Georgia’s Drug and Alcohol Addiction Crisis Isn’t Just an Atlanta Problem

Drug abuse and addiction are at alarmingly high levels across the nation – from New England to West Virginia, fatalities from drug overdoses have become commonplace, and because those areas haven’t been traditionally known for their drug issues, such areas are getting much national attention.

Georgia – a state that historically is known for its progressive thinking, even as it sits in the Deep South – has quietly fallen to the same crisis that has been such an epidemic in other states across the U.S. In some areas, like Delaware, the addiction crisis seemed to happen overnight – there was no problem until suddenly there was a huge problem. Georgia, on the other hand, has been battling drugs for decades. Rather than an issue that seems to have cropped up overnight, the drug trade has been at a slow simmer for years and only just recently hit the boiling point.

Adding to this issue is the sprawl of the most metropolitan part of the state, Atlanta. As the city became more developed, the cityscape spread. To the outsider, anywhere from Buckhead to Smyrna could be called Atlanta. Though this has meant more space for business and industry, it has also meant the spread of drug use. Just like a viral illness, addiction has spread throughout the area like a contagion.

A Crisis Level Problem for Georgia

Unlike other areas that are crippled by one or two interdependent substances, Georgia has no one issue – from cocaine to heroin; drug abuse in the state is endemic and has many layers. For instance, co-morbidity – when addiction and another mental health issue is occurring at the same time – is rampant, and many of the area’s addicts are not treated for one or the other, making recovery nearly impossible. Because drug access is so easy, some people are dependent on a variety of drugs, making detox a complex health issue.

Like anywhere, the addicts of the state come from varying backgrounds, but there are a surprising number of professional, white-collar residents who struggle with addiction in Georgia. Doctors, athletes, college professors – there’s no profession that is safe against addiction, and the suburbs of Atlanta seem to have many people who are working hard, scared of discovery and trying to cope with addiction.

Shortfalls for Addiction Recovery in Georgia

The district attorney of Fulton County says that the area is at a crisis point for addiction. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, in 2010, four people died from overdoses. By 2014, there were 77 – an alarming increase. The exact numbers for 2015 still haven’t been released, but at least 82 deaths that year have been attributed to heroin. If there is only a 20% increase – a conservative guess – the numbers for drug fatalities will be close to 300 people by 2021, but experts say a 50% increase is more likely.

Unfortunately, the state simply hasn’t been able to get ahead of this crisis. Though treatment facilities in the state are numerous, getting into them can be a real challenge. Many facilities are located in areas where drug addiction is high – which makes sense – but it also means temptation is lurking just outside the door.

One of the area’s great pride – it’s many cutting-edge hospitals and surgical centers – are also a problem. Just last year, a tech was caught stealing pain medication from Georgia hospitals and other states; a local hospital CEO, along with his family, were caught running a pill mill; and Emory recently fired two employees who worked at a Midtown pharmacy and had been stealing prescriptions for the last four years. When places that are supposed to make you healthy have become part of the problem, it’s time to look for help elsewhere.

How Florida Offers Hope for Georgia Addicts

Though it’s fairly easy to get drugs no matter where you are in the United States, their availability in Georgia is both astounding and terrifying. Places like “The Bluff,” an open-air heroin market bordering English Avenue and Vine City, aren’t all that secret. Though the Bluff has been shut down, its dealers have only moved to another area, and there are many similar “supermarkets” throughout the state.

Florida, no matter where in Georgia you are, is an easy trip. Its designation as The Recovery State means people suffering from addiction in Georgia can go to Florida for experienced, caring professionals. Florida recovery centers work with state agencies, unlike many cities in Georgia, which, in an effort to get ahead of a growing crisis, have resorted to further punitive responses for addicts. At The Treatment Center, we believe jailing those suffering from a disease makes little sense, and that where you recover matters.

Georgia is a major part of the drug-smuggling corridor along the East Coast – addicts have constant access to drugs there. To fully recover from a dependency, Georgia residents – even more than other places – must leave home. Georgia has tried to curb drug abuse through several programs and projects. Public service announcements and other media campaigns have increased, particularly those aimed at teens. The Georgia General Assembly passed legislation aimed at eradicating prescription drug abuse, including the Georgia Pain Management Clinic Act.

This 2013 law gives the Georgia Composite Medical Board authority to license and manage pain clinics, thereby increasing law enforcement’s ability to monitor and investigate them. The Pain Management Clinic Act is designed to prevent dealers from using clinics as fronts for pill mills. Though these efforts are good places to start, when addiction has already taken hold of you or your loved one, you need help today.

Get Help from the Treatment Center

Receiving substance abuse treatment in the state can be difficult for many reasons. For instance, many people don’t want to face the stigma of treatment in a place where everyone knows them – especially if they are professionals working in the area. There are many treatment facilities in Florida, but we believe that addiction isn’t a stand-alone disease. Without holistic care that treats every aspect of the addict, recovery can seem impossible. When it does happen, relapse often follows, because treating the addiction without treating the addict does little to improve a person’s health.

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