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Georgia has its own problems with substance use and addiction. It’s one of the top eleven states for prescription opioid overdose deaths. So, what are the main problems, and what’s being done to help those who develop a substance use disorder find the treatment they need?

The Cost of Substance Use

Beyond Georgia, drug and alcohol addiction affects millions of Americans. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, alcohol addiction costs the nation $249 billion each year, and illicit drugs cost another $193 billion. Prescription opioids, like Codeine or OxyContin, account for a loss of $78.5 billion.

But the individual cost can be far worse. Broken families, destroyed health, lost jobs and homelessness can all result from untreated chemical dependency.


According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 21.54 percent of Georgia residents reported that they binge drink regularly or had binged in the last month. Binge alcohol use is described as five drinks for men or four for women, at one time, at least once within the last 30 days.

Some people might think one binge a month is not a big deal, but it’s worth looking out for that friend who seems to have five or six drinks every night after work. This level of alcohol consumption may call for an intervention and compassionate addiction treatment options.


The Substance Use Research Alliance published a paper detailing some startling statistics about prescription and illicit opioid use in Georgia. 549 Georgia residents overdosed on opioids in 2015. In 29 of Georgia’s 159 counties, the opioid overdose rate outpaced that of the U.S. average.

Opioid use, including illicit opioids such as heroin, is on the rise. The SARA report described heroin use as an epidemic in Georgia, where the number of opioid-related deaths has increased tenfold over 15 years. To put this tragedy in perspective, in 2015, there were nearly as many drug overdose deaths as there were fatalities from motor vehicle accidents.

Between 2013 and 2015, after a nationwide crackdown on opioid-prescribing practices, people who were abusing prescription opioids started to switch to heroin. Heroin is cheaper, and now it’s easier to obtain than prescription opioids.

Georgia Addiction Prevention Programs

Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act

The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act was established in 2016 to address the opioid epidemic taking lives all across America. CARA focuses on prevention, treatment, recovery, law enforcement, criminal justice reform and overdose reversal.

Ultimately, this federal bill is in place to save lives. These goals are mainly achieved through education—not just of people who are experiencing addiction themselves, but of caregivers, parents and anyone involved in the rehabilitation process. It also involves collaborating with the criminal justice system to identify and treat incarcerated individuals who suffer from a substance use disorder.

CARA also includes a focus on increasing the options for disposal of unwanted medication and launching intervention programs, including improving monitoring of prescription drug programs.

Access to Treatment

To introduce CARA’s objectives to Georgia, caretakers, parents and first responders should have more readily available access to naloxone (Narcan). Naloxone is a medication that can temporarily reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, buying time to seek medical care for the patient and saving lives.

Many rural Georgia counties have little or no access to addiction treatment care. One of the most important recommendations of the report was that access to treatment needs to be improved. In Georgia, this includes withdrawal management, behavioral therapy, support services and medication where required.

Additionally, support is needed for families of those who develop substance use disorders. The impact on people who are close to someone who is suffering from an addiction can be severe. It can be frustrating and emotionally draining to watch someone battle a substance dependency. Family members often need therapeutic support as much as the addicted family member.

Georgia Addiction Treatment Programs

A variety of effective treatment options are available for those experiencing drug or alcohol addiction in the state of Georgia. Addiction treatment centers assess a client’s needs on an individual basis. A person may participate in one or all of the available levels of care, depending on the severity of their addiction and how they respond to treatment.

Addiction treatment program options include:

  • Drug and alcohol detoxification
  • Inpatient drug rehab
  • Outpatient addiction treatment
  • Aftercare and alumni support groups
  • Drug And Alcohol Detox In Georgia

The first step in breaking an addiction is to withhold the substance so the body can clear out all traces of drugs or alcohol. For most people suffering from a drug or alcohol addiction, this means being admitted to a medical detox program.

During detox, staff will monitor each client around the clock, ensuring they don’t develop complications from any withdrawal symptoms. If needed, medication may be provided to relieve or prevent withdrawal symptoms or to otherwise decrease discomfort during this time.

