturing intervention can be presented.

An interventionist will also have the right treatment options ready. Whether it be thirty or ninety day residential centers to an intensive outpatient program, the interventionist can give the best advice for both the addicted teen and the family for what to do next.

Being ready to offer immediate admission. Taking the necessary steps to make the transition into residential treatment may require several changes to occur. The child may be taken out of school and explanations must be given to friends who may suddenly wonder what happened to them. In the end, the best outcome will be a positive and loving safety net that brings a teen back from the long spiral of addiction.

The Difference Between Dependency and Addiction

As Utah and other states struggle with addiction, they work toward a better understanding of the disease.  Recovery specialists identify dependency as the development of tolerance for a drug and the experience of withdrawal symptoms when the drug is not used. Addiction is identified as a chronic illness characterized by a compulsive drive for a substance. Though the decision to take drugs is a voluntary choice made by an individual, the resulting repeated drug use leads to alterations in brain chemistry, undermining personal self-control. Even when an individual tries to get off a drug, the brain is already impacted by the addiction and relapses are common. The risks of relapse can occur even years after an individual has rid himself or herself of the harmful effects of the drug.

What Happens to the Brain When Drugs are Taken?

Drugs tap into the dopamine rush that most people normally get from sex or exercise or something as simple as a roller coaster ride.  The drug hits this reward circuit with a flood of the naturally produced dopamine creating an effect that multiplies the natural intensity of this body chemical. Once the reward system is opened it begins to demand that constant flood of dopamine, rerouting all other mental agendas to achieving this task. Once the brain is rewired toward this reward, the compulsion to keep taking the drug becomes the most important part of a user’s life. Unfortunately, the tolerance for the drug also increases, requiring more and more of the substance to reach that first high. As a result, the user may increase usage quantity until they reach the point of overdose and even death.  Even if an overdose is not fatal, the continual use of any drug slowly destroys the health of the user. Long-term use can reduce the ability to learn, to make clear and rational judgements. Decision-making becomes deeply impaired and stress occurs more easily as the brain can no longer handle the world without drugs. Memory loss is common and behavior often becomes erratic.

Why Do Some People Become Addicted?

The risk for addiction among a population is not easily understood. A combination of factors can contribute to dependency at first, which eventually leads to addiction.

Genetics plays a significant role. Genetically, some people are more likely to end up addict than others.  Compulsive tendencies in an individual can influence their likelihood to become dependent. In fact, researchers have discovered that genetics actually accounts for almost half of all addicted people.

Environmental factors.  How and where a person grows up dramatically impacts the likelihood of falling into addiction. If a household has addictive parents or siblings, that can influence others as well to follow that path. If physical or sexual abuse are present of the household, that also can drive someone to drugs for escape. Broader social-economic factors can also influence initial drug use. Neighborhoods where drugs are common eventually touches everyone living in that community, making drug use commonplace and even normal.

The age when drugs are introduced. It has also been found that the early age at which drugs are first introduced has always been a primary factor in later addiction.  It has been found that the earlier someone uses drugs, the more likely they will become dependent and later addicted.  Because the brain of someone young is still in development it becomes highly susceptible to drug addiction. The chemistry of the brain more easily accepts drug use as normal because the brain isn’t quite hard-wired just yet.

What Happens at Rehab?

To help anyone suffering from drug addiction, whether adult or teen, rehab specialists need to gather important information on the individual. This data will help establish a clear plan of treatment. A process of pre-intake questioning and tests is followed by intake procedures which determine treatment options. The following tests and interview questions are some of the key information points every rehab needs to know to begin treatment.

A complete medical examination– When dealing with any addiction, recovery specialists need to determine if drug use has caused any long-standing physical harm. There is also the important factor of other medical conditions that might be present that compound the treatment. In many cases, diseases such as HIV are acquired through shared needles if the individual was a heroin user. Damage to nasal passage and lungs is not uncommon among coke users. Meth addicts have been known to suffer severe respiratory illnesses as a result of their drug use.  These circumstances are taken into account when creating a treatment plan. Medical doctors are involved in planning the treatment using the results of the physical.

