Monday, January 24, 2022


Drug Trends in Wyoming

Wyoming is a state of contrasts. Residing within the mountain region of the western United States, Wyoming is the 10th largest state in the nation in terms of area, at 97,914 square feet, yet it is also the least populated of all states. Wyoming conjoins Idaho and Montana as one of the northwest mountain states, while Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah are considered the southwest mountain states.

As implied by the mountain region moniker, Wyoming is indeed awash in natural beauty. The western-most two-thirds of the state are covered by mountains and ranges of the Rocky Mountains, while the eastern-most third is known as the High Plains.

The state’s population has been estimated at 579,315 in 2017, which is less than 31 of the most populous U.S. cities. Its capital and largest city is Cheyenne. Median household income is $61,000, which ranks the state as #15 overall. According to the most recent U.S. Census, the state is primarily Caucasian, at 92.7%. The rest of the racial makeup is as follows: 2.7% American Indian and Alaskan Native, 1.6% African American, 1% Asian American, and 0.1% Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander.

Wyoming’s predominant ancestry groups are German (26%), English (16%), Irish (13.3%), Norwegian (4.3%), and Swedish (3.5%). The state legislature includes 60 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, and 30 members of the U.S. Senate. Its highest court is the Supreme Court of Wyoming. Politically, Wyoming is known as a “red state,” with 67.18% of its occupants registered to vote as Republican. The remainder of registered voters breaks down as 17.94% Democrat, 13.62% claiming no party affiliation, .91% are Libertarians, and .30% vote within Constitution Party lines.

As for drug-related statistics, since 2010 Wyoming has remained one of the nation’s top ten states in terms of drug use in various categories, including illicit drug dependence among residents aged 12-17, and “past-month” use of illicit drugs other than marijuana among the same age group. Over 7% of all residents reported past-month usage of illegal drugs, below the national average of 9%. Pot is a large issue, as is alcohol. The former is the main reason for all primary state treatment center admissions. Otherwise, misuse of prescription opiates mirrors national trends, and heroin use has increased year-to-year since 2015. Meth abuse has also increased during the same time period, and cocaine usage is well below the national average.

The order of drugs that are most informative of treatment center admissions are, in order: marijuana, opiates, and meth.

As it regards mortality, just over 100 residents died from drug overdoses in 2017, compared to just under 150 in motor vehicle car accidents due to alcohol, and approximately 140 due to firearms.

Wyoming has been referred to as a party town with some consistency. A casual web search will list state colleges with the best party reputations, areas in town with hard party reputations, and so on. With young adult partying comes drugs such as Ecstasy. Such substances are readily available within clubs and other nightlife, in addition to some schools. The issue is not as large here as in other states, though it is a notable scourge.

A message on repeat: Drugs are not only a problem endemic to the addict. Drug addiction affects everyone in the addict’s immediate universe. If the addict is working a job, and misses work due to a drug-related incident, both the employer and other employees suffer. If the addict has family or friends who are concerned, they are now placed in a position where they may need to consider an intervention. They themselves may have to take time off from work, or family obligations.

We know better than to say “addiction is a selfish act.” We know better than to say that addiction holds a user in a vice-like grip that supersedes best intentions. Still, when you do use, you would be well-served to consider how your addiction can hurt others as well. 

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An Outlook on Wyoming

Wyoming’s HIDTA region is identified as several areas within the Rocky Mountains. Though the number of areas so listed may not appear high, the proximity of other counties, and cities, to these areas makes the state a prime target for Drug Trafficking Organizations (DTOs). 

Wyoming’s pot and opiate issue – including heroin – is stronger than ever. Meth abuse remains a growing problem, and alcohol is consistent. Cocaine has starkly lessened from its heyday towards the beginning of the millennium, though it is still certainly available and used in the state.   

Wyoming has a large amount of drug-related arrests yearly. Though on its surface that comment may imply an issue out of control, in fact Wyoming has been proactive in combating its drug issues. Such proactive efforts include a drug take back program, which has proven highly effective in other states, and appears to be trending towards a positive toll in Wyoming.

The largest issue, consistent with present statewide and national trends, is that the abuse of prescription opioids is not only a problem for those who use, but also with the children of those who use who steal the medication to sell on the street, or otherwise trade for pot or alcohol – preferred substances for their own personal usage.

Based in part on recent statistics and studies, our outlook for the state of Wyoming is this:

  • Drug traffickers will continue to pivot and take advantage of the opioid epidemic;
  • Stronger synthetic heroin will increase production;
  • Opioid abuse will increase pending still-further efforts;
  • Pot and Alcohol use will remain consistent, especially popular among young people;
  • Wyoming has a reputation as a party town; as such, colleges and other avenues for young people will continue to indirectly market themselves as such. With parties come party drugs, such as Ecstasy. Such drugs will continue to increase, though for now they are a lesser issue than others already mentioned;
  • Cocaine may continue to decrease, but will remain readily-accessible;
  • The state will continue to step up its anti-drug programs.

We will add this caveat: Though certain drug-related issues may decrease, this is not to say they will disappear. They will not. For yourself, your friends and/or your family, we advise that you continue to be aware of your community’s substance issues, and suggest that you join in Wyoming efforts to curb drug abuse, by helping yourself first of all with your own addictions.

We look forward to hearing some positive news from you in the future.

Statewide Statistics

Wyoming has been proactive in its fight against drug abuse, though several regions therein have been listed by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) as HIDTA (High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas) strongholds. HIDTA regions receive more federal funding to combat drug issues than those not so-considered. Wyoming’s HIDTA stronghold is the Rocky Mountains, and the identified areas are the following: Albany, Campbell, Laramie, Natrona, Sweetwater, and Uinta counties. Presently, the DOJ efforts are focusing on primarily combating marijuana and opioid abuse.

As with elsewhere in the country, the advent and availability of medical marijuana has created a blurred line of sorts, with some doctors implicated in prescribing such usage in exchange for financial reward.

The Wyoming Prescription Drug Monitoring Program was established in 2005 by the State Board of Pharmacy to collect data, including patient profiles and prescription results, for healthcare providers (and authorities) as a control and responsibility effort for all such providers to track the results of their prescriptions. Further, Wyoming is among the few states in the nation that has implemented a Drug Take-Back Program. As with the other states, the effort is in part federally supported, and provides the user an opportunity to turn in their unused prescriptions so as to keep their prescriptions off the street.

Illicit drugs have also been turned in within the program, to no questions asked. No money is exchanged in these transactions.

