While alcoholism and drug addiction affect patients indiscriminately, some aspects of the sufferer’s condition may vary depending on certain environmental factors. Treatment programs must adapt to these variables in order to effectively provide a pathway to long-lasting recovery. Alaska addiction rehabilitation, for instance, must account for the state’s higher-than-average rates of substance dependency in addition to several legal and socioeconomic trends that have led to a state-wide impact on both users and their loved ones.
Alaska Addiction Statistics
In 2015, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration issued a survey on behavioral health issues in Alaska. The behavioral health barometer showed that, since 2010, rates of substance dependency in the state of Alaska have rivaled those of the United States as a whole. Rates of alcohol dependence fluctuated, although mostly remained steady at between 6.7% and 8.5% of Alaskans aged 12 or older. Only 10.6% of these individuals were shown to have received treatment.
Fewer individuals (approximately 19,000) showed signs of dependence on illicit drugs. Despite the lack of significant changes over the years in which the survey was issued, the report noted a slight rise in Alaska addiction rates beginning in 2013. Again, hardly more than 10% of those surveyed had received professional help to overcome their substance use.
A 2016 bulletin by the Department of Health and Social Services showed a considerable uptick in the rate of drug-related deaths, especially those concerning opioids. While yearly overdose deaths numbered as low as 76 between 2010 and 2014, the number of overdose deaths related to opioids alone rose to 95 by 2016. This accounts for nearly three quarters of all overdose deaths in Alaska for that year. Rates of heroin overdose in particular appeared to be on the rise, while the number of deaths resulting from prescription drugs fell slightly.
State-Wide Impact of Addiction in Alaska
The 2016 annual drug report issued by the Alaska State Troopers’ Statewide Drug Enforcement Unit (SDEU) showed that overdose rates did not necessarily reflect the most problematic Alaska addiction rates. The most widely abused substance in Alaska, alcohol, was found to be a primary factor in numerous violent crimes while accounting for a loss of approximately 23.4 years of life expectancy.
Heroin and methamphetamine rank among the most widely trafficked drugs in Alaska, and synthetic drugs such as spice and bath salts have become increasingly common. Synthetic marijuana in particular has resulted in an overwhelming number of emergency calls throughout the state, often as a result of violent behavior. Since the beginning of 2017, this problem has been especially pronounced among the state’s homeless population. These issues, as well as the growing availability of synthetic opioids such as fentanyl and carfentanil, have greatly impacted the resources of Alaska’s first responders.
The SDEU cites a 2017 economic report that estimates the state-wide cost of substance abuse in Alaska at around $3.1 billion. This accounts for numerous costs, including emergency services, hospitalization, legal proceedings and expenses relating to the incarceration of illicit drug users. Criminal justice costs alone are reported at $269.8 million per year. Based on Alaska’s population at the time of the report, Alaska addiction costs every Alaskan approximately $4,000 per year. Given the recent rise in overdose rates, Alaskans can expect this number to continue rising slightly every year the addiction problem remains unsolved.
Treating Substance Use in Alaska
It is often recommended that those who suffer from substance use disorder seek treatment away from their home environment, where they may encounter more frequent triggers to use. Alaskans who seek out-of-state care may choose to undergo treatment in an entirely different climate. For instance, Oceanview Treatment Center in California provides a full continuum of care in a sunny Orange County location. When not in therapy, patients may participate in outdoor activities such as paddle-boarding, allowing them to enjoy their recovery while improving their physical health.
Alaskans who wish to receive treatment without leaving the state they love can still seek help at a facility that balances a rigorous program of recovery with a number of recreational amenities. Naturally, the forms of recreation provided will differ greatly from those offered in Orange County, although they will allow Alaskan patients to regain touch with the activities they enjoyed prior to giving their lives over to substance abuse.
On the recovery side, a good treatment center will generally excel in the provision of dual diagnosis care. More than half of Alaskans suffer from untreated mental disorders, and these often play a role in substance abuse. Through methods such as cognitive behavioral therapy and various forms of holistic care, patients can treat their addiction and their other disorders simultaneously, learning new skills and thought processes that will help them to prevent re-occurring struggles with both.
Furthermore, a 2013 report by the Alaska Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System shows that well over half of Alaskan adults are survivors of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), with more than 10% of Alaskans experiencing five or more traumas prior to reaching adulthood. Given the frequent relationship between ACEs and substance abuse, there is a great need in the state of Alaska for detox treatment centers that provide trauma therapy and/or grief counseling.
The issues faced by Alaskans suffering from alcohol and drug addiction will vary. Alaskans must seek treatment at a center that provides a unique approach, one that will adjust their treatment plan to account for each patient’s needs. Whether in-state or out-of-state, seeking individualized care is one of the greatest ways to ensure a lasting recovery.