Withdrawal from chemical dependency affects everyone differently. Alcohol withdrawal may not be obvious at first, but after a few days, tremors known as delirium tremens may set in. With support, alcohol withdrawal symptoms may lessen after a week. Without support, the symptoms could continue for weeks.

Detox should not be attempted at home, as withdrawal symptoms can become life-threatening. A person may be tempted to return to substance use just to relieve their withdrawal symptoms. Going through withdrawal in a medically supported detox program is more likely to result in sobriety because the client is supported every step of the way.

Georgia Inpatient Drug Rehab

Once the body has gone through detox and is physically free of drugs and alcohol, inpatient drug rehab begins to train the mind for recovery. Residential addiction treatment focuses on making lasting behavioral changes to bring long-term sobriety. This may involve attending group meetings, one-on-one sessions with professionals and other support.
In an inpatient drug rehab program, clients attend counseling sessions and recovery activities during the day and reside on-site for the duration of treatment. This round-the-clock immersion in a recovery atmosphere helps to keep clients focused on sobriety and offers the support needed to stay committed to recovery at all times.

Georgia Outpatient Addiction Treatment

Georgia also offers outpatient addiction treatment programs. In an outpatient drug rehab program, the client may attend treatment up to five days a week but then returns home each night after treatment. This allows the individual to access the treatment they need while maintaining work and family obligations.

For clients stepping down from residential addiction treatment, outpatient treatment offers ongoing recovery support. This helps to prevent relapse while the client transitions from a fully supported inpatient environment to independent living.

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Addiction Treatment Therapies

Each person is unique in their needs, and not everyone will respond to therapy in the same way.

Therapies used in addiction treatment programs may include:

  • Individual and group counseling
  • Behavioral therapies, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy and dialectical behavior therapy
  • Complementary therapies, like yoga, acupuncture, meditation and journaling
  • Nutrition education and exercise programs
  • Family therapy

Length of Addiction Treatment Programs

How long an addiction treatment program lasts depends on the severity of the addiction and how the individual responds to treatment. In Georgia, there are detox treatment programs for heroin addiction, for example, that might take up to 10 days.

Detox is only the first step to recovery, however, and inpatient addiction treatment programs that follow may last 30 days, 90 days or longer. Longer programs help to support the individual while they learn relapse-prevention skills and behavioral changes that will reinforce long-term sobriety.

Outpatient programs can last six months to a year or longer, and many people in recovery participate in addiction treatment alumni groups for the rest of their lives.

Paying for Addiction Treatment In Georgia

Private medical insurance is the most common way to pay for addiction treatment in Georgia. Depending on the individual plan, some services may be covered and others may require a copay or other out-of-pocket expense.

Insurance providers offering medical coverage in the state of Georgia include:

  • Alliant
  • Ambetter from Peach State Health Plan
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia
  • Kaiser Permanente

Treatment centers will be able to verify benefits and determine what services are covered by a client’s insurance, as well as if any other costs will be incurred. Insurance providers may also cover the costs of treatment for mental health issues that are connected to chemical dependency.

Other ways to pay for addiction treatment include:

  • Self-pay with cash or credit cards
  • Medicare
  • Private medical loans
  • Government grants
  • Treatment scholarships
  • Payment plans established with the treatment provider
  • Sliding-scale fees based on income

Traveling For Addiction Treatment

Although there are some alarming statistics regarding drug and alcohol dependency in Georgia, there are many treatment options available in-state and out-of-state. When deciding where to seek treatment, remember that the addiction treatment center best-suited to meet a person’s unique needs might not be right around the corner.

The benefits of traveling for addiction treatment include:

  • Increased focus on therapy and improved commitment to treatment
  • Removal from environmental triggers that lead to cravings
  • Access to higher-quality care

Vertava Health offers effective, compassionate treatment in several states across the country, and we can help people find the care they need—wherever they are.