Every year, people of Boulder, Colorado review the state of opioid addiction. Unfortunately, the opioid crisis is not getting much better. It's an uphill battle with many different layers and strategies. What is the state of the battle in 2018, and how it is getting better or worse right now?
The Addiction Situation in Boulder
Boulder is a casual, liberal community that is home to a thriving arts and culture scene and much natural beauty. But there's a dark side: It also has issues with substance abuse.
Unfortunately, as a university town, Boulder has students who are addicted to alcohol and marijuana. Thankfully, the legalization of marijuana seems to have reduced the use of the drug, and both alcohol and marijuana use have been decreasing. Nonetheless, nearly 15 percent of deaths in the Boulder area involve alcohol.
As alcohol and marijuana use drop, there is a growing concern about the use of prescription opiates and cheaper drugs such as heroin. In Denver, the heroin epidemic has hit hard, and some prescription opioid and heroin use is present in Boulder as well. There were 350 opioid-related deaths in Boulder between 2001 and 2016. In the rest of the country, the numbers of opioid addicts and deaths have been rising, and the situation could get more serious in Boulder too.
What is Boulder doing to manage this addiction crisis? Police now carry naloxone, which can be used for opioid overdoses. They're trying to let people know about the local Good Samaritan laws that protect people who report overdoses, hoping that this will reduce the number of overdose deaths and allow them to help people find the help that they need to stop using. The police also have regular drug take-back events to encourage people with unused prescriptions to bring them back instead of having them in the home. The department is not currently focused on drug possession arrests: rather, they are working with addicts to try and help them get into recovery. They're also trying to change the alcohol culture of Boulder—a culture that turns to alcohol to both celebrate successes and deal with the darker times.
Schools are also working to help teens find help for mental health issues and stress so that they don't turn to the drugs that make them feel good temporarily and can lead to a life of addiction. Helping people find meaning in their lives is a way to help them find other activities that lead to pleasure, rather than using drugs and alcohol.
The Portrait of the Typical Opioid Addict
Who are Boulder's addicts? They are just about anyone who has access to opioid pain medication, and this is just about anyone in Boulder. Since chronic and acute pain alleviation sometimes involves opioid drugs, addiction to these drugs is a real concern. Often, people do not finish a prescription, and the drugs can sit in the home waiting for someone else to stumble upon them. Speaking in the Daily Camera, one father mentioned that his son became addicted this way: "It's Boulder, kids were stealing stuff out of their parents' medicine cabinets and trying to see how different things could affect them." Unfortunately, his son's prescription opioid abuse evolved into an addiction to heroin that eventually led to his death.
Opioid addicts—or any addicts—are not the stereotypical people who shoot up in the alleys. They are grandparents who are addicted to opioid pain medication, construction workers with a back injury who become heroin addicts as a result of taking too much pain medication, and teenagers who have found a few pills in their parents' medicine cabinets. The Daily Camera states that one in seven high school students is misusing opiates.
What Help Do You Need to Recover?
There are many different parts to recovery, and it's helpful to find a place where you can access all of them in one area so that you can move from your initial phases of recovery into ongoing aftercare. What help do you need?
- Medical assistance for withdrawal. This will help you with alternatives that will ease your symptoms, and it will also provide you with supervised and safer withdrawal as you navigate this short but challenging time.
- Inpatient care. A residential treatment program allows you to commit full time to your recovery. These programs include counseling, group therapy, and a dedicated doctor who will help you develop a recovery plan. Inpatient care takes you away from the stresses that you experience in your everyday life, and this stable environment can help you start out on a new, solid footing.
- Partial hospitalization programs allow you to experience the benefits of treatment as you would in inpatient care, but you can sleep at your own home or in another supportive space in the evening.
- Outpatient programs allow you to access therapies while maintaining a life outside of the program as well. In an intensive outpatient program, you can access activities such as medical support and medication management, counseling for co-occurring disorders, individual therapy, group therapy, support groups, alternative therapies such as yoga, and recreational opportunities. You might sleep at home and may resume some of your other activities, such as work. However, these programs are still strong, supportive, and intensive enough to keep you moving on the track to recovery.
- Aftercare allows you to continue with some of the supportive practices that you began while you were in rehab. These include support groups and therapies. Some treatment centers also offer access to sober housing.
Where Can Boulder Residents Go to Access Help?
Where can you go to access Boulder addiction treatment resources? For students, the university offers many addiction treatment resources. Boulder is also home to The Recovery Village, which can give you information about inpatient and outpatient drug and alcohol rehab programs.
At The Recovery Village, we want to help you move forward in your life without addiction. The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake can help you achieve that goal. We offer programs that cover everything from medically-assisted withdrawal to ongoing aftercare. Talk with us about your treatment options: contact us today.