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Addiction In Alaska: The Facts

According to the 2016 Annual Drug Report provided by the Alaska State Troopers Statewide Drug Enforcement Unit, the state has a multi-faceted addiction problem. Many people who use substances use more than one and sometimes use multiple drugs simultaneously. The most frequently used substances in the state include alcohol, heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, prescription drugs, and marijuana.

Alaska Alcohol Use And Fatalities

The 2016 Annual Drug Report revealed that alcohol, by far, is the most used substance in Alaska. Alcohol-related fatalities accounted for 21.7 per 100,000 deaths in 2015. Alcohol is also a major contributing factor in the violent crimes, suicide and accidental deaths of Alaskans.

Illicit Drug Use In Alaska

A 2016 report released by the McDowell Group revealed that approximately 13 percent of Alaskans reported using illicit drugs in the past month. Twelve percent of Alaskans used marijuana, and 4 percent used other illicit drugs. About 4 percent of Alaskans age 12 and older reported using prescription pain relievers for non-medical purposes. Overall, nearly 63,000 adults in Alaska needed treatment for a substance use disorder.

Heroin And Opioid Use And Fatalities

As the rates of heroin use have risen throughout the United States, officials in Alaska have noted similar increases. Between 2009 and 2015, deaths related to heroin use more than quadrupled. Of the 128 drug overdose deaths that occurred in Alaska in 2016, 74 percent involved a type of opioid—including prescription painkillers, heroin, and others—and 38 percent involved heroin specifically.

Methamphetamines And Crime

Despite opioids and heroin accounting for a large portion of drug overdose deaths in Alaska, methamphetamines appear to be a major contributor to violent crime. These rates are similar to national statistics as well. Methamphetamine contributes to approximately 33.7 percent of violent crime in America, according to the 2016 National Drug Threat Survey.

The Economic Cost Of Addiction In Alaska

The McDowell Group estimated that the economic cost of substance use and addiction in Alaska amounted to $1.22 billion in 2015 alone. This estimate includes costs related to loss of productivity, traffic collisions, criminal justice and protective services, healthcare, public assistance and social services.

What’s Being Done To Reduce Addiction In Alaska?

As with the United States as a whole, Alaska law enforcement, and public health officials are working to help control the state’s substance use problem, particularly the growing heroin epidemic.

To address the prevalence of opioid and heroin use in Alaska, the state created the Alaska Opioid Policy Task Force. The task force hopes to limit opioid use with a three-fold plan that includes the following objectives:

  1. Prevent dependence on opioid drugs by providing more education about the effects of these drugs and the risks of using them.
  2. Reduce addiction rates by recognizing and treating the disorder. This goal focuses on early intervention and promotion of effective treatment in Alaska inpatient drug rehab centers.
  3. Reverse the effects of an opioid overdose by helping Alaskans to identify the signs of overdose and by equipping emergency medical personnel and first responders to use life-saving overdose-reversal drugs like naloxone.

Alaska Addiction Treatment

While Alaskans may be aware of the problem of addiction in the state, many may not know how to get help. The road to long-lasting recovery starts with seeking out professional, high-quality addiction treatment. Substance use treatment from a qualified Alaska inpatient drug rehab center greatly increases the odds that a person struggling with addiction will stop using and improve their lifestyle and well-being.

What To Look For In An Alaska Drug And Alcohol Treatment Program

To help combat addiction rates throughout the state, the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services Division of Behavioral Health works to increase awareness and educate the public about the realities of substance use and addiction in Alaska. This department provides a range of information, including explaining the risks of using both illicit and prescription drugs, outlining the different types of evidence-based addiction treatment and helping people locate appropriate treatment centers.

Some key principles to consider when evaluating Alaska addiction treatment programs include:

  • There is no one-size-fits-all approach to treating substance use. It’s crucial that a rehab program aligns with a person’s unique needs and situation, including any financial or legal considerations.
  • The best addiction treatment in Alaska focuses on treating the whole person by addressing their emotional, physical, social and vocational needs and not just the substance use. When the underlying issues that contributed to the addiction are addressed, the risk of relapse decreases.
  • A person must remain in treatment for a sufficient period of time to truly reap the benefits. For instance, most treatment programs last for at least three months to meet the individual’s ongoing needs, from detoxification to inpatient drug rehab and aftercare. Failure to complete a program increases the risk of relapse after treatment.
  • The treatment plan must be regularly re-assessed and modified as needed to meet each person’s changing needs and address issues as they arise.

