There is a problem in Olympia. The Olympia, Washington area is experiencing an increase in heroin use. A problem that was previously limited to alleyways in the inner city is now expanding, partly due to prescription medicines. It has made its way into the suburbs and extends across the city like a disease.
The addiction to prescription drugs that has become a crisis in this country has led users into heroin abuse. Painkillers like OxyContin and Vicodin are derived from the same active ingredient in the opium poppy, the source of heroin. Taking more medication than prescribed by the doctor increases the narcotic effect, making it comparable to using a dose of heroin.
One of the drawbacks of cracking down on prescription drug misuse is that people are left addicted but without the prescriptions to quench their cravings. Many users solve the problem by turning to heroin. It’s easier to get and cheaper than prescription drugs.
There are obvious problems that come with heroin use, such as the physical harm to the user, as well as crime. But there is another urgent problem related to the increased use of heroin—dirty needles scattered in the streets.
Research shows that one-fifth of HIV infections and most hepatitis-C infections were a result of intravenous drug use. One-fourth of drug users who inject drugs have HIV or AIDS. Any time intravenous drug users share a needle represents an opportunity for infection. The blood that is left on the needle after use is then plunged directly into the vein of the next user.
Washington is a popular distribution center for both legal and illegal merchandise in the Northwest due to its geographic location and topography. The U.S.- Canada border is about 430 miles long and most of it is dense forest and most of the border is unpatrolled. There are also several waterways.
Drug smugglers use this to their advantage to smuggle drugs into Washington. Washington also has an adaptable transportation system. Private vehicles, boats, and commercial trucks are often used to smuggle drugs into and through the state.
Drug abuse happens with an assortment of substances including marijuana, cocaine, stimulants, hallucinogens, opioids, and sedatives. Effects of drug use are:
The 2018 Washington State Healthy Youth Survey reported that 29% of Thurston County’s high school seniors drank alcohol in the month previous to the survey. 17% of the sophomores did the same. Also, 14% of the seniors reported binge drinking, which is drinking 5 or more drinks in a row.
In 2018, Thurston County 10th and 12th graders reported riding in a car with a driver that had been drinking. Almost 1 in 10 drove a vehicle after they had been drinking.
Many of these 12th graders are getting alcohol from friends (43%), at a party (27%), or from home (10%) without parent’s permission. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention point out that underage drinking can cause an array of problems including:
Thurston County has applied to become a designated “mental health professional shortage area” by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. This shows that the number of mental health providers in the area is lower than what’s recommended for a population its size. As public funds diminish, mental health services target people who are enrolled in Medicaid and have a severe enduring illness.
There are very few services available for those individuals with a less severe but still disabling illness. There is a considerable minority of older people who are disabled, sometimes severely, by mental disorders including Alzheimer’s disease, major depression, substance abuse, anxiety, and other issues.
Thurston County Project Access is a health care program that is community-based and led by local physicians. Its goal is to organize medical care for low-income individuals, uninsured adult residents of Thurston County. The goal is that at least 70% of the practicing providers in Thurston County will take part in Project Access by taking their fair-share of uninsured individuals.
Members of the Deschutes Psychological Association, a local professional organization of psychologists, have agreed to donate mental health services to the individuals enrolled in Project Access. Deschutes Psychological Association members have pledged to provide consultations, evaluations, and treatment sessions, along with general support and consultations with primary care physicians who refer their patients.
Project Access will reduce the administrative strain on providers and decrease the use of expensive emergency room facilities. This will serve to strengthen the health safety net in Thurston County and boost cooperation within the health care community and human services agencies.
Finding the right treatment facility for yourself or someone close to you is of vital importance, no matter what the issue is. A substance use disorder (SUD) is a chronic disease of the brain and needs treatment designed to address:
You will first need a professional assessment by your doctor, counselor, or an addiction specialist. Things to consider when deciding on your course of action are:
As mentioned previously, a program designed to accommodate your needs and issues is important when finding a treatment facility. Free by the Sea in Olympia has a comprehensive list of programs and therapies to choose from to tailor a program exclusively for you. Free by the Sea can provide:
As mentioned previously, you may need a medically assisted detox. Detoxification can be considered a pre-treatment to cleanse your body of toxins before you get into the hard work of rehab. Symptoms of withdrawal from alcohol and opioids can produce severe symptoms that include nausea and sweating which can lead to complications. Symptoms of cocaine and marijuana withdrawal usually feature emotional issues like depression and irritability. It takes a long time to detox from some substances and you may experience cravings for months. Treatment may begin before you are completely through detox.
In a residential treatment program, you will typically stay at the treatment facility for 30 to 90 days. You will take part in various therapy sessions and meetings that will intensely involve you in the treatment process. The environment at the treatment center is structured, controlled, and free of any distractions or stressors that might hinder your progress. If you have relapsed after an outpatient program, you may need a residential program.
