Below are questions submitted at the September 26, 2017 forum with answers from community experts.
Q: In a world where everyone drinks and drunkenness is normalized, how can I talk to my family about their alcoholism to make them understand it is a real issue, not just a ‘good time’?”
Treatment specialists recommend using real life stories is a good method of starting a conversation about alcoholism and how it effects life (yours and others). No Longer Bound has stories of people who graduated from their treatment program. Here is the link: https://nolongerbound.com/about/success-stories/
Law enforcement officers recommend honest and open lines of communication between parents and children. “My daughter for instance is 14,” one says. “She is in all advanced placement and honors classes and plays volleyball for her high school and a traveling team which competes in the off season nationally. A few months ago I learned that the boy she was seeing was heavy into drugs and had been since age 11. My daughter lives with her mom and I don’t see her near as often as I like. The day I found out about this she was coming over to my house for the weekend. As uncomfortable as it was, I made her mother aware of the situation and confronted my daughter. It was not a pleasant weekend. She assured me that she did not drink and had not ever used drugs. I wanted to believe her. I explained that with all she has going for her if she was in the wrong place at the wrong time, even if she wasn’t doing drugs or using alcohol, if law enforcement were to get involved, she might catch a criminal charge and that would or could change her life forever. I vowed to her that if she ever found herself in a place or a situation and she needed a ride home, I would be available 24/7. There might be consequences later but I would do what I needed to do to make sure she was safe. She soon after broke up with the boy. Like I said, that weekend was very tense and not much fun, but I’d rather have a tense weekend than a dead child.”
Treatment and Crisis Intervention Specialist: Family are the ideal people to speak up if they feel that the loved one has a problem. It does not always have the immediate results that most people would like, but it does impact the individual. The elevator stops at every floor. Some people enter recovery due to legal or health issues, but many enter recovery due to family concern. However, the person must want recovery for themselves or it has a high failure rate. How do we get the person to want that? That is a question with hundreds of answers. It depends on the individual person and their positive or negative life experiences. So, I guess the short answer is yes the family should voice their concerns. This can be done with a professional or if the family is able to do it with love, in the home.
Addictions Specialist: I feel that this is a prevention and awareness issue. Educating people to understand Alcohol is a drug. 2.5 million die from harmful use of alcohol each year worldwide, the World Health Organization (WHO). Alcohol is a 475 billion dollar industry in the U.S. Information is available online, through government agencies, Al-Anon etc…
Prevention Specialist: Center Point has some great resources for parents on their web site.
• As to prevention, communicating with teens is sometimes difficult. To help with this some ideas for conversation starters, visit http://centerpointga.org/prevention/substance-abuse/conversation-starters
• And to help understand the legal consequences, visit: http://centerpointga.org/prevention/substance-abuse/drugs-and-the-law/
• In addition, you can also find more information about Georgia laws and a downloadable booklet: http://centerpointga.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Drugs-and-the-Law-Booklet_v9_DBHDD.pdf
Q: Of the overdoses in Gainesville, where are they happening? Homes, street, cars, parks?
Treatment Specialist: From most of the people I have worked with here, overdoses tend to happen more at homes, either the individual’s home or someone else’s (house parties).
Law enforcement: To my knowledge, most overdoses occur in residences.
Treatment and Crisis Intervention Specialist: The Mobile Crisis teams are dispatched out to individuals that are having a crisis. This is often times substance related. However, if the person is in active withdrawals or is overdosing, an active rescue is requested. I can tell you that MCT sees this problem widespread across all socio-economic populations. There is no age, sex, race, culture that is immune from this problem.
Addiction Specialist: Our Community of men (in recovery) report mostly in the homes.
Q: I would like to see legislation to stop the sale of 1) drug paraphernalia (drug related objects), cleansers that clean urine samples to trick drug screens. If gas stations sell these items, they should lose their liquor license.
Treatment Specialist: I agree.
Law enforcement: The issue with the sales of drug paraphernalia is tricky and frustrating. It’s the way in which the products are marketed, for instance: a marijuana “bong” is sold as a tobacco pipe, a set of digital scales is sold as scales to weigh food or postage stamps, packaging materials are sold as jewelry or bead baggies. Everyone knows what the intended use of these items are; however, without specific verbiage admitting the same from the seller, it is very difficult to make a criminal charge which will stand a successful prosecution. Specific legislation like what was done with synthetic cannabinoids would be helpful.
Treatment and Crisis Intervention Specialist: I agree, and I personally am going to be more aware, and I will not go to the stores that sell such items.
Addiction Specialist: I agree, the exposure it does to children and conditioning them to see it does the same damage that normalizing drinking does.
Q: Do you think people/children/teens are different in some way now or other factors are the cause of increased drug use?
Treatment Specialist: I’m not sure if people have changed but maybe our view of drugs have changed. Use is in all types of media (TV, Movies, Music), Social media, and in the news, I believe we get desensitized to drugs and in some areas, it’s considered as normal. Some drugs, due to popular opinion, are viewed as less harmful and fun so when the opportunity arises, people try them out of curiosity. I think more people are trying them out of curiosity. Depending on the effects and their surroundings, they may continue to use them.