In 2007, the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) organized further action on drunk driving incidents, including, most notably, a per se standard for impairment. Though every U.S. state has its own laws as it regards drunk driving, the per se standard considers driving after taking illegal drugs  a blanket illegality, and those who ignore the law would be prosecuted to the highest extent of state law. However, Wyoming has not yet subscribed to per se, due to lack of adequate enforcement tools, though officials in the state have stated they will head in that direction sooner than later.

Various Wyoming coalitions have received ONDCP grants, including the Natrona County Prevention Coalition, the Park County Coalition Against Substance Abuse, and the Substance Abuse Advisory Council of Gillette.

Community-based substance abuse prevention efforts are strong in the state, including participation in the National Anti-Drug Media Campaign, which is targeted to young people. The NADMC works with school-aged students to reject offers of illicit drugs, and instead proactively undertake more productive life standards. The Drug Free Communities Program, which mobilize communities to prevent drug use by creating data-driven strategies, has shown some success of late.

Prior to 2010, methamphetamine was the most widely used illicit substance in the state, and its scourge is still strong. Since then, however, alcohol and opioids (and heroin, a synthetic opioid) have surpassed meth in terms of statewide use and treatment admissions. At least one drug deal, frequently pot or opioid-related, goes down every day in the state.

Let us elaborate first on this upswing of the opioid epidemic.


For many years, alcohol has led the way in young adult substance initiation. Most Wyoming teenagers, though, try pot first, and then alcohol or tobacco. Using pot or alcohol also commonly coincides with harder drug use, making them Wyoming’s primary gateway substances. For years, Wyoming has held a place in the top ten states for drunk driving accidents and deaths. Without proper support, many Wyoming residents have engaged in reckless and life-threatening behaviors while under the influence.

Though today proactive efforts have certainly stepped up, the aforementioned substances remain large state issues.

The question must be asked, “Why do I use?”

Let’s compare some national statistics to help us out. In 2015, 12.5 million people (that is not a misprint) misused prescription opioids. 2.1 million of that number misused them for the first time, and 2 million were diagnosed as suffering from prescription opioid use disorder. Overall, in 2015 15,281 U.S. residents died from overdosing on common prescription opiates.

9,580 died from overdosing on synthetic opiates as a primary cause.

And then there’s this: In 2015, 828,000 U.S. residents said they used heroin, either “regularly” or “recreationally” (in itself a game of Russian Roulette). 135,000 of those residents used heroin for the first time. 12,989 died of an overdose of which heroin was a contributing factor.

Regarding the above statistics, the cost to the U.S. economy was over $80 billion.

Statistics for subsequent years differ from source to source, however, opioids remain in all such studies as the primary cause of treatment admissions, and overdose deaths, in the entire state. 2017 estimated costs to the U.S. economy are estimated as between $95 billion to $100 billion. 


Proactive state efforts in the state to curb addictions to illicit substances, most especially opiates, include education, volunteerism, governmental conferences both federal and local, first responder community activism, and police-hosted community gatherings. Unfortunately, following the rest of the country, opioids have taken hold as Wyoming’s fastest-growing epidemic. In this instance, however, heroin has become a major problem.

Recent headlines include the following: Wyoming and Mainline Street: Laramie’s Bustling Heroin Trade; Downward Spiral: How Addiction Decimated a Wyoming Family; Heroin Creeps into Wyoming; Wyoming and The Opioid Nightmare, and Wyoming Drug Laws Up the Ante.

According to the Center for Disease Control, as of 2015 Wyoming ranks #23 for Age-Adjusted U.S. Drug Overdose Deaths, at an average rate of 16.4 deaths per 100,000 residents yearly. Prescription drug-related overdoses as the primary cause were measured in 2015 as 123.5 per 100,000 hospital discharges. As a secondary diagnoses, prescription drug-related overdoses were measured at 50.7 per 100,000 hospital discharges.

In a statistic that veers from much of the country (of which this type of abuse is skewed to a primarily older population), misuse of prescription opioids hit the #4 most misused drug for young people aged 12-25. On a general basis, from 2005-2017, overall deaths related to prescription drugs increased more than five-fold.

In a statistic that may well reflect the state’s ongoing efforts to curb its drug abuses, the following counties did not see a single death from 2010 to the present day related solely to illegal drug use: Big Horn, Converse, Weston, Washakie, Teton, and Hot Springs. Additionally, Crook, Goshen, Johnson, Niobrara, Platte, and Sublette did not have a single death related to either prescription or illegal drug use.

Opioid abuse, now our greatest national drug issue, has grown exponentially due to the availability of the class drugs from doctors, who prescribe them primarily as pain killers. Most patients who have undergone a physical surgery will be prescribed opioids to manage their post-operative pain. Misuse occurs when the prescribed dosage is either not enough to manage the pain, or the patient self-medicates because they desire more of a high. Many such users turn to the harder heroin, a synthetic opiate, to fulfill their needs.

Opiate abuse is typically more frequent with adults than with younger people. The trend is with Wyoming as well, though the large number of young people abusing opiates are among the highest in the country. Further, a national phenomenon – that occurs with regularity in Wyoming – is that young people will also steal their parents’ prescription opioids, and sell or trade them on the street for an equivalent value in their preferred pot or alcohol. Those opioids will in turn be sold to anyone for whom their doctor has stopped prescribing.

The cycle goes on …

Wyoming Drug Laws

Let’s take a look at some laws presently on Wyoming’s books. We list these for educational purposes, and also as a deterrent. In all instances, you will be charged with either a misdemeanor or felony based on the amount of the controlled substance in your possession:

  • For a misdemeanor charge, the following applies: You possess less than three ounces of a controlled substance in plant form; you possess no more than three-tenths of a gram of a controlled substance in liquid form; you possess no more than three grams of a controlled substance in pill or capsule form; you possess no more than five-tenths of a gram of a controlled substance in the form of “crack” cocaine; and you possess no more than three-tenths of a gram of LSD.
  • Misdemeanor drug charges are punishable by imprisonment for no more than 12 months, or a fine of no more than $1000 for a first offense, or both. Any person convicted of a second or third offense for possession of the aforementioned amounts faces fines of $5000 and/or five years in prison.
  • For a felony charge, the following applies: You possess a controlled substance in the amounts greater than listed above. Prison time can be a maximum of seven years, and your fine up to $15,000 for a first offense.
  • Further, manufacturing or distribution of any controlled substance will see a felonious sentence as high as $25,000 and/or prison time of up to 20 years.
  • A First Offender law is formally in place, where at the behest of the court said offender can receive closely-monitored probation as opposed to a more severe sentence.
  • Medical marijuana is illegal in the state, even if your card has been granted elsewhere.
  • Other illegalities include the cultivation of peyote or opium poppy.