A Psychological Review– Heavy drug use over time can impact the mind and it affect drug treatment. if hallucinations, severe depression or other psychological disorders are present, other medications and the input of psychiatrists may be required.  Also, preexisting mental disorders need to be diagnosed for treatment to be successful.

Cognitive Testing– Tests will be taken to determine how drug use has impacted the individual’s ability to perceive information clearly. Inhalant use in particular has been known to diminish learning ability and impair cognition.

Drug Testing– Tests will also be taken to determine the types of drugs and the amount of drugs the individual has used. In some instances, several different types of drugs may be part of an addict’s cocktail. These tests will determine the severity of the addiction. Will They Drug Test In Rehab?

Review of Addiction History– Recovery specialists will want to trace the pathways that led to an individual’s current addictive state.  They will review early drug usage and dependency as well as events that have occurred when drugs were first used.  Getting back to the roots of addiction is part of the long-term care plan and knowing where it all started is one of the goals of recovery specialists to create a custom treatment plan.

The Timeline For Addiction Treatment


A professional interventionist or a group of family and friends may convince an addicted person to seek treatment as the first important step to recovery. Because factors such as depression and other social pressures may have been the reason for addiction, the family and any professional help that can be acquired must make a commitment to get the addicted person into treatment.

Pre-intake and Intake

The patient is evaluated for treatment using tests and interviews. A treatment plan is determined by recovery specialists and the patient is admitted.


The next step in the recovery process is ridding the person of their physical dependence on the drug.  To achieve this, an addict must be checked into a detox facility. Here recovery specialists can monitor their progress and ensure that no medical emergencies arise during the detox process. 

The First Seventy-Two Hours

The first seventy-two hours of admittance and detox are usually when the worst withdrawal symptoms occur as the body begins demanding drugs. Also, psychological and emotional tolls are felt as the patient risks abandoning detox to get the drugs they need.  Deep depression may also begin to drag the patient down, followed by a response to cravings that can show up as irritability or even violent behavior. If the patient can overcome this period, there is much more hope for recovery. That it is a long and difficult process, making it through detox is an achievement that changes the arc of addiction.

The 30 to 90 Day Residential Recovery Process

Residential inpatient treatment usually extends to a thirty or ninety-day period depending on the severity of the addiction being treated.  The objective of long-term recovery is to rewire the brain and help the addict rethink the world around them now free of addiction. It is during this long treatment process that addicts may connect with other patients struggling toward recovery. Like-minded souls in the fight for sobriety has become proven to be a successful plan of treatment. Also, counselors will work hard using group therapy sessions to help an addict identify the early causes of addiction, which may be rooted in family life, mental illness or their social environment.

The Possibility of Partial Hospitalization

PHP, or partial hospitalization programs, ease the addicted back into normal life. This program approach is flexible enough to allow some patients to attend group sessions during the day then return to their own homes at night.  Hospitalization is available as needed and becomes a welcoming sanctuary if the experience of recovery becomes too demanding. For many addicts who have a less severe addiction or have many obligations in life that must be attended to, the unique and practical partial hospitalization method offers the best treatment. The option to continue the care of a residential facility are balanced with outpatient treatments in a customized plan that fits the patient. The partial hospitalization approach offers a strong support system of both professional counselors, members of the group session and if possible, family and friends at home. 

Intensive Outpatient Offers More Options

With detox behind them, the next step for many recovering individuals is to maintain their relationship with sobriety. To achieve this intensive outpatient programs, sustain the support system addicts discovered in residential treatment, except now more responsibility is handed over to the recovering.  They can begin rebuilding their life while relying on this strong support to always provide a backup in the event of a relapse episode.  It is in these intense sessions that many recovering individuals will confront their demons that drove them to addiction. They will become insightful about their triggers and how they can easily be lulled into relapse by incidental aspects of life. Intensive outpatient becomes a long-term education on how to live a sober existence.

The Aftercare Experience

Drug addiction recovery doesn’t end with the last treatment session. It is a lifelong battle against the temptation of drugs. Every day a recovering person must overcome the depression that drags them toward a high. They must battle the stress that teases them toward their drug of choice with the option of emotional escape.  The care network that exists to maintain this grip on sobriety is part of a long history of addiction treatment.  The support group has been the most effective tool in the treatment of addiction after detox.  Through these group meetings, every individual struggling with recovery is constantly reminded of the power and importance of staying sober. When the rest of the world will not likely hep them in their fight, aftercare therapy always will.

