Community should focus on aftercare for drug addiction

The crisis is addiction. Everyone has an opinion, but is it the right one? Currently we are in the process of trying to find a solution to a Goliath.

Do we provide a local in-patient drug addiction facility to address this problem? It is a well-known fact that just detoxifying a patient from drugs does not work. More than 99 percent of addicted people return to drugs without aftercare tailored to their personal needs. We have Tara treatment center and Fairbanks inpatient drug treatment centers that are excellent at doing drug detoxification, so there is no need to reinvent the wheel. Let them do their job.

We need to do our job by arranging excellent aftercare for those treated and for those who do not need such intensive care to get off drugs. It is very easy to get a person off drugs; the challenge is staying off. Addiction is a chronic relapsing disease, and we need to start seeing it as a long-term treatment and not just a quick fix. So, let us step back and see if we can modify the resources we already have in the community to let every dollar stretch to accomplish our goals.

We need to:

  • Develop a holistic approach in aftercare
  • Provide housing for women and children who need an environment that are not surrounded by drug use
  • Get social services involved in helping people with job training and finding jobs for both men and women
  • Provide transportation to those jobs because many of the people who have used drugs have had their driver’s license suspended
  • Have services available that will fit people’s work schedule — early morning, afternoon and evening
  • Provide counseling immediately and affordably

People who are ready for change are ready now — not a week or a month later. Our current system is not built to meet the patients’ needs by having them wait at the center for several hours, then fill out forms, then be scheduled at a later date to go over the forms and then another date to actually to see a therapist.

We can stretch our resources by having an intake person assess the patient’s needs and coordinate that person into different types of group sessions that are specific for the patient. This process allows the patient to start quickly into the recovery process.

Group courses could consist of:

  • An online 12-step facilitation course with a therapist present who will have group discussions about a section before and after they complete the section
  • Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) to learn about triggers for relapse and coping mechanism to deal with craving, and understanding the causes for stress and how to improve the situation
  • Relaxation techniques — mindfulness by staying in the moment, yoga for stress management.
  • Individual therapy for those who have problems with severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or social anxiety that is preventing them from group involvement

We need to build the person back together brick by brick. First, by addressing the immediate needs of the person (job, transportation, safe place to live), then move onto learning relaxation techniques (mindfulness) to help cope with stress, and then into cognitive behavior therapy that helps a person analyze a situation so they are no longer reacting to a situation without thinking, but are responding to the situation that will lead to a better outcome.

We need physicians and nurse practitioners who are skilled at diagnosing and treating addiction. But more importantly, we need to be able to diagnose the disease before it becomes a problem. We need to start early detection screening in doctors offices, school programs to help children at risk and get funding to assist with these changes.

Once addiction occurs, we have to teach them how to be whole again without the need for drugs. We need to become a restorer to those who are lost. Let us also be a preventer to those at risk.

Dr. Theodora Saddoris is an internal medicine specialist in Columbus who also has been treating addiction locally since 2014.