Miscellaneous Wyoming Drug Statistics

As with most U.S. states containing High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas, Wyoming maintains its own unique profile, based on various environmental factors:

  • Heroin use has substantially increased since 2015, in part due to the desire for substances stronger than prescribed opiates, but also due to the ongoing statewide crackdown on medical offices that prescribe too many addicting narcotics to patients. Such action has forced addicts to turn to dealers, or the streets, to find their next high.
  • Laced heroin is common in the state. Unlike controlled prescription narcotics, the strength of a heroin bag can vary widely, depending on what the drug is laced with.
  • Wyoming has a high number of addicts and dealers serving time in prison. Usage is common while behind bars, the drugs being delivered most frequently from visiting family or friends, or illegally smuggled inside the prisons by tossing over fences while stuffed inside footballs, duffel bags or taped packages. On occasion, drugs have been smuggled in by prison staff.
  • The largest category of offenses among Wyoming residents on probation and parole are drug-related. Wyoming’s First-Time Offender laws have to date proven partially successful, though efficacy continues to improve as several counties have not seen a substance-related death in several years.
  • Wyoming’s state drug laws are similar to federal laws. However, whereby medical marijuana remains an ongoing debate nationally, it is emphatically illegal in Wyoming. General drug penalties range from misdemeanor fines and the threat of jail or prison for first time drug users – or court-elected probation – up to felony trafficking offenses that imprison men, women and young adults for years.
  • The vast majority of 2017 arrests have been related to buying and selling of heroin and opiates. Further, heroin’s strength has been customized, based on the will of the consumer. As a synthetic opioid, such lacing has added a whole other layer of danger on the part of the buyer.

General Addiction Facts

Symptoms of Drug and Alcohol Addiction

Drug and/or alcohol abuse can share some commonalities, of course depending on the drug. The physical nature of addiction can include:

  • Visible change in habits;
  • Loss of interest in family and/or loved ones;
  • Loss of performance in school, or other favorite activities;
  • Change in appearance;
  • Weight loss;
  • Glossy or bloodshot eyes;
  • Dilated or tiny pupils;
  • Sleep disturbances, sleeping too much, awake all night, or falling asleep at work;
  • Unable to meet normal obligations, late for work or school;
  • Scars and other signs of abuse or self-abuse;
  • Tremors or slurred speech;
  • Financial issues that cannot be explained, always needing to borrow money;
  • Legal issues (driving while under the influence, fights, and accidents).

On the psychological side, symptoms may include (based on substance):

  • Mood swings, irritability, sudden angry outbursts;
  • Lack of motivation, person often appears lethargic or spacey;
  • Paranoid, anxious, fearful;
  • Agitated, unexplained high energy or motivation, silly behavior.

If you are experiencing any of these signs, or you know someone who is experiencing these issues, please seek help for yourself, or seek help (or a possible intervention) for the person who needs it.

Drug Specific Symptoms of Addiction

Stimulants (which include cocaine, crystal methamphetamine, and Adderall).

  • Short-Term Symptoms: Excessive sleeping, loss of appetite, weight loss, dry mouth and nose, dilated pupils, hyperactivity, euphoria, irritability, anxiety, excessive talking, depression.
  • Long-Term Symptoms: Chronic hot flashes, shallow breathing, a clouded mind and inability to think clearly, ongoing nausea and regular vomiting, inability to hold down food, chronic drowsiness, a drop in body temperature, coma and possible death.

Opioids (which include prescription painkillers and synthetic heroin).

  • Short-Term Symptoms: Chronic coughing, sniffling, twitching, loss of appetite, sleeping at unusual times, sweating, vomiting, contracted pupils, no response of pupils to light, needle marks.
  • Long-Term Symptoms: Weight loss, loss of appetite, skin deterioration, sexual dysfunction (impotence, or inability to achieve orgasms for women and men), cold sweats, depression, low energy, loss of motivation, memory loss, personality change, mood disorder, bowel issues, constipation, dental problems, rotting teeth, gum inflammation, permanent respiratory damage or breathing issues, immune system compromise, interruption in menstrual cycle for women, introversion, teeth abscess, Hepatitis C, liver disease, HIV and/or full-blown AIDS (from intravenous drug use), collapsed veins, heart failure, tuberculosis, arthritis. (Note: Heroin is among the most addictive of all drugs, regardless of exactly how it is ingested. The fastest way for heroin to reach the brain is by smoking it, or injecting it. Once a person becomes addicted to heroin, nothing that was once important to them matters. Their only purpose in life is to use more heroin. As such, withdrawal from this drug is among the most difficult of all.
  • Common Withdrawal Symptoms from Heroin: Vomiting, diarrhea, restless leg syndrome, extreme nausea, major aches and pains, insomnia, moodiness, flu-like symptoms, including high-grade fever.

Inhalants (which include glues, markers, aerosols, and other vapor-inducing products).

  • Short-Term Symptoms: Drowsiness, poor muscle control, changes in appetite, anxiety, irritability, watery eyes, impaired vision, memory and thought, secretions from the nose or rashes around the nose and mouth, nausea, headaches.
  • Long-Term Symptoms: Nasal polyps, cancer, blackouts.

Hallucinogens (which include LSD and PCP, among others).

  • Short-Term Symptoms: Slurred speech, confusion, aggression, hallucinations, mood swings, detachment from people, dilated pupils, strange and irrational behavior including paranoia, unusual preoccupation with objects or one’s self.
  • Long-Term Symptoms: An inability to trust reality, loss of trust in general.

Sedatives (which include the following tranquilizers – GHB, Xanax, Valium, Klonopin).

  • Short-Term Symptoms: Clumsiness, poor judgment, slurred speech, sleepiness, contracted pupils, drunk-like state, difficulty concentrating, memory loss.
  • Long-Term Symptoms: Loss of motor control, stroke, heart failure.


  • Short-Term Symptoms: Agitation especially if you are unable to immediately drink again, pining for other drugs if alcohol is unavailable, blackouts, obsession, temporary deficiency of motor skills, lack of judgement and clear thought, loss of life.
  • Long-Term Symptoms: Alienation of family or friends, job loss, liver damage, loss of finances, abusive tendencies, death by vehicular accident or alcohol-induced loss of organ function. Agitation if you are unable to drink.
  • Outside Warning Signs of Drug Alcohol Use in General: Family and friends comment on your use, a medical professional warns you to stop drinking, you ignore or deny that you have a problem when the above signs are present to those with whom you associate.

