Published in the Nacogdoches Daily Sentinel on August 8, 2016
By Sherry Daniel, Contributing Writer
Thousands of suffering addicts in Deep East Texas now have more options to request help with substance abuse disorders. ADAC, Alcohol & Drug Abuse Council of Deep East Texas, is working in conjunction with Burke, “to assess, support and arrange treatment for recovery from drug and alcohol problems,” according to ADAC counselor Brooke Phillips.
While heroin sends more users to local emergency rooms, police say methamphetamine holds the top spot as the most abused chemical in the area.
Nacogdoches Police Sgt. Greg Sowell places “crack,” another powerful stimulant, in the second position. Alcohol is an ever-present chemical of abuse. Estimates show that 182 people will be arrested for drug charges and 138 will be caught driving under the influence this year in Nacogdoches.
When drug abuse shows up in the hospital, it comes as overdoses, auto accidents, drug-related disorders or poisoning. Xanax, Oxycontin, cocaine, Percocet, Lortab, Vicodin, methamphetamine, and ecstasy were some of the catalysts for local emergency room visits. With few local treatment options, hospitals stabilize patients and release them.
ADAC and Burke have brought in social workers to address the needs of Burke patients dealing with the “dual disorder” of mental illness along with a chemical abuse issue. Placement in either inpatient or outpatient treatment centers is one option being used. Fees are on a sliding scale using insurance along with state funds to cover the costs.
Many addicts end up losing spouses, jobs, belongings, transportation, freedom and finally life.
Trying to intervene with an active user is a difficult process that often requires professional help. Once a chemical has taken over a person, it is almost impossible to overcome addiction without assistance. Fear of withdrawal keeps addicts locked into using with chemical hooks that are stronger than willpower.
Self-control and addiction occur in different areas of the brain. The mesolimbic dopamine system is the area responsible for addiction. This sector of the human brain is not controlled by the conscious mind so self-control has little to do with staying clean. Addiction cannot be consciously controlled with desire. Habits can. It is a disease and must be treated as one.
The program of AA, Alcoholics Anonymous, has permeated addiction/alcoholism treatment since its inception in 1939. Nacogdoches has multiple AA meetings at two different locations. This group is well known for its selfless service to the “alcoholic that still suffers.” NA, Narcotics Anonymous, is a splinter group designed for those dealing with drug abuse of any type. Both post meeting places and times online.
Prescription drugs have entered the arena of abuse within the past decade. They are responsible for more drug-related deaths in the U.S. than all other legal drugs combined. Many addicts begin use with a legitimate injury, get hooked and can’t figure out how to end the abuse. Addiction causes a disconnection to everything until the chemical is consumed.
Alcoholism is a life-long disorder. Total abstinence must be obtained or the process of “kindling” will occur with each relapse and causes extensive damage to the drinker. Talk therapy, drugs such as Antabuse that causes a violent reaction when mixed with alcohol and working the 12 Steps through the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous are some ways that addiction has been treated. Opiate addicts turn to Suboxone and Methadone to move away from active use with MAT-medically assisted therapy.
Chemicals like drugs and alcohol disproportionately stimulate the pleasure sensors in the brain. Daily happiness that healthy people experience disappears when the chemical hooks of addiction take hold. The brain’s memory of “synthetic euphoria” never goes away. For an addict, pain can be replaced by “bliss” with use. Given the right amount of distress, many addicts relapse and are 5000 times more likely to commit suicide.
The city of Grapevine is the first in the Lone Star State to test a new program that allows an addict to choose to go into the hospital or a rehabilitation facility in lieu of arrest. This type of decriminalization has been so successful in Portugal that addiction rates have been cut in half there. The country began its program about 15 years ago. Here in the U.S., the Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative, PAARI, is underway with results pending.
With drug-related crimes sending half of our prison population into the cells, this program could drastically reduce the growth of our human-caging system as well. To the Grapevine police, addicts are not criminals, they are sick. This prompted the police department to participate in the new program as an alternate way to address the addiction epidemic.
For an evaluation, Burke Mental Health services can be reached at 936-634-5010. Counselor Brooke Phillips, LCDC, is available at 936-634-5753, through ADAC.
Sherry Daniel is a freelance writer based in Nacogdoches.