Cost of treating addicts triples

By D.a. Wilkinson

Alcohol remains the top abused drug, but opiate use is increasing.

LISBON — The cost of drug treatment in Columbiana County has almost tripled in the last five years.

The cost has risen from $476,603 in 2004 to $1.26 million in 2008.

But that’s good news because it shows people are seeking the help they need, said officials with the Columbiana County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board.

Figures provided by Kathleen Chaffee, the board’s associate director, shows that in 2004, some 658 clients sought help for all forms of chemical abuse, as compared with 999 clients in 2008.

Chaffee said that alcohol remains by far the highest drug of abuse in the county.

Cocaine was the second-highest drug of abuse in the county from 2004 through 2007.

Opiates, which include heroin and prescription drugs, made their first appearance at the bottom of the list of drugs in 2007. “They weren’t even on the radar screen two or three years ago,” Chaffee said.

In 2008, opiates became the second-highest drug of abuse behind alcohol. And the number of alcohol abuse cases in 2008 is lower than the years going back to 2005, she added.

Alcohol remains at the top in part because it is cheap, available, and acceptable, Chaffee said.

Chaffee and Marilyn Latham, the clinical supervisor for the Family Recovery Center, which provides drug treatment in the county, said the increased numbers show that people are seeking help for their drug addictions.

Last year, some 49 percent of the people who sought treatment for drug abuse did so on their own or with the help of family or friends. The second-highest percentage, or about 21 percent, are people who came from the criminal justice system.

Columbiana County doesn’t have a residential treatment facility. The county has separate housing for men, women and youths who are struggling with chemical abuse, but not enough to meet the need, Chaffee added.

What makes the housing or at-home recovery in the county possible is a drug called Suboxone.

Latham said the drug has made a huge impact on the ability of people to deal with drug cravings. Suboxone also is used with various types of counseling and self-help groups.

Officials, especially county Prosecutor Robert Herron, have been warning the public about the continuing drug problem in the county.

John Gamble, the chief assistant county prosecutor, said that cocaine has been replaced by heroin as the drug most commonly abused because of its low price. “It’s everywhere,” he said.

Gamble pointed out that he, like almost all school students, were educated about the dangers of drug abuse.

But the county has thefts and other minor crimes committed by people looking for drug money.

Herron and Chaffee are working with a new group that is receiving training from the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America to determine how best to mobilize the community to reduce substance abuse.

That group will develop long-term solutions to drug problems in the county. Different strategies can be used in different portions of the county, Herron and Chaffee said.

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