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Drug Addiction Treatment in Norfolk, Virginia

Norfolk is the second most populous city in the US state of Virginia. Located at the center of the Hampton Roads metropolitan area, Norfolk is a thriving independent city with a population of roughly 250,000. Bordered to the west by the Elizabeth River and to the north by Chesapeake Bay, Norfolk has always been an important Naval and sea transportation center. The city still features the largest Navy base in the world, and is an important military and transportation hub that connects to numerous locations across Virginia and the United States. Despite its prestigious history and military status, Norfolk struggles with the same substance abuse and addiction problems as many other American cities. The prescription opioid epidemic that stretches across America continues to cause problems in and around Norfolk, with illegal drugs such as heroin and cocaine also causing problems in some communities. 

If you live in Norfolk, and have fallen victim to substance abuse don’t hesitate to seek treatment. There are enormous resources in at your disposal.

Demographics and Income in Norfolk

Norfolk is a vibrant and diverse city with a mixed racial profile consisting of 47 percent Whites, 43 percent African Americans, 3.6 percent from other races, 3.3 percent Asians, 2.2 percent Pacific Islanders, and 0.5 percent Native Americans. There is a strong disparity in both age and gender demographics due to the local Naval base, with 24 percent of people under the age of 18, 18 percent aged 18-24, 30 percent aged 25-44, 17 percent aged 45-64, and 11 percent aged 65 years and over. According to official statistics, for every 100 females in Norfolk there are 104.6 males. The median income in the city is $31,815 and the median income for a family is $36,891. Roughly 15.5 percent of families and 19.4 percent of the entire population are living below the poverty line, with this statistic often linked to drug abuse and addiction rates. While drug abuse affects people from all walks of life, people from low income areas often face additional problems related to treatment access and affordability.

Common Drug Problems in Norfolk and Virginia

Like many places in the United States, opioid abuse is a significant problem in Norfolk and across the state of Virginia. The number of heroin and prescription opioid-related deaths has been growing in many communities since 2000, with 882 people losing their lives across Virginia in 2016 alone. According to the state Medical Examiner’s Office, there were 115 heroin and opioid deaths in Hampton Roads alone during the first six months of 2015, with people often unable to find the treatment they need. The opioid epidemic experienced in Virginia is not isolated to one state, however, it is sweeping across the length and breadth of the United States.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were a total of 10,574 heroin overdose deaths across the country in 2014, an increase of 22 percent from the year before. Prescription opioid drugs like oxycodone and hydrocodone are responsible for more overdose deaths than ever before, with the powerful opioid drug fentanyl also entering the black market where it is mixed with heroin to create a more potent effect. Norfolk and other communities across Virginia are also facing problems with other substances, including a high level of alcohol abuse, marijuana, and cocaine. While binge drinking rates in Virginia are slightly lower than the national average at 22 percent compared to 23 percent, 6.49 percent of Virginian residents still suffer from alcoholism.

What is drug abuse?

Also known as substance abuse, drug abuse is a broad term used to describe a wide range of problematic drug use patterns. Generally speaking, a person can be said to have a drug abuse problem if drug use is causing harm to themselves or others and they continue to use drugs despite these problems. Drug abuse is a substance related disorder that can result from acute or chronic drug exposure. It’s possible to abuse a wide range of psychoactive substances, including legal drugs, prescription medications, and illegal street drugs. Depending on the substance and extent of addiction, professional detox and rehab treatment may be required to help the person involved make different lifestyle decisions and avoid unwanted problems.

Common Drugs of Abuse

A wide range of psychoactive substances can create problems due to misuse or over-use, including legal drugs like nicotine and alcohol, prescription medications such as hydrocodone and Valium, and street drugs like cocaine and heroin. Because these drugs have very different effects and consequences, different systems and levels of treatment are often required. Before starting on a treatment plan, it’s important to understand the differences between drug abuse and drug dependence, physical dependence and psychological dependence, and dependence and addiction. A detailed evaluation and assessment stage is generally included at the outset of any treatment plan, followed by detox if needed, rehabilitation, and aftercare support systems.

Prescription Drug Abuse

The opioid epidemic that stretches across the United States has made people more aware of prescription drug misuse and overuse patterns. While opioids are the most widely abused class of prescription medications, benzodiazepine sedatives and central nervous system (CNS) stimulants are also widely abused on a regular basis. Prescription drugs can be abused in many ways, including overuse, drug combinations, using drugs prescribed for someone else, and purchasing drugs or scrips on the black market. Overdose deaths as a result of prescription medication abuse are now responsible for more American deaths than vehicle accidents, with this huge problem needing to be addressed by policy makers and treatment professional before it gets even more out of hand. Prescription drug abuse can be treated effectively through medical detox and rehab programs.       

