Treatment of substance abuse makes strides
WITH Gov. Eddie Calvo declaring the month of September as Guam Recovery Month, the issue of recovery from substance abuse has been brought to the forefront.
For far too long, much attention has been given solely to substance abuse and addiction, with the treatment and recovery aspects downplayed when they are in fact just as important.
“We want people to know treatment works and treatment is effective. Prevention works. People do recover. Because in the past there was a stigma attached to drug addicts, that they’ll always be drug addicts. That they have no hope. But the intervention or the models we use today are better than was used 10 years ago, 15 years ago. We have better favorable outcomes,” stressed Don Sabang, substance abuse program supervisor of New Beginnings.
New Beginnings is the drug and alcohol branch in the clinical service division of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse. It provides direct services at an inpatient level and contracts out services to Oasis Empowerment Center, Lighthouse Recovery Center, and Sanctuary Inc.
New Beginnings uses the Recovery Oriented Systems of Care program.
According to the Guam State Epidemiology Workshop Group, alcohol abuse on Guam in youth is lower than U.S. averages. However, alcohol abuse in adults is higher than the U.S. averages. About 6 percent of adults have reported trying methamphetamine in their lifetime, while 3 percent of youth have reported trying methamphetamine. Drug use is attributed to about 7 percent of suicides on the island.
Sabang stated most cases deal with alcohol abuse, about 58 to 59 percent.
According to the DSM-IV definition, drug dependency can be determined by how substance use impacts the behavior of the individual.
The individual may fail to fulfill major obligations or continue to use the substance in situations that are physically hazardous. The individual may also experience recurrent substance-related legal problems or continue to use the substance despite social or interpersonal problems that are made worse by the effects of the substance.
Treatment is based on levels of intensity. The lowest level is education, which may be applied for patients who do not meet the diagnosis of addiction but have had a case of DUI or other substance-related altercation.
The highest level of treatment is 24/7 residential care.
Residential care is contracted to various organizations. Adult women are referred to Oasis Empowerment Center while adult men are referred to Lighthouse Recovery Center. Sanctuary takes in adolescents of both genders.
In addition, patients may undergo detoxification, in which they are prescribed medication to address cravings. This is done by the Guam Memorial Hospital, or a private clinic such as Marianas Psychiatric Service, which also provides individual psychiatric assessment.
Treatment ultimately leads to recovery and the recovery part is the longer-lasting phase in which the individual learns to be a functioning member of society and becomes self-sufficient.
A recovered patient is expected to have a stable home, be gainfully employed, have access to health care, and have reliable transportation.
In addition, treatment centers have integrated a new component to the recovery process, which is to have a purpose in the community.
“There’s emphasis on what your contribution to the community is and what relationships you have in the community that result in a meaningful life. So recovery has branched out in so many ways,” Sabang said, adding: “When we say recovery, it’s a lifelong process; it’s like a journey where you begin to have stable housing, reliable transportation, access to health care, community partnership or involvement, and purpose in the community.”
Sabang said word is spreading about the success of recovery and treatment.
In addition, evidence-based models and practices are improving and being implemented for more favorable outcomes.
Organizations such as the National Institute of Drug Abuse have pushed to get clinical studies and research approved by the Federal Drug Administration to be put into practice so the public can benefit from the new treatment or medication.
A lot of the stigma associated with drug abuse and drug treatment has lessened over the years too, Sabang said.
“Before, when people went through treatment, it was something secret. ... But today we’re looking at addiction as any other medical condition. Just like diabetes and heart problems, behavioral issues are being put in the same level,” Sabang concluded.
Treatment of substance abuse makes strides