Alcohol. K2. Spice. Mamba. Cocaine, Heroin. Pain killers. Opioids. Vape. Marijuana. Fentanyl. Meth. The list goes on as new drugs burst on the scene while, almost daily, we hear about the increasing opioid public health crisis and its national epidemic. No one intends to become addicted, but over time and with repeated and increased use, casual users of substances to relax or socialize can lead to overuse and abuse, and those who rely on prescription medication may lead to physical dependency and addiction. Eventually, brain changes occur that override good intentions. The challenge is that no one knows who among us will go on to develop addiction, but data shows that between 6-12% of casual substance users will develop more serious problems.
Colorado seems to be particularly vulnerable to this growing epidemic. According to a 2017 study, Colorado has the third most-serious drug problem in the nation, with one of the highest percentages of both teen and adult drug users. In 2015, Colorado ranked number 1 for consumption of opioid painkillers, alcohol, cocaine and marijuana – four substances the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration tracks. In Boulder County, 20% of adults report binge-drinking (compared to a state average of 18.1%) and 20% of high schoolers report binge drinking (compared to the statewide average of 16.6%). Clearly, addiction has become a part of the fabric of Colorado, and even more so in Boulder County.
But how to turn this tide? First and foremost, there must be recognition that addiction is a medical condition that can be treated and resolved. This includes (1) recognition of its scope, (2) community-wide commitment to focus on solutions with evidence-based practices and (3) well-funded professional treatment services to navigate the road to recovery, recognizing the chronic nature of addiction.
Mental Health Partners (MHP) is a leader in the Boulder/Broomfield Communities to address the medical condition of addiction. At MHP, treatment is diverse and individualized. It may begin in the field when a first responder administers Narcan to a person who has overdosed on heroin or is brought to MHP’s 24-7 Walk-In Crisis Center. If a client needs detox care, MHP has a 20-bed social model withdrawal management unit co-located with the crisis walk-in center. After detox, the client may need additional supported care, which MHP provides with a six-bed Transitional Recovery Treatment service and/or referral into enhanced or traditional outpatient services in Boulder, Longmont. Soon, these treatment options will also be available in Lafayette and Broomfield.
According to Ann Noonan, MHP’s Director of Substance Use Disorder Center of Excellence, there is no one single, prescriptive path to recovery. “We meet people where they are and engage them in developing an individual and customized plan that will support them in the difficult return from addiction.”
MHP also prides itself on being one of the most progressive facilities in the state, shown through its early adoption of Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) programs. Currently, MHP offers both Suboxone and Vivitrol. These medications help clients decrease cravings, reduce overdose risk and prevent relapse for both opioid and alcohol dependence. Intensive case management, individual therapy, group therapy, and relapse prevention skill building may also be incorporated into an individual’s treatment plan. MHP also has Recovery Coaches who can walk alongside clients as they develop a stable and sober support system. Learn more about how MHP is doing its part to turn the tide in substance use by visiting mhpcolorado.org or calling its Detox Line at (303) 441-1281.