Substance Abuse Is Common, but So Are Resources and Treatment Options for Solving SUD
Rural Alliance Addressing Substance Use Disorder-Colorado
Nearly everyone knows someone struggling with a substance use disorder (SUD)—whether it is formally diagnosed or not. With the added stress of the COVID-19 pandemic, the CDC reports 13% of Americans have started using drugs or increased their substance use during the pandemic. Other people with SUD (the medical term for addiction) have experienced disruptions in treatment or returned to using substances. Individuals with SUD are more likely to contract COVID-19 or be subject to other poor health outcomes and experience serious complications because SUD is a co-occurring condition. In addition, all of these factors can unfortunately also lead to accidental overdoses.
In 2020, drug overdose deaths reached a record high of 93,331 across the nation. Colorado set an all-time high for overdose deaths at 1,477, nearly 40% above the previous high. Prior to the pandemic, the average annual rate of drug overdose deaths per 100,000 residents was 16.5 in 2018. In 2020, this rate increased to 24.8. Like COVID-19, increases in SUD are adding more pressure to our already-strained health system.
People often first use drugs because it makes them feel good; it may be a social activity among friends. But there is far more to substance use disorder than meets the eye. Because of the way substances can affect a person’s body chemistry, SUD is a chronic disease like hypertension or diabetes, which means there are very effective treatments that work better when people seek treatment early.
SUD can affect anyone regardless of race, ethnicity, sex, income, and education. Many people who use drugs may be trying to self-treat their own depression or anxiety. Others may be dealing with the loss of a loved one or a traumatic experience, such as different forms of abuse. After prolonged use, people can experience physical withdrawal symptoms; for that reason continued use may not seem like a choice since, it is the only way to stave off withdrawal symptoms.
The good news is there are resources available to people wanting help to address their SUD. There are local health care professionals across Northwest Colorado who offer treatment; people can also receive treatment outside the area, if that better supports their recovery. Counseling and medications are available for people with many different types of insurance, including Medicaid, as well as people with no insurance at all, through programs like Front Range Clinic, Northwest Colorado Health, Providence Recovery, and Mind Springs Health. These organizations all offer counseling as well as evidence-based medical treatment for substance use and opioid use disorder.
Northwest Colorado has several options for residential treatment. There is a residential facility in Steamboat that accepts commercial insurance called The Foundry. There is a free Christian women’s residential treatment program called Come As You Are (CAYA). While the nearest detox facilities are in Frisco and Grand Junction, as well as many residential programs on the Front Range, local agencies can facilitate transportation to help people get to higher levels of care. Essentially, if a person wants help addressing their SUD there are options for nearly everyone.
There are also less formal recovery options in the region. In addition to several Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous groups, both Steamboat and Craig have recovery community organizations that help people find community in recovery. Clean and Sober Craig and Clean and Sober Steamboat offer monthly events for people exploring SUD recovery (as they like to say, people who are sober, or just sober-curious). Finally, for people who want a safe place to live while they recover, both Come As You Are and Travis House offer Christian sober-living facilities.
For someone specifically with an opioid use disorder, there is a life-saving resource available; Naloxone is a medication that can reverse an opioid overdose. It blocks sites in a person’s body to which opioids attach. It is available for free from a variety of local agencies (see list below) or at a low cost from pharmacies, and comes as a nasal spray or injectable.
There are some people who are not ready for treatment or recovery. If you are concerned you or a loved one has a substance use or opioid use disorder, several treatment options and support systems exist in the Yampa Valley. You do not have to forge this path alone. Insurance often covers treatment; local care coordinators can help navigate treatment and payment options. People seeking help can find local treatment and stay in the community.
If you do not know where to start, you can find more information, stories, and resources related to SUD at solvingsudtogether.org. All information on the website is catered to individuals in Jackson, Moffat, Rio Blanco, and Routt Counties.
These local community agencies are offering Harm Reduction Kits:
- The Health Partnership Serving Northwest Colorado: (970) 875-3630
- Memorial Regional Health: (970) 826-8010
- Northwest Colorado Health: (970) 824-8233
- Providence Recovery Services: (970) 824-5433
- Mind Springs Health Craig: (970) 879-2141; Steamboat: (970) 824-6541
Adrean Riba, MD, MPH and Deanna Kapitanec, MPHc contributed to this column.
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