Physical and Psychological Drug Dependence

Drug dependence is typically recognized by the existence and experience of withdrawal symptoms when drug use is stopped or reduced. These symptoms vary widely according to the drug in question and extent of dependence, from minor emotional symptoms through to life-threatening physical complications. Physical dependence is associated with distinct physical-somatic withdrawal symptoms, including things like night sweats, abdominal cramps, unwanted limb movements, seizures, hallucinations, and delirium tremens. Many of these symptoms can be dangerous if they are not treated quickly and methodically. Physical dependence is often the result of extensive alcoholism, opioid abuse, heroin abuse, or benzodiazepine abuse.

In contrast, psychological dependence is associated with emotional and motivational withdrawal symptoms. While these symptoms are generally not life-threatening, they can cause major problems if left untreated, including mental health problems and relapse. Examples of psychological symptoms include mood swings, anxiety, depression, lack of motivation, insomnia, changes to eating patterns, and changes to sleeping patterns. The substances listed above that cause physical dependence also cause psychological dependence in most cases. Drugs known to cause psychological symptoms alone upon discontinuation include marijuana, MDMA, amphetamines, methamphetamine, and prescription stimulants.

Drug Dependence vs Drug Addiction

Drug dependence is associated with specific withdrawal symptoms when drug use is discontinued. Drug addiction requires additional biological and psychological symptoms based on reinforcement and reward. Addiction is defined as a brain disorder that involves the compulsive use of rewarding stimuli, in this case psychoactive substances. While behavioral addictions are also possible, including food addictions, exercise addictions, and computer addictions, treatment centers mostly deal with problematic substances. When someone is addicted to drugs or alcohol, they will always seek these substances in order to experience reward. Before addiction can be broken down, people need to avoid physical exposure and set up new emotional and cognitive associations.

Common signs and symptoms of addiction:

  • inability to control substance use
  • developing tolerance
  • inability to control behavior
  • financial problems
  • emotional and mental problems
  • social problems
  • ongoing use despite negative consequences

Drug Treatment Assessment and Intake

Before starting out on a treatment regime, it’s important to go through a detailed assessment and intake procedure. While self-assessment can be useful during the early stages, it’s important to get help from professionals before embarking on treatment. Doctors or clinicians can evaluate each patient in terms of their health needs and expectations, with some factors likely to lead to early intake or emergency hospitalization During assessment, practitioners will look at issues such as the drug of abuse, the extent of abuse, the age and sex of the patient, the history of drug abuse, homelessness, mental health status, history of violence, criminal history, dual diagnosis, dependent children and any other factors that may influence or impede the treatment process.

While drug treatment intake procedures differ from place to place, generally speaking, practitioners will attempt to evaluate each case according to the immediate needs of the patient. People who are likely to experience physical withdrawal symptoms may need to go directly into a medical detox program, including alcoholics, heroin addicts, prescription opioid addicts, and sedative addicts. All of these substances are classified as central nervous system (CNS) depressants, drugs which are capable of causing distinct and potentially deadly symptoms when left untreated. In contrast, people who are likely to experience psychological symptoms alone may not require medical detox services. Along with the type and extent of abuse and dependence, practitioners will also attempt to identify any mental health problems or dual diagnosis situations.  

What is dual diagnosis?

A dual diagnosis, also known as co-occurring disorders or dual pathology, is the simultaneous existence of a substance use disorder and a mental health disorder. Mental health problems can have a significant impact on treatment options, with practitioners needing to identify key problems as early as they can. Common dual diagnosis conditions include depression and alcoholism, post-traumatic stress disorder and sedative abuse, and anxiety disorder and opioid abuse. During the intake procedure, clinicians need to recognize these problems and set up appropriate treatment plans. Medications are often used to treat mental health conditions, with complications often arising when these medications interfere with detox and long-term pharmacotherapy programs. Due to the difficulties inherent with identifying and treating dual diagnosis patients, some drug rehab centers specialize in these cases alone.

Medical Detoxification

Detox is often administered at the outset of the treatment process. Before entering rehab, many patients need to go through detox to rid their system of drugs and prepare themselves for psychological treatment. Detox is often carried out in three separate stages: evaluation, stabilization, consultation. During the early phases of detox, patients need to be tested both physically and mentally before treatment can begin. Blood tests will typically be carried out this stage to check for currently circulating substances, with general medical and mental health examinations also administered. All of these things are critical before medications can be used.

The second stage of detox attempts to stabilize the patient and rid the system of problematic drugs. Medications are often used during this stage to manage and prevent dangerous withdrawal symptoms. For example, alcoholics may be prescribed Valium and other benzodiazepines in order to prevent seizures and delirium tremens. Heroin addicts may be given methadone to help manage the withdrawal process and prevent immediate relapse. The third and final stage of detox involves consulting with the patient about the remainder of the treatment regime. While detox is crucial in terms of managing the withdrawal syndrome, additional measures are always needed to treat the precedents of drug addiction. This is where drug rehab comes into play, with residential and outpatient programs readily available in Norfolk and across the United States.