The difference between outpatient and intensive outpatient programs is the intensity of the treatment. Most of your day is spent in the treatment facility, but you go home each evening. This allows you to be gradually reintroduced into real-life situations. After you complete IOP you step down to the regular Outpatient Program.
This program is for people who may have completed residential treatment or do not need very intensive care. It works well for those who have work and school obligations and need to live outside the facility. This is for those who have a mild addiction that is short-term in duration. It is best if you have the support of family and friends while utilizing this program. Outpatient treatment is also a step-down from the IOP. Therapists and counselors meet with you a few times a week to help you stay on the right track and evaluate your progress.
If you are suffering from addiction and a co-occurring mental health issue, you need a treatment center that is experienced with dual diagnosis treatment. Both conditions need to be treated at the same time. Addiction might not have been what caused your mental health problem, but it most certainly will make it worse.
This is used when a patient has a severe addiction problem particularly to opioids and alcohol use disorder (AUD). Without suppression drugs to reduce the cravings, withdrawal would be extremely difficult and dangerous. And medications may be necessary throughout treatment depending on the severity of the addiction.
Because you are not like everyone else, and they are not like you, having different levels of care is essential to develop a treatment plan just for you. People will always have some commonalities, but no two people are exactly the same.
Your therapist and counselors will prescribe you a range of therapies based on your issues and interests. Keeping you engaged is part of the treatment. The types of therapy that are used most often are:
It’s a tall order, but there are strategies and options to help you achieve your goal.
Sober Living Homes/Halfway Houses—Sober living homes are group residences for people who are recovering from addiction. Most of the time, there are certain house rules and residents contribute by doing chores. Of most importance, though, residents must stay sober. Sober living homes help people make the transition to independent living without drugs or alcohol. There are nine sober living houses in Olympia. Some are male-only and some are co-ed.
Alcoholics Anonymous—AA meetings are held 7 days a week in Olympia. The majority of meetings are held at the Olympia Alano Club.
Narcotics Anonymous—NA also has meetings 7 days a week in Olympia and other South Puget Sound locations.
SMART Recovery (Self-Management and Recovery Training)—During SMART Recovery meetings, addicts help each other with any addiction issues. This includes drugs, alcohol, gambling, and over-eating.
They say “handcrafted” is a way of life in Olympia, Washington. Local crafters create one-of-a-kind encounters for visitors to enjoy. From artisan cheese and fresh apple cider to handmade soaps and delicate illustrations, Olympia, and all of Thurston County, nourishes your creative side.
Olympia is also home to a vibrant independent art and music scene and is a center of innovative cultural movements. Evergreen State College draws young artists and the landscape of Puget Sound lures the environmentally aware. There are 40 city parks covering 963 acres in addition to a large municipally-funded public art collection. The city is an example of inventive and ecological design.
Olympia is consistently listed among the best places to live in America and in the rankings of the best small to mid-sized cities in the country. The downtown core of the city has been named as a Natural Historic District.
Every year, thousands of low-income people with mental health or substance use issues seek care in community hospital emergency rooms in Washington state. There are no statistics to show the extent that they need continuing treatment. But it is known that people with mental health difficulties are more likely to have more frequent and more expensive ER visits.
In the state of Washington, 22% of adult hospital stays involved a mental health or substance abuse diagnosis. State spending on the community mental health system combined with state psychiatric hospital operations was $675 million in 2007. This represents only a part of the costs related to mental health treatment. Substance use and mental health disorders result in a critical cost to the state’s health care system.
Depression and substance abuse are the most common diagnoses for mental health-related hospitalizations. Twenty-two percent of adult hospital stays involved a mental health or substance abuse-related diagnosis. The majority of these hospital stays included mental health problems as a secondary diagnosis.
Emergency rooms are the main source of mental health-related stays in the hospital. These patients either have more severe needs or are less likely to see a doctor on a regular basis. Medicare or Medicaid pays for a large percentage of hospitalizations. Medicare costs are covered by the federal government, but Washington State takes on about 50% of the overall cost for insuring Medicaid patients.
Now you have the knowledge. You can choose to start living a productive life free of an addiction or you can choose to continue along the same path that doesn’t seem to be working out too well for you.
At Free by the Sea, we know it’s not your fault. You have a brain disease and you need to have it treated. We have specialists that can help you break free of addiction and realize your true self. Contact us; we are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Dr. Richard Crabbe joined our team in 2019 as our psychiatrist and medical director. He attended the University of Ghana Medical School where he became a Medical Doctor in 1977. From 1978 through 1984, he was a medical officer in the Ghana Navy and provided a variety of services from general medicine to surgeries. He received his Certificate in General Psychology from the American Board of Psychology and Neurology in 2002.