Common Issues Related to Addiction

Addiction has numerous dangerous and potentially damaging consequences, including:

  • A depressed immune system: People who are addicted to a drug are more likely to receive a transmittable condition, such as HIV or Hepatitis C, either through harmful sex or by sharing needles.
  • Self-destructive tendencies: Individuals who are addicted to drugs and alcohol die sooner than those with no addictions.
  • Other health issues: Drug addiction can result in a variety of both temporary and long-lasting psychological and physical illnesses, depending on the type of substance that is used
  • Accidents: Individuals who are addicted to drugs are more likely to drive or engage in other risky activities while drunk or under the influence of drugs, both illegal and prescribed.
  • Problems in the home: Most often addicts experience problems with relationships at home and with friends.
  • Financial issues: Addicts often experience financial difficulties due to their lifestyle, which frequently leads to debt or dishonest behaviors
  • Legal problems: Legal issues are common for the addict such as arrest, domestic, and warrants
  • Suicide: Addicts have a considerably higher degree of suicides than those not addicted
  • School and employment issues: As addiction leads to a lack of motivation. School and work take a back seat to the addiction.

The Psychology of Addiction

Why do individuals become addicted to alcohol or drugs? Are certain people more prone to addiction than others? Do you believe you have an addictive personality?

Have others told you there is something different about you lately?

Drugs and alcohol alter brain chemistry, to a degree that often causes an insatiable craving for more. Addiction is not simply a sign of weakness, as some seem to believe. “He can stay away from drinking if he wants to,” some may say. Or, “She doesn’t want to stop using. She can quit at any time.” Or, “They just like to party. There’s nothing wrong with that.”

On the other side, you hear comments like, “If he really loved me and the kids, he would stop.” Or, “She just needs to get some control over her drinking.”

Unfortunately, none of the examples are truly representative of the issue at hand. For those in the throes of addiction, loving another may be a reason to stop, but physically the physical and emotional grip of the addiction has been tightened to where stopping cold turkey is immensely difficult, and frequently near-impossible to do without professional help.

Simple willpower is rarely enough.

Drugs affect the brain’s communication system by tapping into its reward center and altering the message that is received. For example, Oxycodone is prescribed by doctors for relief of pain, because it alters your brain chemistry as to your perception of that pain. Physiologically, Oxycodone (an opioid painkiller) floods the brain with Dopamine, a chemical that sends a message to the brain that says, “I feel good.” The danger comes with the misuse of the chemical, not from the correctly prescribed usage.

Of course, following certain surgeries, or to relieve pain for a terminally ill patient, such a medication is useful and needed. However, for long-term treatment, opioids can be extremely addictive and dangerous. Your body easily builds a tolerance, and when that happens it will cause you to constantly crave more to attain the same effect.

For example, among the most common surgeries for seniors or younger athletes are outpatient joint replacement surgeries. Most of these surgeries are relatively simple, though the healing time can take up to a year. Opioids typically prescribed to fight considerable post-op pain include Tramadol, Hydrocodone, and/or Meloxicam. The cycle worsens due to the most common complaint among such surgeries: a lack of sleep. Sleep deprivation will only increase the severity of the pain, as the nerve centers are that much more sensitive than typical. More pain leads to self-medicating, which in turn frequently leads to increasing dosages with or without the doctor’s knowledge.

Wyoming, as an opioid stronghold, knows these issues all too well. Abuse and addiction to opioids such as heroin (synthetic), Vicodin, Oxycodone, Percocet, and Morphine is actually a severe worldwide issue that impacts the social and financial well-being of all of us regardless of where we live. For perspective, in 2012 it was estimated that between 26.4 million and 36 million individuals abused opioids worldwide. Of that number, approximately 2.1 million individuals in the U.S. were dealing with substance use disorders connected to prescription opioid pain relievers, and an additional estimated 467,000 were addicted to heroin.

Five years later, in 2017, those numbers are estimated to have increased by over a third.

Addiction materializes in three distinctive ways:

  1. Craving for the drug;
  2. Loss of control over use of the drug; and
  3. Continuing to use regardless of damaging effects.

The word “addiction” originated from a Latin term for “bound to” or “enslaved by.” Any person who has struggled with addiction, or has tried to help a loved one who is or was suffering from addiction, surely understands the truth of this translation. Addiction can begin innocently enough, and frequently does, with an experimental or recreational use of alcohol or drugs in a social situation. For some, however, such innocuous experimentation or recreation can signal the beginning of more frequent use.

One of the difficulties of that equation is we just will not know until we get there. In other words, we have no idea if a simple drink, for example, will lead to anything more. Individual addiction tendencies are based on how our brain centers react to the substance.

As it regards opioids, drug addiction begins with direct exposure to prescribed painkillers, or by obtaining medications from a friend or relative that has been prescribed the medication, and discovering that the drug is not enough to cure the pain. Opioids suppress the pain, first of all. They cure nothing, but for someone who suffers, that fact makes no difference. Many will misuse the painkiller simply to feel better.

Both the threat and speed of addiction varies by substance, and is dependent on the individual. Some drugs, such as opioid pain relievers, are more dangerous and lead to addiction quicker than others. As time passes, the afflicted may require greater dosages of the drug to get high. Before they know it, a person can feel they need the drug just to feel normal or just to get through the day. As substance abuse progresses, one may find that it’s increasingly difficult to go without the drug for even short periods of time. Once tolerance builds, if a doctor refuses to prescribe more, the new addict will frequently turn to the street for help.

Is addiction learned, or is addiction genetic?

As with many other diseases, addiction vulnerability is very complex, and nearly impossible to determine. Variable factors, such as environment and genetics, determine the likelihood that somebody will become an addict. Since addiction is a complicated illness, locating the specific gene that causes one’s addiction is a difficult proposition.

Genes and environment can add up to create more of a risk, or they can cancel each other out. Not every addict will carry the exact same genetics, and not every person who carries the addiction gene will become an addict. Researchers tend to study larger families to learn which genes may make a person more susceptible to addiction. Studies have shown that children of parents who abuse drugs or alcohol are more likely to innately have, or develop, an addictive personality.

The so-called “addiction gene,” however, has yet to be defined, or found. The concept is theoretical, and work is done every day by medical professionals to isolate such a gene – if it even exists – in the effort to target the reasons for (what they believe to be) genetically predisposed abuse.

