Alaska is one of the states in America that struggle with a multi-faceted substance addiction problem. Most of the people who use substances usually abuse more than one substance. Sometimes, they abuse several drugs at the same time. The Alaska State Troopers’ Statewide Drug Enforcement Unit (SDEU) 2017 annual report indicated that alcohol, cocaine, heroin, marijuana, methamphetamine, and prescription drugs were the most commonly abused substances in the state. About 9.8% of adolescents in Alaska reported using illicit drugs. The problem is that only 11.8% of people in the state needing treatment for illicit drug use received any.
Facts about substance addiction in Alaska
For a very long time, alcohol has been the most abused substance in Alaska. Criminal enterprises used private aircraft, local air carriers, snow machines, and boats to traffic alcohol into Alaskan villages. Air taxis and the US Postal Service were also used by smugglers as unwitting carriers. The report by SDEU indicated that alcohol abuse had the highest death rates in the state and that it was, in fact, twice as deadly as the deaths from opioids and methamphetamine combined. Alcohol abuse was a prominent factor in suicide, accidental deaths, violence against persons, and made up for 18% of all criminal convictions between 2006 and 2016.
Besides alcohol treatment centers, Alaskan communities also passed local option ordinances in 2017 prohibiting the importation, sale, and/or possession of alcoholic beverages in 109 communities. 589 gallons of alcohol were seized in the same year and 335 arrests made.
The rate of heroin and other opioids abuse in the state has also significantly increased throughout the years. In 2017, 102 deaths in Alaska were as a result of the victims overdosing on opioids. Despite the high prices of heroin, especially in the remote areas of Alaska, its use still cuts across the soci0-economic boundaries in the communities. 7,061 grams of heroin were seized by the SDEU in 2017 and 149 arrests made.
Fentanyl is often used to increase the mass of other drugs such as heroin, increases the lethality of the drugs and plays a role in overdose deaths. Fentanyl metabolizes at a high rate and leads to higher consumption in order to maintain the desired effects.
The opioid epidemic also led to a surge in the use of methamphetamines. An average of 3.3% of high school students had used methamphetamines in Alaska, according to a Health Impacts of Methamphetamine Use in Alaska report in 2017. The use of methamphetamines has been associated with violent crimes. The report also says that the number of methamphetamines-related fatalities has significantly increased from 5 in 2008 to 65 in 2016. Out of the 65 deaths, 53 were as a result of an overdose.
The economic cost of substance abuse in Alaska
The substance abuse epidemic in Alaska has continued to cost the state heavily. It has led to increased rates of mortality and loss of productivity. It has also seen an increase in budgetary costs for public assistance, healthcare, social services, and criminal justice and protective services. There has also been a rising need to invest in rehab facilities in Alaska.
The leading causes of death in Alaska- unintentional injury, suicide, homicide, and chronic liver diseases- have been associated with substance abuse. Nearly one out of five injury patients who had been hospitalized in the state were associated with alcohol use.
Fighting substance abuse in Alaska
The government of Alaska has been at the forefront of the fight against substance abuse in the state. Besides involving public health officials to help control the growing drug problem, law enforcement agencies from both the state and federal governments have been brought in to help in dealing with drug dealers and distributors.
The state-funded Alaska Opioid Policy Taskforce was created to address the prevalent abuse of heroin and other opioids in Alaska. Their plan to reduce opioid abuse in the state included;
- Prevention: Educate the residents of Alaska on the risks and effects of abusing opioids in order to prevent dependence on opioid drugs.
- Reducing the rates of addiction: Focus on early intervention and promotion of effective treatment for opioid abuse patients. Alaska rehab facilities needed to be better equipped to recognize and treat opioid abuse disorders.
- Reversing the effects of opioid overdose: Focus on helping residents of Alaska to identify the signs of an overdose and respond appropriately to save lives. Rehabilitation facilities in Alaska also needed to be equipped with emergency medical personnel and overdose-reversal drugs such as naloxone.
Treatment of substance addiction in Alaska
The problem with substance addiction is that most victims don’t where and how to get help for their addiction. While there are many high-quality professional treatment centers in Alaska, patients can have a hard time choosing one to enroll in so as to improve their well-being. Some of the principles that a patient needs to evaluate Alaska rehabilitation centers include;
- How individualized the treatment program is and how it aligns with personal situations and needs.
- How wholesome the treatment is, including the underlying issues and risk of relapse, instead of just focusing on substance abuse treatment.
- The length of the treatment program.
- How regularly the Alaska treatment center reassesses and modifies their treatment plan to the changing needs of the patient.
Types of substance abuse programs in Alaska
There are a number of substance abuse programs available to help addicts recover from their addictions. These programs are as follows;
These are meant for patients who are in denial about their substance abuse disorder. For such patients, their loved ones usually enlist the help of an interventionist to discuss and convince the patient to enroll in Alaska drug rehab.
This is the first step to recovering from substance abuse. The detox program is intended to help the patient safely manage the withdrawal symptoms as they clear their body of the substance. Some rehabilitation facilities in Alaska have incorporated detox programs into their treatment programs.
Outpatient treatment programs
There are rehab centers in Alaska that offer treatment on an outpatient basis. The patient has to visit the facility on a schedule. Treatment for such programs usually includes medications, education, and counseling in an individual or group setting. Intensive day treatment services and care may be included for patients who need relapse-prevention support.
Residential inpatient treatment
To be able to offer effective therapies to patients, some Alaska rehab centers also have inpatient drug rehab facilities. The treatment is provided in a home-like residential environment. Depending on the needs of the patient, the program can last from six weeks up to even more than six months. Patients with severe addiction are usually treated in a hospital setting.
There are various types of therapies offered for drug rehab in Alaska to help deal with co-occurring disorders. Different therapies have varying levels of success for different types of substance addictions and patients are more responsive to certain therapies than to others. Some of the most common types of therapies are:
- Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT): This approach includes the use of medications together with behavioral therapies in order to holistically treat substance addiction. It is mostly used for opioid and alcohol addiction treatment. MAT helps in managing withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings for the drugs.
- Counseling and behavioral therapies: These are traditional counseling approaches that are aimed at helping the person address the underlying mental health problems, remain committed to the treatment program, and develop coping skills to avoid relapse once they get out of rehab. The most common behavioral therapies include Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Contingency Management.
Anyone struggling with substance abuse in Alaska can find help before it is too late. There is a wide range of programs in Alaska drug rehab centers suitable for different genders, ages, and socioeconomic status. Patients can pay for rehab privately, individual health insurance plans, or utilize federal and state insurance covers such as Medicare and Medicaid. Some rehabs in Alaska also offer income-based pricing and scholarships.
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- dps.alaska.gov – The Alaska State Troopers’ Statewide Drug Enforcement Unit
- samhsa.gov – The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
- .samhsa.gov – The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administratio
- drugabuse.gov – National Institute on Drug Abuse
- epi.alaska.gov – State of Alaska Epidemiology
- akleg.gov – The Alaska State Legislature
- dhss.alaska.gov – The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services