Rhode Island is currently ranked eighth among the top 10 states in the country cited as having the biggest drug problems. A dubious distinction, the report’s findings were based on the number of opioid prescriptions dispensed and filled, the rate of drug-related arrests, the rate of drug overdose deaths per capita, and the number of meth lab-related incidents in each state, among other things like drug-related health issues and rates of addiction across the state.
The report also included interviews with a range of experts on how best to manage different aspects of the problem, and it was clear that there was no simple solution. There are too many contributing factors, substances of all kinds coming from all points on the globe, and an intricate web of social factors and consequences that perpetuate the ongoing opioid addiction and overdose problem in Rhode Island and other states. Interviews with public health policy experts as well as experts in the fields of criminal justice, psychology, and medicine all took part, bringing unique perspectives on the many different ways in which drug abuse and addiction have impacted the country and the best ways to solve the issues.
Sharon Levy, MD, is the president of the Association for Medical Education and Research in Substance Abuse (AMERSA) and an associate professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. She emphasizes the need to destigmatize addiction in order to make it easier for people to get treatment when they need it most. She says: “Addiction is a chronic medical disorder in which patients lose control over drug use. It is a treatable condition.”
Whole Community Impact = Holistic Path Forward
Experts agree that there is no one single approach that will reverse the addiction epidemic. Rather, a multifaceted plan that addresses many different aspects of the problem will be most effective, one that takes into account all the different ways in which someone who is struggling with addiction is impacted as well as the issues that are driving the addiction. Depending on the area and the specifics of the situation for each person, a unique treatment plan must be created – one that may include:
- Medical detox during the first phase of treatment
- Medication-assisted treatment to assist people in staying sober as needed
- Mental health assessments to identify all co-occurring disorders
- Cognitive-behavioral therapies to address unhelpful perspectives and assumptions that may be driving the use of drugs and alcohol
- Treatment for trauma experienced prior to or during active addiction
- Alternative experiential therapies that provide different avenues of self-exploration and understanding
- Holistic treatments that help to manage cravings, lower stress, and maintain focus on positive living for the long-term
Additionally, there must be a response to the societal issues that drive addiction at large, including:
- Education and awareness campaigns to help people understand the risks associated with use and abuse of different substances
- Increased access to naloxone, a drug that can reverse an opioid overdose
- Support for family members who are struggling due a loved one’s addiction
- Long-term community support for people in recovery long after initial treatment is complete
- Increased access to holistic treatments in the community for people striving to create a healthy life for themselves in recovery
What Does Your Family Need to Heal?
Addiction is a disorder that strikes at the heart of a family, knocking everyone’s ability to relate to each other in a healthy way off balance. For this reason, treatment and support are needed, not just the person who is living with cravings and/or an active addiction but also for others in the family who identify as caregivers and are trying to figure out how to heal and get back on track themselves. Family support often plays an important role in the life of someone going through recovery, but family members who are dedicated to sticking with the process need their own level of support and treatment as well, benefiting from:
- Peer support from other families who are also dealing with addiction
- Education about the nature of addiction and its treatment
- Personal therapy to help them address their fears, anger, and sadness about their loved ones addiction and also to improve their abilities to communicate and get their personal needs met
- Family therapy sessions to provide a safe and objective space for all involved to learn how to work together in recovery
What do you and your loved ones need to overcome addiction in your family?