Understand, addiction is not a curable disease. However, addiction can certainly be managed with proper medical treatment, in addition to continued education on the part of both the addict and the medical professional, and continued research on the part of the medical community. Further, with the aid of such continued studies and the discovery of more effective and less addictive medications, alcoholics and addicts can continue to safely withdrawal and move forward on their road to recovery.

One hopes that scientific advances will one day make the process that much easier.

An Addicts Obsession Explained

Obsessions are not endemic to addiction, as most human beings suffer from obsessions to a degree. Also, there is more than one type of defined obsession, which we will list below. For an addict, though, obsessions generally morph to an extreme and highly unhealthy level.

An addict’s obsessions can be triggered in several ways. We hope by listing the below you will garner a better understanding of those nagging thoughts that can be troubling to you.

General obsessions, taken to an extreme by an addict, can include the following: 

  • Invasive Obsession is the idea of using that appears to enter our minds from out of nowhere. When we are struck by an intrusive thought, we find ourselves instantly dropping our recovery tools, and our important duties, to pick up that drug, drink, behavior, or person.
  • Recurring Obsessions happen when the idea of using enters our minds over and over throughout the day. Combating this thought exhausts all our energy. We continue to remind ourselves of the significance of not using, of all the important things we will lose if we use again, and of exactly what always happens to us when we are on a using spree. The thought of using recurs throughout the day, and seems to grow stronger with time. If we can hold out against the repeating obsession, we tend to be exhausted and dispirited. We are irritated to find that even normal daily tasks require an immense amount of energy. Even if we do not give in, the returning obsession wins by wearing us down
  • Circumstantial Obsession happens to an experienced user when we are presented with the opportunity to use or drink out of nowhere, and then we suddenly become obsessed with the idea and can think of no reason good enough not to repeat old, destructive behaviors. We may provide ourselves with some ridiculous reason for justifying our drinking or using. Or, we may just automatically go on auto-pilot, and before we even know exactly what happened, we are back full force into our addiction or alcoholism.
  • Fundamental Obsession is not about drinking or using per se but a constant preoccupation with ourselves. We become so uncomfortable in our own skins that we become extremely irritable and discontented. We also feel that if we cannot find a spiritual remedy, we are surely doomed. Those of us who have been sober for extended periods of time without a spiritual solution, know the pains of essential obsession all too well. Life is unfulfilling, and we are continuously flustered. Or, all too frequently we feel troubled and depressed. We are unable to create purposeful or lasting connections. We have a deep dread because we feel that life is treating us unjustly. We are overly sensitive, and people seem harsh and ignore our needs (Woe is Me Syndrome.) Regardless of what we attempt, we do not appear to be able to find any satisfaction. We are frequently looking outside ourselves to find some comfort. We may have an obscure sense that something is wrong with us, however, we do not know what it is. Depression issues are common to those who suffer Fundamental Obsession.

Recurring and Circumstantial Obsession might be easier to cope with over time, yet the Fundamental Obsession tends to worsen. The pain of everyday living accumulates inside us and without continually working on our recovery, we act out in various ways. We might become aggressive and complain, which can become a drain on our relationships to our friends, families, and employers. A lot of us change addictions, possibly to food or some other destructive behavior that provides us with short-lived relief. In other words, we change dependencies to deal with the pain.

Regardless, so as not to end this section on a downbeat note, there is indeed always hope from drug and alcohol addiction. With the proper treatment and aftercare program, you can immediately begin your road to recovery.


Any in-depth discussion of a given state’s drug issues should include general guidelines of treatment. You will notice that the list that follows also includes words about family and friends, as they may be among the most important aspects of both your addiction, and subsequently your recovery.

If you are going it alone, and you have no such relationships to speak of, the following will nonetheless prove valuable as you will be surrounded by treatment professionals and, likely, fellow users or former users throughout your recovery process.

We strongly advise you to keep this list nearby, and refer to it whenever you need some reminders that hope is nearby: 

  1. Addiction is a brain disease that also affects your behavior. Addiction is not your fault.
  2. Treatment does not have to be voluntary to be effective. It can be court ordered, employer referred, or family or friend-related. People have success even when it’s not their idea.
  3. Getting help early in the addiction is always the best solution.
  4. Everyone is different and needs a treatment plan designed specifically to meet their needs. There are so many different types of treatment; find one that suits you.
  5. A good treatment facility for you will address all areas of your life, not just your chemical addiction. Said facility will delve into your interpersonal relationships as well.
  6. Mental wellness problems are typically connected to drug addiction, and should be examined and addressed in your treatment.
  7. Any prudent and effective treatment program will evaluate for transmittable diseases such as HIV, Tuberculosis, and Hepatitis C.
  8. Commit to your treatment program for an adequate time to give yourself the best chance for success.
  9. One of the most common types of treatment is Behavior Modification – which might involve some combination of group and family-specific treatment. The reason for the potential group and family involvement is to address issues within your life in general, and outside of the treatment facility.
  10. Physical detox is important, but remember, it is only the initial stage of your treatment. Long-term behavior modification generally requires a process of behavioral therapy as well as ongoing follow-up.
  11. Medication is usually needed in conjunction with treatment. Do not skip, or cheat on, any medications prescribed by your treatment professional.
  12. The best treatment programs will monitor you for any type of possible relapse behaviors throughout the course of treatment.
  13. Treatment plans should be continually revised to fulfill your current circumstances.

Addiction and Crime

It is difficult to discuss drug addiction without mentioning its links to crime. Untreated addiction may not only affect the addict and the addict’s immediate loved ones, but the entire community. Drug addiction has been linked to crimes such as theft, child abuse, neglect, domestic violence, and even murder.

A drinking problem by its nature brings with it a reduction in inhibition. Such a response may harm an individual’s reasoning, and increase the threat of hostile behaviors.

Both drug and alcohol-related violence and criminal activity rates continue to increase throughout the country. The following activities can include severe repercussions such as time in jail, legal costs, and/or various other court-ordered fines:

     Driving under the influence

     Destruction of property

     Sexual assault


     Aggravated assault

     Domestic abuse

     Child abuse


An addict can not always make a clear-headed decision. If you believe you can, then ask yourself this question:

“Is it worth it?”

Further Notes on Alcohol

Alcohol is the most commonly abused addictive substance in the United States, and has been for many years. 17.6 million U.S. residents, or one in every twelve adults, experience alcoholic abuse, in addition to several million more who participate in dangerous, binge drinking patterns that could cause alcohol addiction. More than half of all adults have a history of addiction or alcoholism in their family, and more than 7 million kids live in a home where at least one of their parents is abusing alcohol, or has in the past. As with Wyoming, alcohol is frequently a gateway substance to harder drugs nationally, especially with teenagers.

