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Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021

ADDICTION: A Local Epidemic

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Addiction is one of the hardesthitting epidemics globally, and our twin cities are engulfed in it on a massive scale. The rest of the world is dealing with an opioid crisis, and the clear answer to this appears to be MAT: Medically-Assisted Therapies, such as Suboxone, Vivitrol, Subutex. But what about methamphetamine? The Shreveport/Bossier/Minden area’s “drug of choice” is clearly meth, with colossal consequences to every family affected by this drug.

Methamphetamine is so highly addictive because of the extreme euphoria, overwhelming feelings of energy and power, and sense of super abilities to perform unrealistic feats. After just one dose, whether it’s injected, snorted, smoked or otherwise ingested via “belly bomb,” the trap is set. The first-time experimenter is quickly ensnared, resulting in several hours of intense high, followed by the inevitable “crash,” which sets up the cycle of repeated use and abuse.

In the meantime, other obligations, such as family, employment, academics play second fiddle to this insidious drug. There are no magic pills for meth, only 28-day residential programs followed by essential aftercare of several months, even years, of continuous support and outpatient treatment. This problem doesn’t magically disappear after a 28-day program; the addict must do the hard work of setting healthy boundaries with old “frienemies” who are still in the game. If an addict has no clean support system in place, relapse is almost inevitable. Family therapy is indicative of holistic treatment, as everyone must be on the same page and not causing more strife by triggering the addict with reminders of how they behaved under the influence. Once this drug hits the brain, it becomes almost incapable of making reasonable, rational decisions.

Recovery is possible; complete lifestyle changes are imperative, and “slips” can be seen as a learning process. Aftercare programs, along with support groups such as Celebrate Recovery, AA, NA and SMART Recovery can help.

While other areas of the country focus on opiates and that addictive cycle, here in Northwest Louisiana, we have our own problems and not nearly as many resources. Meth destroys equally and should get the same recognition for federal funding as opiates. For instance, federal monies are heavy for medicallyassisted treatment, consisting of replacing street opiates with a prescribed daily dose of Buprenorphine (Subutex), which can be misused by people who do not have an opioid dependency, as our local meth users are infamous for enrolling in a MAT program and selling “street subs” to fund their own meth habit. However, for persons with a true opioid dependency, Naloxone (used in Suboxone) can be added to decrease the misuse of the Buprenorphine, and Naltrexone (Vivitrol injections) can block the euphoric effects of both alcohol and opiates while reducing cravings for a month at a time. To the extreme, there are both positives and negatives to MAT; however, at this time, these are the options we have, along with counseling and support. I cannot tell you how many clients come in for treatment who have never had an opioid dependency until they tried the “street subs” to piggyback onto their meth dependency and tell me how hard it is to go through those withdrawals. For a city that largely missed the heroin-fentanyl epidemic, we certainly have enough Subutex addicts to go around, incredulously, as it appears to be the new “drug of choice,” taking a close second to meth.

If you are experiencing a loved one on drugs or alcohol, there is hope. Get help immediately, and buckle up. It’s going to be a bumpy ride but so incredibly worth it in the end.

Terri Schaffner, LPC-S, LAC, CCS, is the CEO/clinical director of Active Recovery, www.activerecoveryla.org,Shreveport/Bossier/Minden.

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