What Addicts Need To Know About Going Into Treatment

For most addicts, rehab is a new experience. Knowing what to expect from the treatment process as well as what will be expected of the patient are important touchpoints for a successful recovery.

Treatment must occur immediately. Many addicts will want to stall treatment or find excuses to wait for another time. Because of the potential for overdose episodes and the on-going impact drugs have on health, treatment needs to begin as soon as possible.

Treatment is customized to fit every individual patient.  There is often a presumption that any drug treatment is one size fits all. In fact, all the information gained from pre-intake will help recovery specialists create a treatment plan that specifically suits that patient. Treatment can be complex and there are many factors involved in outlining a plan.

Psychiatrists may be involved. Many addicts may feel that the presence of a psychiatrist suggests a mental disorder. They may not realize that drugs impact mental health and can cause depression, anxiety and other emotional disorders that may need to be treated along with addiction recovery.  

Medical doctors may be involved.  Much like mental health, physical health is also compromised by long-term drug use. Medical doctors may be needed to address issues that have evolved over the course of addiction.

All any patient needs is detox. Usually addicts who have never been to a treatment facility, may think that the detox process is all that is really required for treatment. They do not realize that detox is just the first step in a long recovery process.  Y

Recovery specialists may prescribe medications. There are some drugs that are helpful to an addict in recovery. Some of the medications may be used to help ease the symptoms of detox. Others will be prescribed to curb drug cravings over the longer recovery period.   

There are different methods of detox.  The traditional detox method of cold turkey is what most addicts think of when they first enter treatment. However, other detox methods have been utilized. Rapid detox is a more efficient approach that can be used. However, the patient must discuss with the recovery specialist before pursuing this method.   

The personal dedication to get well. Most recovery specialists will survey all the data acquired during pre-intake and decide upon a plan of treatment. However, they will all agree that the personal commitment of the patient is the most critical part of rehab. If the patient is entering treatment passively or is not personally engaged in the process, there is a risk of failure. Wanting to get well means more than all the tests and interviews conducted.   

The Detox Process

Detox can be a dangerous process and the best detox facilities will always suggest that the process not be attempted alone.  Under the supervision of recovery specialists, detox can go smoothly. Medical conditions can be monitored closely, and medications administered to help the patient through the difficult process.  

The Option of Rapid Detox

Rapid detox, or ultra-rapid opioid detoxification, was developed to reduce hospitalization time during detox. At rapid detox centers, doctors administer naloxone to trigger withdrawals then administer a mild sedation to relax the body during the detox period.  The goal of rapid detox is to allow the patient to sleep through the difficult and often painful symptoms while the body eases out of physical dependency.

Why Use Rapid Detox?

The speed and efficiency at which rapid detox takes patients to the next level of treatment is very quick. None of the severe symptoms have been experienced and the patient is ready to move onto long-term treatment.

Why Not Rapid Detox?

Some recovery specialists feel that the harsh experience of traditional detox has long-term benefits. The grueling symptoms are reminder of the hold drugs has had on the addicted. Without that experience, some feel that it is much easier to relapse. There is also the concern that the process itself can be harmful medically, though there is no hard evidence or cases that suggest any physical harm from the process.

Handling Withdrawals

With traditional drug detox is recommended, a patient must prepare for the severe withdrawal symptoms. For some drugs like heroin and alcohol, the feeling of “tearing up” has been described by those who have gone through it. Withdrawal symptoms usually occur within a few hours of detox.  Symptoms may include:

  • High tension
  • Constantly runny nose
  • Severe chills
  • Disturbed and fitful sleep
  • Extreme nausea
  • Muscle pain and stiffness
  • Muscle spasms
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Achy bones
  • Hypertension
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Tremors
  • Sweating
  • Extreme feelings of Anxiety
  • Severe headaches

What Is Withdrawal? How Long Does It Last?

Medications that Help with Detox

Depending on the addiction, a variety of medications can be administered during the detox process to manage the extreme withdrawal symptoms. Ways to ease withdrawals or heroin include the following carefully controlled medications:

Medicines for Heroin


Methadone is the most often used for heroin addiction. The value of methadone is that the prescribed dose can be can reduced over time.