Rehab is the most important part of drug treatment in many regards. In order to change lives on a long-term basis, drug treatment professionals need to instigate behavioral and cognitive programs that investigate the root cause of addictive patterns. Rehab programs are based on either medication therapy or psychotherapy, with many treatment centers using both approaches simultaneously. Also known as pharmacotherapy, medication therapy involves the long-term use of medications to help manage drug addiction. Opiate replacement therapy is the most famous example of this approach, with buprenorphine and methadone prescribed to heroin and opioid addicts as a form of harm reduction.

Most rehab programs are based on psychotherapy, however, including behavioral therapy, cognitive therapy, family therapy, motivational enhancement therapy, 12-step facilitation, group counseling and more. While medical detox and medication therapy can prove useful in managing drug dependence, they do very little to address the emotional and cognitive reasons for addiction. Drug rehab is designed to address these challenges through the use of appropriate psychotherapy programs. By teaching addicts how to identify triggers, recognize problematic emotions and thoughts, and set up positive associations, therapists can have a huge impact on how people live. Relapse prevention techniques and systems play an important role in this process, with meditation and mindfulness sometimes used to help people become more aware of existing cognitive and emotional distortions.

Inpatient and Oupatient Rehab - RTC, PHP, and IOP

Rehab programs in Norfolk are available on an inpatient or outpatient basis, with people choosing programs based on their individual needs, geographical access, and financial constraints. Inpatient rehab is also known as residential rehab, with this form of treatment providing the most comprehensive level of coverage available. Common residential programs include full-time residential treatment centers (RTC), partial hospitalization (PHP), and intensive outpatient programs (IOP). Full-time residential rehab provides the best level of coverage and is ideal for people who need to remove themselves from their domestic environment. RTC allows people to live at the treatment center for the duration of the rehab program, which can be anywhere from a single weekend to a few months. Residential care is advised for long-term drug addicts and people who are recovering from physical drug dependencies.

PHP treatment operates in a similar vein to RTC, with patients able to stay at the treatment center while they receive the help they need. However, unlike RTC programs, PHP is only available during week-days. Typical PHP treatment is available five days each week, with patients sent home on the weekends before coming back the following week. While not as comprehensive as full-time care, PHP rehab is less expensive and provides greater flexibility. IOP is also available across the United States, with these programs allowing people to stay at home while receiving treatment. While this level of care is not advised for some severe drug problems, it allows patients to get the help they need while still being able to connect with friends and family members while carrying out regular work commitments.   

Behavioral Therapy

Behavioral therapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy is the cornerstone of drug rehabilitation. This form of psycho-social intervention has proved useful across a range of substance use and mental health disorders, including depression disorder, opioid addiction, anxiety disorders, eating disorders and more. Generally speaking, behavioral therapy attempts to change drug taking and other problematic behavior patterns by helping patients to recognize the cognitive and emotional distortions that precede these patterns. Our thoughts, feelings, and behavior are all inter-linked and dependent upon one another, with therapists using various tools to help people recognize core belief structures and how they are formed. Behavioral paradigms are built into many individual treatment programs, including client-centered counseling, family therapy, art therapy, moral reconation therapy and many more.

Relapse Prevention

Also known as recidivism, relapse is a common feature of drug addiction. According to official statistics, almost 50 percent of all rehab patients relapse at some point, with some people returning to drug use immediately after rehab and others going back to their old habits months or ever years down the track. In order to avoid relapse, patients need to be taught how to recognize potential triggers and develop better ways of dealing with complex emotional and social problems. There are many ways to do this, with people needing to be mindful of the thoughts and feelings that often lead to impulsive actions. Trigger recognition strategies are a huge part of this process, with common triggers including social proximity, location proximity, anger, frustration, anxiety, and depression.  

Aftercare Support Services

Aftercare plays a critical role in helping people avoid relapse and reintegrate with mainstream society. While medical detox is important in terms of withdrawal management and rehab helps to address the psychological undercurrents of addiction, both of these measures are useless if someone returns to drug use as soon as they leave treatment. Also known as continuing care, aftercare programs are designed to help people in the weeks, months, and years that follow treatment. Common aftercare services include support groups such as Narcotics Anonymous, sober living environments (SLEs), family counseling, medical check-up services, mindfulness programs, and ongoing behavioral support services. In order to break the bonds of addiction once and for all, recovering addicts need to accept help during every stage of the recovery process.

Sober Living Environments (SLEs)

Also known as sober living houses or centers, SLEs provide people with accommodation and ongoing support services to help them reintegrate with everyday life. SLEs are available across Virginia, some of which are affiliated with drug rehab clinics. While these facilities differ greatly with regard to treatment and accommodation provided, they all operate with a strict set of rules and guidelines to make sure nothing stands in the way of the recovery process. Typical rules include no drug or alcohol use at any times, random drug and alcohol testing, no overnight guests, no violence, participation in counseling and other support services, accepting other house guests, and showing respect to staff. These centers offer a great way for people to make the difficult transition from formal treatment back to mainstream society. If you or anyone you know is living with a substance use disorder, it’s important to reach out to a professional treatment program in Norfolk as soon as you can.