Many people drink alcohol simply to cope with troubles or to avoid tough feelings; as such, it is often difficult on the part of the problem drinker to identify that they have a problem at all. Denial is just one of the primary reasons that millions of individuals do not obtain treatment for alcohol abuse.

Alcoholism is the disease that results from an insatiable need for, and use of, alcohol. A doctor will diagnose the extent of your issues, though we cannot encourage you strongly enough to find help immediately if you do believe you need it. Too many people rationalize their drinking, which can hurt them as well as others. For instance, some may say, “I’ve never had a DUI.” Or, “I don’t drink in the morning.” Or, “I’m fully in control.

Regardless of the excuse – and any justification is exactly that, an excuse – an unwillingness to truthfully acknowledge the negative issues you have experienced from alcohol can lead to defensiveness when confronted about it.

By refusing to recognize the negative consequences of alcohol, you will avoid living a healthy, sober life that is there for the taking.

If others can live that life, why can’t you?

Addiction, Family and Friends, and Codependency

Before we take a comprehensive look at treatment, one more subject beckons. To that subject, we would like to ask you a question:

Have you ever enabled a drug or alcohol addict?

Chances are you have, and you didn’t know you were doing it. Chances are you may have even received your own reward for having done so, without identifying that either.

In any relationship, codependency (as well as further addiction) occurs when one person may abuse drugs or alcohol, and the other individual allows them to continue the behavior by making excuses for them such as calling their workplace and reporting them sick, or giving them money. Both the addict and the well-meaning enabler need one another, which further enables the abuse cycle.

Codependency can be either a learned behavior, or an inherited behavior that can be passed from one generation to the next. It is both a psychological and behavioral condition that affects both parties’ capacity to engage in healthy connections with another human being. It is additionally known as relationship addiction, due to the fact that people with codependency usually develop or maintain relationships that are dysfunctional, one sided, psychologically devastating, and/or abusive.

Codependency as a term and an unhealthy proclivity was defined following long-term examinations of family members of alcoholics. For many, codependent habits are inherited by watching and imitating various other members of the family who present these sorts of characteristics. For example, the spouse of an alcoholic may expend all of her energy worrying, thinking, and trying to manage the chaos and problems that come along with the alcoholic. She must make sure the kids are taken care of, make excuses for her husband, as well as assume more responsibilities of everyday life as the alcoholic frequently is no longer capable. But, metaphorically, a juggler cannot keep juggling forever. At some point the juggler will run out of steam and become exhausted. All the balls would fall to the ground.

This is the greatest issue with the non-addict codependent. Then, when those balls fall, the addict can no longer count on the person they may have trusted more than most.  

Many of the non-addict codependent parties believe they can “fix” or “control” the addict by enabling their habit. Making excuses for an addict in any way is enabling them. This cannot sustain, however. One becomes completely fixated on the alcoholic or addict, and continues to enable their destructive behavior without even realizing it. All too often, once the non-addict party realizes what they are doing, the addict is too far gone to be helped.

This why precisely why, in the rehabilitation process, family participation is so important. Both parties must learn about the issue. If nothing changes in their environment or in their primary relationships, it is almost guaranteed the addict will drink or use again.

One more point regarding this subject: Low self-esteem is the trademark of most codependents. Many are always searching for anything or anyone outside of themselves to change the way they feel inside. This could be another person, a circumstance, nicotine, drugs, alcohol, sex, food, or any other entity upon which they can focus.

The non-addict codependent most always has the very best of intentions in their hearts and their minds. Those intentions are sincere. This codependent cares for an individual who is experiencing a problem, yet their caretaking becomes obsessive and destructive. They frequently take on the role of the benefactor of everyone’s needs, and assume the role of the martyr in the relationship. This codependent can be a father covering up for his child being late to school, or an employer constantly allowing poor work habits or tardiness to slide, or a mom who calls in a favor to get her daughter out of trouble. This type of help, however, is only fuel for the addict to continue to use longer and create more damage and consequence from their destructive behavior.

It is not possible without proper training and education in the treatment for addiction for a loved one to truly help an individual with alcoholism or addiction. That is why medical intervention is so immensely important.

Signs you may be in a codependent relationship may include

  • An exaggerated feeling of responsibility for the actions of others, in this case an addict
  • Having trouble making decisions
  • Poor communications skills
  • Chronic anger
  • Lying or dishonesty in an ongoing effort to help the addict
  • Irrational guilt when putting themselves first or saying “no”
  • A tendency to do greater than their share of work, or having to do it all so it gets done correctly, or completed at all
  • Becoming hurt when people do not acknowledge how much they do for them
  • Continuously getting into unhealthy relationships, due to an inability to be alone or otherwise;
  • A willingness to do anything at all to hold on to a connection and avoid the feeling of desertion
  • An extreme need to be in control and be receive recognition
  • Having to be in control of others and manages their lives
  • Trust issues with others and self
  • Fear of being deserted or alone
  • Difficulty identifying one’s own feeling
  • Rigidity or inability to cope with change
  • Issues with intimacy and/or boundaries
  • Confusing love with pity
  • A consistent need to rescue the other, or another, party

As codependency on the addict’s part is usually rooted in their early early life, and is common to an addict, treatment will include therapeutic explorations into early childhood, and/or young adult issues. Treatment may incorporate both private and peer treatment through which co-dependents unveil themselves and determine their self-defeating behavior patterns. Effective treatment will help you reconnect with emotions that have been long-buried, as well as on rebuilding your interpersonal relationships to a more healthy level.

Your treatment, if diligently followed, will help you either regain your life – or otherwise build the life you want – in all facets.

On that note, as we’ve shared a great deal of background that will hopefully help you better understand the nature of your addiction, allow us to delve into the concept of your treatment in earnest.

How can families and friends help someone needing treatment?

The Treatment Process

The Multiple Stages of Abuse

Your treatment will begin with a determination as to where you are in your addiction. The initial stage of substance usage is experimental. If the high or other desired effect is attained, recreational use usually follows. For those who choose to experiment with either alcohol or drugs, and said desired effect is not attained, the majority go no further or perhaps try once more following their first use.

Most, however, do attain their high, which leads to the problem.

Continued use is the second state, and tolerance is the third, as the user will look for bigger fixes as old tolerances no longer apply. Abuse is the fourth stage, followed by addiction.