Buprenorphine is an alternative option to heroin and prescription opioid medication addiction. Buprenorphine has the advantage over methadone as it can help manage cravings without producing a high.

Medicines for Alcohol Addiction


Naltrexone blocks receptors that reward the brain for drinking alcohol. This medication also helps minimize cravings.


Acamprosate helps reduce the symptoms of long-term alcohol abstinence including insomnia, anxiety and restlessness that often compel alcoholics to return to drinking.

Medicines for Meth Addiction


This medication reduces meth cravings but requires close medical monitoring and is usually only prescribed within an inpatient environment.


Rivastigmine also has helped meth addicts reduce cravings and is used as an alternative to dextroamphetamine.

Medicines for Cocaine Addiction


Gabapentin helps prevents the seizures that are sometimes associated with cocaine detox. The medication has also helped many addicts regain a sense of well-being during the long-term recovery process.


Modafinil has helped many recovering cocaine addicts with the fatigue and drowsiness that occur during cocaine withdrawals. Often one of the worst aspects of cocaine recovery is not getting enough sleep and this medication helps with this withdrawal symptom.

The Benefit of Inpatient Treatment Centers

After detox is completed, residential treatment programs are the long-term approach to severe addiction to drugs. During inpatient treatment, the patient may continue to receive medications to manage cravings and the lingering withdrawals that may linger after detox. Also, medical conditions will continue to be monitored and therapy sessions begin to aid in the recovery process. The overall goal to ensure the patient stays sober once they leave the facility.  The risk of relapse into addiction is greatest during this period. That is why most residential programs insist on either thirty-day or ninety-day stays within a residential facility.

Variations in this treatment can range from regular therapy sessions that will help the patient begin helping relearn a life without drugs to individual sessions that focus on particular personal issues related to addiction. Because drugs have transformed the mind and body, the process for reversing that condition is slow and methodical.  In any instance of drug rehab, a patient may either find general resident treatment favorable or be recommended to go through partial hospitalization if the addiction is especially acute.

  1. General Residential Treatment- The recovering person will stay in the facility attending either individual therapy sessions, group therapy sessions or a combination of both to work toward recovery.
  2. Partial Hospitalization-provides for more severe drug addiction assistance by administering close medical observation to ensure there are no long-term reactions after the detox process is completed.

Therapy Options for Inpatient Care

Individual Therapy Sessions

One-on-one therapy sessions with a psychiatrist are often the best solution for help with drug addiction. Psychiatrists will recommend a variety of exercises to help refocus and retrain the brain for sobriety. They will also address any other mental issues that may make drug treatment more complex. Depression, bipolar disorder or other emotional disorders are not uncommon and may in fact be revealed during drug treatment therapy. These issues must be managed in conjunction with drug addiction recovery.

Group Therapy Sessions

Group therapy sessions are a way to share and cooperate with other recovering addicts. Hearing stories from others can offer insight into an individual’s own personal efforts to rediscover sobriety.  Group sessions are led by a recovery specialist who may drive exercises that will help you refocus behavior and perspective on drug addiction.

Outpatient Options for Someone Struggling with Addiction

In some instance where the addicted person who may have only a mild dependency on drugs or alcohol, many recovery specialists will recommend outpatient programs as an alternative form of treatment to a residential stay. Outpatient programs are ideal for anyone who still needs help by may not require the in-depth treatment of residential care. Outpatient is also the perfect option for those still balancing work, school and family, which may be interrupted by a long stay at an inpatient treatment facility. The outpatient program also allows the recovering individual to conduct treatment during set periods of the day, then return to your other responsibilities with the remainder of their time. Over the years, treatment specialists have explored dynamic therapy options that may be implemented during outpatient care that can help a variety of recovering addicts.

Biofeedback Therapy

Biofeedback uses a combination of relaxation, medication and exercises to gradually teach recovering addicts to curb cravings and focus on sobriety.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy

Dialectical behavior therapy is the best option when other mental issues are present during drug treatment. Counselors employ emotional regulation techniques to help addicts sort out drug cravings from other psychological issues. Defining the differences is a useful approach that can prevent self-medication for personal problems, which may have been the root cause of an addiction in the first place. 

