According to hospital records taken from
Carrollton ERs, more than one hundred people were admitted to the hospital due
to heroin overdoses. In addition, 130 were treated for overdosing on
prescription opioids like oxycontin, percocet, vicodin, or lortab. While opioid
addiction has become an epidemic all across America, Carrollton overdoses from
opioid-based drugs accounted for more hospital visits than cocaine, crack,
meth, ecstasy, and other prescription medications combined.
While these numbers may seem staggering, the
number of deaths in Georgia due to drugs comes in just below the national average. This is
largely because Georgia offers some of the most effective drug and alcohol
treatment centers in the country. Further, its treatment facilities are tightly
regulated by both the state, and internally by the high standards of the
American Medical Association.
For Carrollton and Atlanta Metropolitan
residents looking to turn their lives around and kick the habit, there are
quality resources out there that will help them do just that. But they and
their loved ones may be unsure of what the process entails, and let’s face it,
major changes such as this one can be scary, especially when you’re taken out
of a comfortable, albeit dangerous, place and tossed into a frightening, albeit
It won’t be easy, but knowing what to expect
will help many manage the transition easier. So, these are the fundamental
elements of drug and alcohol rehabilitation. Hopefully, knowing what to expect
will make the process less intrusive.
Drug Assessments: What They are
and How They’re Conducted
A drug assessment is the first step in
recovery for the many millions of people who have successfully quit using
addictive drugs or alcohol. The assessment is designed to help your doctors
develop a successful detox plan and treatment regimen.
Drug assessments generally include the
Urine and blood tests to determine
Questionnaires designed to
determine a patient’s beliefs surrounding their drug or alcohol use
A patient history that should
include not only the personal history of the patient, but also a history of
their family members
A mental health assessment that
can determine any factors that contribute to the desire for drugs and alcohol
A safety screening to determine
the likelihood that a patient would harm themselves either passively by
overdosing or actively. This may include an assessment for suicidal ideation or
A physical assessment to determine
the extent that a patient’s drug abuse has had on their physical health
Drug assessments are meant to do just that:
assess an individual patient’s condition and determine what the best treatment
plan would be for their recovery. It helps doctors familiarize themselves with
your case and understand the extent of the addiction.
Intake and Detox
This is where the real work begins. It is
often the scariest and most difficult part of the process for those with drug
dependency issues and their families. Heroin and opioid addiction is renowned
for its painful detox, but alcohol detox can be just as painful and dangerous.
This is especially true when it’s not overseen by a trained medical staff.
Many folks with drug issues fear detox the
most, but medical science has gotten fairly good at making the process as
painless as possible. Nonetheless, those that are going through detox,
especially for alcohol and opioids, need to have medical staff on hand to
manage the process, and to ensure that it’s as safe and comfortable as
That being said, there are a number of things
to keep in mind.
Drugs for Easing the Symptoms of
Rehab clinics may administer drugs such as
Ativan or Methadone to patients that are suffering from severe withdrawal
syndromes. Ativan is generally prescribed to those that are going through
alcohol withdrawal because it helps manage the symptoms of delirium tremens. Heroin or opioid addicts may
need a drug like Methadone that will help relieve the symptoms of withdrawal.
In the latter case, it becomes a matter of weaning a patient off the addictive
The process of weaning patients off helper
drugs like Methadone is often among the most difficult parts of the process.
Physically, the addiction is still there, and likewise, the craving for the
substance remains. These drugs provide a temporary buffer that makes the
process less painful, but the pain of detoxing can’t be eradicated entirely.
This is another reason why inpatient treatment during this phase is crucial.
The desire to go back to using the substance of choice will be at its strongest
Dual Diagnosis or Co-Occurring
Dual diagnosis and co-occurring refers to
patients that have substance dependency issues that occur alongside another
mental health diagnosis. This includes major depressive disorder, anxiety
disorders, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder. It also can include personality
disorders such as borderline personality disorder. Patients with co-occuring
mental health and addiction diagnoses are extremely vulnerable to the lure of
drug addiction. For them, it will mean not only becoming aware of how their
mental health diagnosis impacts their desire to use, but maintaining and
managing their health moving forward more proactively.
For obvious reasons, many folks with mental
health diagnoses choose to self-medicate their condition with street drugs or
alcohol. This has a nasty tendency to make matters worse. Hence, their
treatment plan will not only involve the managing of their detox, but also
getting the symptoms of their mental health problems under control.
This might involve the prescription of
antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications. For those with schizophrenia and
related conditions, it may involve the prescription of an antipsychotic.
Post-detox Treatment Options
Post-acute detox symptoms can last up to
twelve months after the patient has cleaned the drug out of their system. There
is such a thing as psychological and emotional detox. Unfortunately, it can be
every bit as difficult and painful as the process of physically detoxing.
Patients are generally very vulnerable at this stage. In fact, most relapses
occur within six months of detox. Thus there are a number of intensive ways
that rehab clinics manage a patient’s sobriety after they’ve detoxed from their
drug of choice.