Types Of Substance Use Programs In Alaska

Intervention Services

Sometimes, the individual suffering from a substance use disorder may be in denial about their problem. In such cases, loved ones can seek the services of professional interventionists to help facilitate a discussion with the person. Interventions are carefully planned and carried out with the help of an interventionist who guides loved ones in sharing their concerns and convincing the person to go into a treatment program.

Detox Treatment

Detoxification is merely the first stage of substance use treatment. The detox process helps the person struggling with active alcohol or drug addiction to safely get sober by managing the symptoms of withdrawal they may experience. Some detox programs are incorporated into Alaska inpatient drug rehab programs, so the person receives medically supervised detox services at the beginning of their residential stay.

Residential Inpatient Treatment

One of the most effective methods to treat addiction in the state is through therapies offered at Alaska inpatient drug rehab facilities. For unique or severe cases of addiction, inpatient drug rehab services may be delivered in a hospital setting. More commonly, treatment is provided in homelike residential environments with short-term and long-term program lengths. An inpatient drug rehab program in Alaska may last anywhere from six weeks to six months or longer, depending on the needs of the individual.

Outpatient Programs

Individuals who are experiencing a substance use disorder in Alaska may also receive treatment on an outpatient basis, visiting a treatment facility during the day and returning home in the evenings. Such programs offer education, medications, and counseling in individual or group settings. Many outpatient programs include intensive day treatment services as well, offering a higher level of care for those who need more intense relapse-prevention support.

Types Of Addiction Treatment Therapies In Alaska

A wide variety of therapies are offered in Alaska drug rehab programs. Some substance addictions are more responsive to certain therapies than to others. Many people who struggle with addiction in Alaska also have psychiatric disorders that require adequate and simultaneous treatment—a circumstance referred to clinically as co-occurring disorders.

Common substance use treatment approaches used in Alaska include the following:

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

One highly effective way of combating addiction in Alaska, particularly for heroin and other opioids, is through the use of medication-assisted treatment. This approach combines the use of FDA-approved medications with behavioral therapies to holistically address all aspects of a substance use disorder. Medication-assisted treatment is also useful in the treatment of alcoholism, which is yet another problem affecting people in Alaska.

MAT helps to prevent withdrawal symptoms and decrease cravings as a person’s body and mind adjust to sobriety. These medications also help the brain return to normal functioning after addiction, which ultimately helps prevent relapse.

Medication-assisted treatment is facilitated by a team of addiction specialists at Alaska inpatient drug rehab centers, or it can be offered on an outpatient basis. A person may continue MAT for months or even years after becoming sober. Noteworthy drugs used in MAT for opioid addiction include methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone.

Counseling And Behavioral Therapies

A range of traditional counseling approaches is available to help a person build motivation to remain in treatment, address the underlying issues contributing to the substance use and develop effective coping skills to deal with life stress.

Two of the most effective and widely used approaches are:

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT focuses on teaching those who are experiencing active addiction to identify and change negative thought processes and behaviors that contribute to the addiction. Cognitive-behavioral therapy has proven to be effective in assisting those who struggle with alcohol, marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine addictions.

Contingency Management

Contingency management, or incentive-based intervention, help people stay committed to their addiction treatment programs and encourage abstinence from drugs and alcohol. This type of treatment works by rewarding positive behaviors, such as a negative drug screening, to help reinforce sobriety. CM is useful for addictions involving alcohol, stimulants, opioids, and marijuana.

These methods of addiction treatment may be provided to people in Alaska during residential inpatient treatment, in outpatient programs or through telemedicine.

Paying For Addiction Treatment In Alaska

Alaska features a wide range of substance use treatment programs for people of different ages, genders, and socioeconomic statuses. Depending on an individual’s financial circumstances, they can choose to pay for rehab privately, with an individual health insurance plan, through insurance providers like Medicaid or via employee-assistance programs. Some addiction treatment programs in Alaska offer scholarships or income-based pricing.

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Get Addiction Treatment Help In Alaska

People struggling with addiction in the state of Alaska can take the first step toward recovery by finding qualified substance use treatment at a trusted Alaska inpatient drug rehab facility. Although Alaska is geographically widespread, many treatment centers are available throughout the state to help those with substance use disorders.