Law enforcement: Personally, I think that the decriminalization of marijuana added to the public’s general acceptance of the drug has contributed greatly to the problem with regards to younger children using marijuana, alcohol, tobacco, and Rx medications.
Parent of an Addict and Alcoholic: People, Families and the environment are all different because of many changes – the most drastic being technology- the net and social media. I think drug use starts at younger ages now because of those many environmental changes, along with the Phenomenon of Helicopter Parenting. When you do everything for your child – enable them – you send them the message that they are not capable of doing things for themselves. You leave them unprepared and you get in their way. If you are more concerned about them liking you, being the cool parent, you smother them and they never learn to accept and cope with failure, they don’t learn how to become capable, they feel worthless so they use to feel something, or get away from feelings of shame and worthlessness. That is a simplistic answer. That is only one small part of the answer. The solutions must come from many directions.
Treatment and Crisis Intervention Specialist: I believe that we live in a very different world now. Social media, 24 hour news, heightened crime, working parents; all this contributes to the children being raised in a different environment than the one that I grew up. I also believe that our children are maturating physically much faster than in the past. Hormonal changes have always been an issue in adolescence, but now it is emerging in the tween population. There are such pressures on teens and we are seeing an increase in drug use and also an increase in suicidal thoughts and actions. That is what concerns me the most.
Addiction Specialist: I do not think people have changed as much as I feel the problem is availability. I think the solution is prevention, education and treatment.
Q: What can community leaders be doing to raise awareness of addiction? How do we get involved in the change that needs to take place?
Treatment Specialist: Support and provide easier access to services that address addiction. Continue the conversation; expand prevention activities, make access to drugs more difficult, and make the consequences more serious.
Law enforcement: I think the community is definitely on the right track regarding raising awareness of addiction. I was so impressed with that first forum! Such a powerful message and a wonderful turnout. Like I said before in my own personal situation, do not hesitate. At the first sign of an issue, talk about it. That’s how we get involve with a change that needs to take place. Turning a blind eye and hoping for the best is not realistic and in the meantime a loved one might end up dead.
Treatment and Crisis Intervention Specialist: It used to take a village to raise a child. Now they are raised in silos. We need, as a community, to embrace these families that are struggling to balance jobs, children, and life and offer them support, education and love. I believe that this committee and others like it are doing a wonderful job of raising awareness to the English speaking population. I think that we need to expand and to offer it to other populations also. Gainesville has other cultures that need to be able to contribute to this solution. I would like to hear their ideas.
Addiction Specialist: I think they can do what we are doing now. I think stronger consequences at younger ages would help. The majority of men here in treatment started using preteen. Even if consequences meant treatment or education.
Q: If in a crisis, what is the normal time someone has to wait to get into in-patient? And how long do people stay in treatment?
Treatment Specialist: If people call the Georgia Crisis and Access Line, they can be connected to an inpatient facility immediately. 1-800-715-4225.
Parent of an Addict and Alcoholic: On one of my son’s six inpatient stays over a period of 8 years, prior to going to treatment, he needed medical detox from Vodka. I took him, at his request, to the ER, they questioned him – he was 18 at the time – they did not question me. They escorted me out. They sent him from the ER to 6 days for detox. The discharge did not include any plan at all. They put him out, he got in my car, It was my problem from there. The next 2 days were from hell. He was not safe and I had no leverage or control. It’s a wonder we all lived through it. If we had not had a lot of cash to spend on the next step he would probably be dead by now. We were fortunate.
Treatment and Crisis Intervention Specialist: In a crisis situation, if the individual is assessed and it is determined that they need inpatient treatment, they are usually able to get into treatment within 72 hours depending on bed availability. Inpatient hospitalization for substance abuse is simply to get the person medically stable. If they are going to require residential treatment, that might take time and effort to find a program that fits the person’s needs. Some places accept insurances and some don’t. Some are for 30 days, some three, six, or nine months. Some allow the individual to work while in treatment; others do not. It is tricky getting a good fit.
Addiction Specialist: If we are talking duration of stay-30 to 90 days you should be able to find treatment immediately. The Georgia Council on Substance Abuse (GCSA), in partnership with the Northeast Georgia Health System (NGHS), is launching a program to provide peer support in all three emergency departments for individuals who have experienced an opioid overdose or other issues related to harmful use or substance use disorders. This program will be staffed by Certified Addiction Recovery Empowerment Specialists (CARES). GCSA is the founder and Administrator of the CARES training program through a contract with Georgia’s Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities. DBHDD is providing the funding for this program through the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) disbursement of “21st Century Cures Act” funds.CARES will help provide support in Northeast Georgia emergency rooms to those who have survived an opiate overdose through listening and answering questions patients may have about recovery supports or treatment options. CARES will also be providing information to family members about the inherent dangers of opioid addiction and how the timely administration of naloxone can save lives.