Experiential Therapy

Experiential therapy is a non-traditional approach that removes the recovering individual from the traditional closed room therapy sessions and engages him or her in other activities.  Rock climbing, art projects and canoe trips are just some of the many events that help recovering addicts regain a fresh and positive perspective on life.  

Faith-Based Therapy

Using faith as a healing tool, many recovery specialists have found that integrating Bible study and prayer into traditional therapy session is meaningful for some recovering addicts.  Those who have once had strong beliefs that were abandoned during addiction, find solace in programs that reconnect with religion and use spiritual teachings as a pathway to sobriety.

Holistic Therapy

Another approach to therapy that is non-traditional is the use of holistic treatments which may include natural medications, nutritional alternatives and exercise to realign the mind and body with healthy living without drugs. 

The Role of Family Therapy

The value of reconnecting with family is critical to recovery. Betrayals are often much a part of an addict’s life when dealing with loved ones While high on drugs family relationships become damaged.  An addicted person probably lied to family members, stole from them or maybe even abused them.  Now recovering, those old wounds are still fresh on the minds of parents and siblings. In other words, they are recovering from the addict’s addiction too. 

Family therapy uses traditional therapy methods but with a focus on family members. The group session will involve the addicted person now in recovery and other loved ones.  The counselor will use these sessions to help bring resentments that have been festering in the family into the open.  Issues the recovering may be having with family members such as poor relationship with a father, will be aired in family sessions.  New trust has to be forged between loved ones who have come to distrust the addicted person. Family therapy, for this reason, can be some of the most difficult sessions for both the recovering and other family members.

The Tradition of Twelve Step Programs

Though many new and innovative programs have come to light, most recovery specialists still rely on the tradition of twelve step programs for treatment.  The philosophy, which started with Alcoholics Anonymous, uses set goals that participating recovering addicts use to slowly move away from a life of addiction. It is also through twelve step methods that the group session was formed, allowing fellow recovering addicts to offer each other support.

Twelve step programs have shown significant success and have been applied in specialized variations to different drug habits. As a result, there are twelve step meetings for meth, heroin and cocaine.  The anonymity of twelve step programs also offers to protect the recovering addicts from the shame of addiction that they often face from the sober world.  Existing programs include:

Why Group Therapy Works

Group sessions offer the nurturing and healing of individuals working toward the same goal of personal recovery from addiction. No one knows addiction and the efforts it takes to remain sober like another addict. Their shared stories and experiences remind someone in the throes of cravings, withdrawals and depression that they are not alone.  Also, through support system with individual sponsors, one person becomes the caretaker of another. Responsibility does not just become something the individual just needs to attain, but becomes a shared attribute, as recovering addicts work to help each other through difficult periods.

Aftercare and Relearning to Live in a Sober World

Aftercare treatment seeks to accomplish two tasks. One, aftercare specialists try to help rebuild and repair the life of a recovering addict. So much damage can be done while addicted to drugs, that someone in recovery will be overwhelmed by the work that lies ahead. Two, aftercare specialists will try to keep the recovering on a sober path by helping them mend their life. Step by step, these experts, usually social workers, find ways to help someone fresh out of treatment to pick up the pieces. Aftercare programs may focus on some of the following issues:

  • Repairing the damage done to personal relationships during addiction. The broken families and marriages are usually the causality of addiction.  Helping reunite recovering addicts with loved ones who have grown distant because of addiction becomes an important goal. 
  • Helping addicted parents renew relationships with their children.  Addicted parents at some point lose their children, either by other family members removing them from unsafe circumstances caused by addiction or by the state.  Regaining the responsibility to take care of children is one of the most difficult tasks for a recovering addict. Aftercare specialists will do their best to help recovering parents reunite or regain custody.
  • Addressing housing and transportation problems
  • Drug addiction often leads recovering addicts homeless and without driving privileges.  Aftercare specialists will help them find housing and may also help them regain their ability to drive a car.
  • Recovering from financial loss.  When drugs take over, fiscal responsibility is often abandoned. Homes and bank accounts disappear, and personal credit is destroyed. Helping recovering addicts get a bankruptcy so they can start over is one-way aftercare specialists try to get a recovering person back on track.  Aftercare professionals may also help by providing a financial education, assisting the recovering with balancing budgets and rebuilding credit.
  • Addressing legal issues. Often incarnation or other legal entanglements become a consequence of addiction. Getting help resolving those legal matters is sometimes found with aftercare professionals. Making sure that probation responsibilities are met is one-way aftercare specialists can help.
  • Regaining employment.  Recovering addicts may find due to a criminal record that jobs are hard to come by.  Often severe gaps in job history have been filled by drug addiction making it even harder for many to find gainful employment. Aftercare professionals can help recovering addicts develop new job skills, create a resume and help them find work in their area.  
  • Returning to school.  Some addicts may have dropped out of school at an early age and through continual drug use, lost the confidence to restart their education.  Aftercare specialists can help a recovering addict get their GED, sign up for classes at a community college and begin reading and learning again.
  • Handling existing medical conditions. After drug addiction treatment is finished, many recovering addicts may still need to contend with medical problems. Without money or a job, they may turn to drugs to self-medicate.  Aftercare specialists can help recovering addicts find proper health care and help them stay sober.  
  • Handling mental health issues. Much like medical health, mental health issues will continue after a recovering addict leaves drug treatment. The help from aftercare professionals, gets them the mental health assistance they need to prevent drug relapse.  

Other Aftercare Options:  Sober Living Facilities

If after drug addiction treatment a recovering addict finds it difficult to manage sober living, sober living facilities may be a long-term solution. In this extension of residential treatment, recovering addicts may come and go as they please, returning at night to a welcoming and secure sober environment. Sober living facilities are ideal for those struggling with outside pressures that can cause relapse or those with family or home environments where drugs are still a powerful temptation. Group sessions are held, nightly by other residents. A recovering addict enjoys the independence they need to relearn living in a sober world, while still managing their addiction with the help of other recovering addicts in a safe place.

Obstacles to a Sober Life

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 extremely stressful.  Unlike others who have been managing these stresses for a while, a recovering addict has not. 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 step away from social expectations so that they do not trigger a relapse.

Ending Drug-Related Relationships

Left behind with drug addiction were many relationships that centered solely on drugs.  Old friends, girlfriends or boyfriends, even some family members, may have a continuing relationship with drugs and are not themselves on a path of recovery. It is not uncommon for these individuals to re-enter the life of a recovering addict, often with the temptation of drugs. Unfortunately, these relationships need to end, at least until these individuals seek help for their addiction.

Understanding Triggers

With many recovering addicts, triggers have evolved. Names of places, certain words and even sights and smells can evoke the desire for drugs.  As drug addiction was developing, certain repeated patterns that reinforced drug use have been solidified in the mind. These triggers probably won’t go away after treatment and continue to haunt the recovering with temptation.  By learning about these triggers, understanding them and developing a method to manage them a recovering addict can remain sober.

Ways for the Recovering Addict to Live a Sober Life

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 a healthy life.  

New Sober Relationships

Now that negative drug relationships have ended, there is often a void remaining where a recovering person has no real relationships at all. Boredom and loneliness can set in.  The recovering person must be committed to establishing new friendships that are based on sobriety.  They may find a lot of these new friendships at church or through charity participation. Also, the twelve step programs they attend can be places where they can find like-minded souls, other recovering addicts who can become meaningful friends.

Trying New Activities

Without drugs, recovering addicts will find they have more time awake and alert, but with nothing to do. This is the time to take on new activities.  Renewing interests in old hobbies, renews a healthy way of life and replaces the boredom with activities. Many addicts become involved with local non-profit organizations, often helping other addicted individuals by donating their time and experience.

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 filling it with toxins, 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. Fitness activities are also a great way to establish new sober relationships at the gym.

Eating Well

Addiction not only encourages 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 or meth, 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.  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 means 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.

Take Sobriety One Day at a Time

Regardless of what inspires a recovering person to stay sober, the primary goal is take it gradually. Every day is a chance to find new reasons to enjoy sober living. With every day there are also temptations and triggers. Recovering individuals who have learned to take on these risks and overcome them will find sobriety fulfilling and hopeful.

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