Inpatient or Residential
Treatment Programs (RTC)
Detox isn’t the end of drug rehabilitation.
It’s just the beginning. The cravings remain and the desire for the drug of
choice won’t diminish entirely simply because the physical addiction has been
kicked. In fact, most of those who relapse do so after detoxification has
occurred. The urge to use will remain strong for the rest of a patient’s life.
For this reason, many patients choose to
remain in a residential program for up to 90 days after initial intake. Most
residential programs last at least 30 days. The sense of doing this is that the
psychological lure of the drug remains strong even after the withdrawal
symptoms have diminished.
During a residential treatment program, the patient
will be with others who are also attempting to kick the addiction. They will
receive both one on one treatment from board certified therapists, and be part
of groups that aim at educating them on how to remain sober once they’re
released. This includes learning tools and skills to manage their lives moving
Community is a major factor in healing and
having a support structure is one of the key components of recovery. It’s the
reason why programs like NA and AA are so successful. Having a safe outlet in
which to talk about their experiences helps patients come to terms with their
personal history and understand their motivations for using drugs in the past.
One other obvious benefit of inpatient
programs is that it prevents patients from re-entering situations in which
they’ll have easy access to their drug of choice. As stated prior, patients
tend to be extremely vulnerable during this period, and going back to persons,
places, and things that encourage their addiction makes it that much more
difficult for them to maintain their sobriety. Residential treatment facilities
enable a patient to focus fully on their recovery.
Partial Hospitalization Programs
Partial hospitalization programs are a hybrid
between inpatient and outpatient programs. They involve spending part of the
day at the hospital facilities. Patients are allowed to go home or to a sober
There will be some patients for whom partial
hospitalization is not a good option. This includes patients that will be going
back to environments in which the temptation for using is very high.
Daily structure is provided for PHP patients
who are required to be at the hospital from 9am to 4pm for groups and sessions.
Off hours, the patient will be required to abstain from drugs and alcohol and
are likely to be tested frequently for relapse.
Intensive Outpatient Programs
IOP programs are designed for those that can
provide their own structure. They’re ideally suited to patients with a strong
support structure, are highly motivated to remain clean and sober, and don’t
need the medical support that PHP or RTC provides. These programs offer daytime
and evening meetings designed to fit around the patient’s schedule.
Which Treatment Option is Best?
This depends entirely on the individual
patient. Most patients have gotten used to a lifestyle that includes excessive
drugs and alcohol and this has resulted in their lives becoming unmanageable.
For a patient who has a solid support structure and whose home environment
provides them with a drug free environment, IOP or PHP are going to be suitable
options. Most patients end up needing the intensive care that RTC provides, but
each patient’s needs are different.
Continuing Care After Rehab has
Relapses happen in large number of cases. This
is because patients who have fully recovered from their drug treatment start to
build normal lives again. They’re surrounded by people they care about. They’re
working. Things are going well for them. They then think that because they’re
doing well they can go back to partying and that it won’t get out of control
like it did the last time. Suddenly, their work gets sloppy and they lose their
job. Their relationships fall apart because managing their addiction becomes
more important to them, and they’re right back where they started.
Outpatient treatment does the best it can in
terms of managing co-occurring mental health problems and tox screening those
as a condition of treatment, but it takes a real commitment on behalf of the
individual patient to maintain their sobriety. Absent that, it doesn’t work at
Therapies for Recovering Addicts
For most recovering addicts Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is
extremely helpful for staying focused on their sobriety and establishing goals
for the future. The ultimate goal is to change patterns of thinking that have
led to self-destructive behavior in the past. Cognitive behavioral theory holds
that our thoughts influence our actions and behavior. By controlling and
directing our thoughts, we can more successfully manage our behavior.
For recovering addicts, this means identifying
their triggers to use drugs or alcohol, and avoiding situations that may cause
a relapse. But further, it also involves changing the meaning that we give to
certain stressful events that may cause those in recovery to relapse. Since on
a long enough time scale, stress is unavoidable, recovering addicts are taught
ways to manage stress in a healthy way.
Twelve Step Programs
Many people in recovery find 12 step programs
to be immensely helpful. This is largely because they provide a support
structure for those that have none and those that need to be able to discuss
the issues relevant to recovering addicts with those that understand and have
gone through the process.
Sober Living Environments
For those that are in a difficult situation
concerning their housing, there are a number of options that the State of
Georgia and Carroll County provide for those that need a place to stay while
they rebuild their lives. These include transitional living services where
former patients can live with roommates who are also going through roughly the
same circumstances they are.
This type of living arrangement provides
medical and psychiatric services as well as career counseling and other avenues
toward rebuilding a person’s life.
Moving Forward with a Sober Life
Boredom, loneliness, and hopelessness are
three major roadblocks that recovering addicts face. It is thus imperative that
they have a community of people around that understand what they’re going
through because they’ve been there before. They need the structure and support
of those who care about them and medial staff that can help them manage the
other obstacles they face on the road to recovery.
If you or someone you love is in the thrall of
drug addiction, help is out there and recovery is possible. Reaching out is the
first step toward a brighter future.