man walking along railroad thinking about Alaska addiction treatment

What Are The Causes of Alaska Addiction?

When seeking to help those who suffer from substance use disorder, any treatment is better than no treatment. Unfortunately, while many Alaska addiction treatment centers provide thorough care, some fail to see the importance of treating the underlying causes of addiction rather than the symptoms alone. This makes it more difficult to provide keen insight into the patient’s ongoing needs when recommending a relapse prevention plan.

To better understand the need for solution-based treatment that focuses on the underlying causes, it helps to gain an understanding of the causes themselves. Some of the most common include:

  • Early introduction to drugs and alcohol
  • Co-occurring mental and emotional disorders
  • Various forms of abuse and trauma

Well-educated clinicians will slightly alter each patient’s treatment plan to reflect the causes of their substance use. Those searching for Alaska addiction treatment will want to know which causes pertain to their own situation, and how this will affect their care as they seek recovery from chemical dependence.

Early Introduction to Drugs and Alcohol

Many chronic substance users begin at an early age. Some encounter their first exposure to drugs or alcohol as a result of substance misuse by a household family member. Others experience peer pressure from friends and classmates. Regardless of the source, chronic substance use at an early age has a much stronger effect on neural development, making it more difficult to overcome mental urges and physical cravings.

Early onset alcoholism occurs slightly less often than illicit drug use. According to a 2015 behavioral health barometer by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 9.3% of Alaskans between the ages of 12 and 17 begin binge drinking every year. Compare this to the 9.8% of Alaskan adolescents aged 12-17 who begin using illicit drugs, along with another 4.5% who use prescription pills for recreational purposes. While the numbers pertaining to alcohol and illicit substances are close, they subvert expectations due to a more common tendency for adolescent substance use to revolve around alcohol rather than illicit drugs.

The most troublesome aspect of early exposure to substance use is the lack of risk perception. Approximately 2 out of 3 adolescents in Alaska perceive no risk from heavy drinking. Even fewer perceive there to be any risk in illicit substance use, although it should be noted that SAMHSA’s survey only asked about their perceptions of using once per month. In spite of this caveat, there remains evidence that adolescents exposed to addictive substances in Alaska are less likely to recognize the dangers of regular use. This makes them less likely to seek an Alaska addiction treatment program, as their denial of the need for treatment will often be much greater.

Co-Occurring Mental Disorders

There exists some overlap between early initiation of substance use and comorbid mental health issues. According to SAMHSA, approximately 9.9% of Alaska adolescents suffer major depressive episodes, more than half of which go untreated. In addition to the 6,000 adolescents in this category, around 20,000 Alaska adults suffer from serious mental illness. Forms of illness often co-occurring with substance use disorder may include:

  • Persistent depressive disorder
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Schizoaffective disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder

Even more adults (approximately 22,000) experience thoughts of suicide. Despite these major issues, only 35.8% of Alaskan adults with mental illnesses receive treatment. Additionally, nearly 90% of substance dependents receive no treatment for their addictions.

Alaska addiction treatment programs must account for these gaps by ensuring their patients receive quality mental health treatment. Failure to treat co-occurring disorders alongside substance use disorder greatly raises the chances that patients will continue self-medicating. This leads to a perpetuation of statistics such as those above, resulting in a cycle of destructive mental health issues that Alaska addiction treatment programs could have easily arrested had they paid more careful attention to the underlying causes of their patients’ addictions.

Various Forms of Abuse and Trauma

An unnerving number of substance dependents begin using to overcome the pain of abuse and trauma. This can take several forms, including:

  • Childhood abuse
  • Domestic violence
  • Sexual assault
  • Traumatic injury
  • Military-related stress

Childhood abuse is of particular concern for Alaska addiction treatment programs, given the data presented in a 2013 report by the Alaska Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS). According to BRFSS findings, more than 50% of Alaskan adults suffered adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). While as few as two or more ACEs are enough to influence later substance dependence, more than 10% of Alaskans suffered at least five or more. This includes all instances of physical, sexual or emotional abuse, as well as physical or emotional neglect. Also included on the list of ACEs are exposure to intimate partner violence, spousal separation, parental incarceration, and exposure to mental illness or substance misuse by a member of the household.

Domestic violence and sexual assault account for a great deal of Alaskan trauma as well. The most recent victimization survey by the Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault indicates that approximately 50 out of every 100 Alaskan women have suffered intimate partner violence, sexual violence, or both. While their 2016 census reports a 74% response rate by domestic violence programs, this still leaves 26% of female victims with unmet needs. Their figures do not account for the number of victims who have turned to substance misuse as an emotional painkiller, but anecdotal evidence suggests the number to be high.

Many other forms of trauma are not as well-documented, but past studies show that PTSD can range as high as between 24% and 54% among those who have suffered traumatic injuries or experiences. This includes victims of crime, victims of traumatic accidents, and military personnel. Individuals vary in perceptibility to PTSD, and not all will meet the diagnostic criteria. For instance, anywhere from 5% to 25% of military personnel deployed in combat may suffer PTSD, while even 3-6% of personnel with no deployment experience whatsoever may suffer similar symptoms according to US Army data.

Due to the wide variety of traumatic instances and related symptoms, Alaska addiction treatment programs must provide highly individualized care for those with troubled pasts.

Treating the Underlying Causes

While Alaska addiction treatment programs are limited in number, those seeking help for their addiction and its underlying causes will want a program that offers dual diagnosis rehab. This form of care prioritizes substance use disorder and co-occurring mental health issues equally, recognizing the need to provide simultaneous relief from all mental illnesses if patients are to achieve long-term recovery.

The only drawback is that Alaska addiction treatment centers offering dual diagnosis care are often forced to waitlist their clientele due to high demand. Those unable to seek treatment immediately are more likely to change their minds, or even risk loss of life if they continue using. Given the serious and urgent nature of substance addiction, those who suffer must seek treatment that is readily available.

For this reason, many people in need of Alaska addiction treatment will actually seek help elsewhere. By choosing a larger facility in another state such as California or Washington, they ensure a swift admissions process so that they may begin their recovery immediately. Furthermore, addicts and alcoholics are often triggered by memories of using. By leaving Alaska—their “ground zero,” so to speak—they open themselves to new experiences rooted solely in recovery.

An Aspire Health Network facility, such as Aspire Treatment Center in Huntington Beach, can provide just the sort of treatment that Alaskan substance users need. Our luxury facilities offer intensive clinical care alongside holistic treatments that help ease the symptoms of underlying mental issues. Furthermore, our therapists are highly trained and can help those exposed to substance use at an early age to break down their rock-hard denial and benefit from a simpler way of life.

If you identify with any of the underlying causes discussed above, or know someone who might, it is imperative that you seek assistance at the earliest available opportunity. Aspire’s professionals will help you look past the symptoms and treat the causes underneath as you seek long-term recovery from mental anguish.