Among the steps that must be taken to support the struggles of an addict, while breaking him or her away from their addiction, include: removing the addict from their negative environment (including the company of dealers and fellow abusers) and placing them within a therapeutic community, the necessity of entering a rehab program and participating in psychological and emotional counseling (and sometimes physical rehab), and how to spot triggers so as to hedge against relapsing.


Pre-intake is the process whereby a concerned user believes they may have a problem, and they begin the process of seeking help. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • “How long have I been using?”
  • “Do I believe I have a problem?”
  • “Do I think others who know me believe I have a substance-related problem?”
  • “Does it matter to me?”
  • “Have others confronted me with questions related to substance abuse?”
  • “Do I use alone, or in hiding?”
  • “Have I ever substituted one drug for another, thinking one particular drug was the problem?”
  • “Do I find the thought of running out of drugs scary?”
  • “Have I ever been in a jail, a hospital, or a drug rehabilitation center because of any using in the past?”
  • “Is this what I want with my life?”

If you find your answers to the following questions alarming, we suggest that you follow up with other, more positive questions:

  • “What are my life’s goals?”
  • “Where do I want to be in my life one year from now?”
  • “Where do I want to be in my life five years from now?”
  • “Where do I want to be in my life ten years from now?”

If like many users you cannot answer such goal-related questions, try this: “Where do I want to be tomorrow?” If your answer to this question is dark, or bleak, and related to depression, it’s time to seek treatment. Similarly, if your answer is something positive, the very fact that you have come to this point and have begun researching options also means it’s time to seek treatment.

If you do, your tomorrow may be exactly what you want it to be.

A brief disclaimer: As with any other self-diagnostic tool, questions such as these are exploratory only. You must speak to a trained and licensed professional for any true diagnosis. Still, answering these questions can be extremely useful, and insightful. Remember, if you are under the influence as you answer, you may not be the best arbiter of your responses. If, however, you can be truthful with your responses, the results of your subsequent efforts can be invaluable.


In one sense, this section is most appropriate for family, friends, and associates of the addict. However, in the spirit of openness, we include it here so you can understand how your addictions can affect others. If you believe you need help, then we strongly suggest you follow that gut instinct. If, however – for whatever the reason – you believe you need help prior to entering formal treatment, we have a suggestion. Speak to a friend, a family member, or an otherwise trusted associate. In an ideal situation, speak to someone you trust who has dealt with addiction issues. Ask them if they could help you, whether practically or by recommending someone who can work with you towards treatment. If you have no one you can trust, which is common for a user, then we suggest contacting one of the organizations on this page and speaking to them about your issues, or concerns. If you come to believe an intervention may be in your best interests, but want to know more, here are some common elements practiced by an interventionist:

  • Planning, preparation, and engagement of the intervention.
  • Advisement of specific and appropriate treatment and rehab programs.
  • Sensitivity issues in working with a user.
  • Preparing all arrangements, including family consultation so they know what to expect.
  • Continuing to work with the family – or friends – of the addict while they are undergoing inpatient or outpatient treatment.
  • Arranging of all logistics, including payment and/or insurance requirements, and arrival.
  • The interventionist also sets ground rules as to how to interact with the user:
  • Do not get upset with your family member, or friend, during the intervention.
  • Avoid verbal labels during the intervention, such as “junkie,” “addict,” or “alcoholic.”
  • The mindset is to not have the addict defined by their addiction.
  • When deciding who to include in the intervention – again, friends and/or family of the addict (as we will continue to say for clarity’s sake in the context of these articles) – the number of people who attend must be kept to a minimum, and managed.
  • Never perform the intervention if the addict, or another member of the group, is intoxicated.
  • Many interventions are initiated against the will of the user, by concerned associated parties.
  • Television sometimes reinforces the myth that all interventions are violent, or potentially dangerous. Consider this: Is your addiction potentially dangerous?

If you find yourself as a surprised and unwilling subject of an intervention, those in charge are taking the action in your best interests. How you respond is, of course, up to you. However, note that the interventionist is there to help you, not hurt you.

Intervention can be a highly-effective tool when prudently undertaken. Those in charge have an immense responsibility to you and your safety, and they take that responsibility seriously.

More on Intervention Services HERE.


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.

Detox Services

Detox addresses the physical hold of an addiction. The length of a detox program will vary based on several factors, including the nature of the addiction, and of the addict’s personality. Regarding the former, chemical dependency frequently occurs that must be medically handled, as your brain has become fully dependent on further use of the substance in order to function. This is a medical issue that will frequently require medication to handle.

During the early phases on detoxification, withdrawal will occur which can be a painful process. Your system will be cleaned of the drug, and your brain will learn to operate as it once did. Certain withdrawal symptoms can be life-threatening, which punctuates the importance of full and systemic treatment.

Factors that can influence the longevity of the detox aspect of your treatment program include:

  • Multi-drug abuse;
  • Pre-existing medical or mental health conditions;
  • Your level of dependence;
  • Genetics;
  • Previous trauma;
  • Environment (both that of your home life and the environment of your support system)

The concept and practice of detox is typically broken down into three distinct phases: Evaluation, Stabilization, and Transition to Inpatient Drug Rehabilitation.

Evaluation: As overseen by a doctor, who will determine what drugs are presently being used, how long has the patient been using, and how much and how frequently the patient uses.

Stabilization: As expounded on the site, stabilization differs patient to patient, based on specific substance being abused. This is the end result of the withdrawal phase.

Transition to Inpatient Drug Rehab: Many addicts believe that once they complete withdrawal, they are finished with their treatment. That is a dangerous belief, as withdrawal only releases the immediate physical hold of the substance. Again, only the trained professional can make the determination of to your further treatment needs.

Many users incorrectly believe the process of detoxification to be the same for everyone. This is a common fallacy. There is more than one detox method that can be undertaken by an addict. Your treatment professional will recommend the correct process for you, which can include one of the following options: Medical Detox, or Ambulatory Detox.  

A)  Medical Detox. The most typical detox process, medical detox is implemented so the user can safely withdrawal in a facility with qualified medical professionals present at all times. Detox centers from drugs and alcohol are an effective alternative for individuals gripped by misuse. Frequently, when an addict tries to cut back or entirely quit using alcohol or drugs on their own, they could have withdrawal symptoms that are seriously harmful. As such, clinical detox is usually the first step prior to checking into inpatient treatment center.

Everyone’s experience with withdrawal is different depending on what type of substance they are addicted to. Alcohol, as well as some narcotics (benzodiazepines, opiates), can be life threatening to detox from on your own. Heroin is notoriously brutal to withdrawal from, though most times not life-threatening. The difficulty lies in the nausea and discomfort that follows; if not treated inside medical detox, the symptoms cannot be easily tolerated by some addicts and the person is more likely to score heroin to feel better, therefore creating a vicious cycle of addiction. Cocaine and pot have a less physical, and more emotional, detox process. Regardless, the safest way to withdrawal from any drug is to be surrounded by qualified medical staff. If the chemically dependent person is abusing alcohol, opiates, heroin or benzodiazepines, medical detoxification of some kind is most often necessary for the person’s safety.

B) Medically Monitored Ambulatory Detox. Though most frequently medical detox from alcohol and chemical abuse takes place in an inpatient setting, where the individual remains at the center for up to ten days, there is a second option for less severe withdrawals. In Ambulatory Detox, the patient remains at the treatment center throughout the day, and they return home at night. A program like this allows an individual to detox safely while keeping up with most of their daily responsibilities.

Whichever detox method is selected for you will be based on many factors, most notably the degree of your use, and prognosis of your withdrawal. A treatment professional will work closely with you to determine the efficacy of certain treatments in any case, and it is important to understand that they are highly-trained in such treatments, and decisions.

Inpatient Treatment Services

Post-withdrawal, the process of your ongoing recovery can be either inpatient or outpatient. Inpatient treatment is appropriate for more severe cases, and the generally more flexible outpatient treatment is geared towards those with a more moderate addiction (though addiction is still addiction) and a stronger support system in their home environment.

Inpatient treatment can either be a PHP (a partial hospitalization providing a highly-structured environment, with typically active treatment of 30 hours per week), the less-intensive IOP (intensive outpatient treatment plan, which requires up to three hours daily over 3-5 days, for a total of nine hours weekly; therapy is usually included, but the patient can live either at their own home or a halfway house during the process), or an RTC (residential).

Most inpatient therapies, regardless of option will last 5-10 days. They can last longer based on the severity of the problem, and the patient’s physical and mental fitness.

Among its services, a PHP will most frequently incorporate intensive one on one therapy in its treatment program. The reason for this is most PHP admissions are due to disturbances in behavior from the drug being abused, or for those who experience otherwise increased symptomatology. In a PHP, the patient is often isolated and of no risk to other patients.

PHPs and RTCs are highly-structured treatment options. PHPs are the most structured options of all. If you have little structure in your home environment, both of these invaluable choices will likely take some time getting used to. That said, the importance to your overall treatment plan cannot be understated.

Note: Substance use disorder treatment is listed as one of the 10 Most Essential Health Benefits of the Affordable Care Act, meaning that your care is covered if you have health insurance. If you do not have insurance, many treatment centers offer financial aid.

Always ask when you speak to a treatment advisor if this is a concern, as inpatient treatment is typically more expensive than outpatient.

Should I choose inpatient or outpatient?

Outpatient Services

Outpatient treatment is often preferred when one has substantial duties in their outside environment, such as school or family. In fact, family and friend group therapy is often included in this option, which is quite flexible in its scheduling. Outpatient treatment has proven to be very effective for those with underlying causes for their addiction, such as eating disorders, to grasp the root of their substance-related issues in a more relaxed setting among familiar support systems.

As an outpatient, you are not enmeshed in a structured environment, you live at home and you are not under constant supervision.

However, outpatient treatment is no less important or helpful than inpatient treatment. Though the scheduling of your appointments may be flexible, you still need to commit to the time. If you miss one appointment, you will likely miss another.

Ask yourself if you are responsible enough for an outpatient program. If you are, and you maintain your treatment, the rewards can be innumerable.

Both inpatient and outpatient treatment are comprehensive approaches to wellness. You will face temptations in both but as long as you remain responsible, you will also learn specific strategies as to how to deal with them. It is up to you to take advantage of those lessons.

Click the link to learn more about the differences between Inpatient vs. Outpatient

Aftercare and Sober Living

Sober living may be the final step in your formal treatment plan before returning home, but treatment never really ends. Sober living houses provide the interim environment between rehab and mainstreaming back to your natural environment. The reason for the initial formation of sober houses was simple: a person in recovery frequently needed a safe and supportive place to stay, during the vulnerability of early recovery, prior to returning home.

Sober houses are also highly-structured, and most residents are referred to a sober living environment from a rehab center. Requirements and rules are strict, and they usually include:

  • No drugs or alcohol on the premises;
  • No violence;
  • No overnight or sleepover guests, not even family;
  • Commitment to random drug testing;
  • Involvement in a community-related program;
  • Acceptance by a peer group;
  • Acceptance of advice from treatment professionals;
  • Respect for the rules of the house;
  • No swearing;
  • No stealing;
  • No sexual activity between residents;
  • Honesty;
  • As part of a recovering community, if you see or hear any resident breaking the rules of the community, they must be reported immediately to appropriate staff;
  • Anyone on prescribed medication must inform the house manager upon admittance;
  • Residents must attend all sober house meetings;
  • Residents must submit to drug and/or alcohol tests upon request;
  • Rooms must be clean at all times;
  • Chores must be completed without argument;
  • Curfew must be respected;
  • Client must attend all therapy sessions, group or individual.

Many of the above rules are enforced with a Zero Tolerance Policy. Meaning, if any of these rules are broken even once, you risk being kicked out of your sober living home. If you had experienced structure during your prior treatment to this point, you should be in good shape.

A benefit of many sober houses is that staff frequently are former addicts themselves. This is a benefit for two primary reasons: 1) They understand the struggle, and 2) They are living examples of former addicts who have successfully completed treatment and are now giving back. Some of these former addicts work on salary, and some happily volunteer their time.

Sober houses are most successful when utilized (in conjunction with a formal treatment plan) for a designated period of time. Do not expect all residents to attain equal success during this stage. You will likely come to know your peers through intensive group counseling. You will also undergo one-on-one therapy, but in the group setting you will notice your peers’ various stages of recovery. You will form opinions but always remind yourself that you are there for reason.

And that reason is to take care of you.

An important note: Recovery from alcohol or drug addiction does not end after your formal treatment plan. Addiction is, indeed, incurable; however, addiction can be arrested and remain that way with prudent post-sober house, or aftercare, strategies. Committing to a further aftercare program, for example, reduces the probability of relapse and helps keep you connected to drug and alcohol counselors and peers who are going through, or have gone through, similar experiences. With increased awareness comes a better understanding of life’s stressors and how best to deal with them.

Nothing has proven to be a more successful method of care in reducing the risk of destructive behavior than ongoing education and awareness.

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